staying in a job you hate

“Everyday I tell myself I want to be skinny. But what if I stopped and just accepted myself more instead?”

You may be wondering what this quote has to do with you and your career. The answer is: everything.

Many people haven’t reached their professional goals or are in jobs they’re not happy with at the moment. Rather than constantly reminding yourself that you’re not where you want to be, you might be better off staying in a job you hate, at least for the moment.

Let me explain.

I was at the gym this weekend when I heard a twenty-something say the above quote to her friend. I inserted myself into the conversation by telling her that first, she is skinny and second, one day when she looks at pictures of herself from this time in her life, she will realize how skinny she was and will be wishing to have the body she has now.

The conversation then shifted to our professional lives and I learned that she is a lawyer, a professionally unsatisfied lawyer. She spends most of the day reviewing contracts and legal documents in seclusion. Her work environment doesn’t even come close to the collaborative environment she longs to be in. Of course, I chimed in again. I’m sure you can even guess what I said. Why stay in a job you’re unhappy with? It’s no surprise that financial freedom was the biggest reason. It’s certainly a very realistic consideration.  Then she shared the advice a friend gave her:

“Suck it up. This is what you have to do if you want to play in the big leagues.”

We debated the merits of her staying versus leaving. Ultimately, she seemed resigned to stay where she is for a few more years until she feels she is in a better position to make a meaningful move.

In essence, rather than focusing on what’s making her unhappy in the present, she’s decided to accept herself professionally for the time being so that she can focus on getting to a better place in the future. It’s not always easy to accept the things we don’t like or that don’t fulfill us in the moment. Nor is it easy to resist the urge to change the situation as soon as we’re able to.

Staying in a job you’re not totally happy with isn’t the most common advice you will see on career sites. It’s also not the right advice for everyone. But neither is the advice to immediately seek out a new opportunity that will make you happy in the present moment. Everything is relative to your situation and your future goals.

There is so much emphasis placed on the need to be happy all the time that sometimes we can overlook what is to be gained from struggling through something and coming out stronger as a result.

In fact, giving in to our emotions and our feelings isn’t always the best litmus test by which our professional decisions should be made. Certainly they should be considered. But checks and balances need to be implemented in order to integrate feelings with our long-term goals. Subsequently, we also need to make well informed decisions when trying to map out a career plan that makes sense.

Looking to make a change or even totally reinvent yourself? Before you make a decision based on your current emotions, ask yourself the following: What do you stand to gain by staying in a job you hate? What do you stand to lose? The answers should help you decide what your next move should be.