So, your job sucks…

What are your options for next steps?

So your job sucks… or maybe it’s not your job…  it’s your friend’s, or sister’s, or partner’s… but given that 67% of people are disengaged at work, you know someone who’s staying in a sucky job. Most people, 91% in fact, stay in stuck in the suck until they hit their boiling point. Then they leave – sometimes in a calculated way, sometimes in an epic youtube video. But what if there was a different way?

Let’s look at your options…

1.Stay Forever

Leaving is scary, and it’s so warm and cozy in this job! You can just create some awesome hobbies for yourself, and really enjoy your free time with your family.

Ok, if you want to go this way, that’s up to you. Maybe you’ve got other priorities right now and your job pays the bills… fine.

However it is absolutely NOT ok, if you are staying put because you are ignoring the situation, or because you are afraid, or because you believe you can’t have/don’t deserve any better. I have NEVER had a client, friend or acquaintance who wasn’t amazing at something… so trust me when I say…

You are amazing. Don’t you dare waste it.

(Ok, Seth Godin said it first, but I’m saying it louder). 

2. Rage Quit

Quit with no plan. March into your boss’s office and slam down your resignation. Post a viral video of you dancing out of your job and never look back. It will feel amazing… for a day, maybe… before you realize you have no plan… your savings won’t last 3 months… and you didn’t really think this through. Maybe you can move in with your mom?

It takes time to find a new job, and the whiff of desperation coming off the unemployed isn’t attractive. I mean, really is anything with the word “rage” in it ever your best life decision? Don’t stay in your sucky job until you’re filled with this much frustration (if you’re already there, better read the rest of this article quick!), make a plan before you march, slam or rage.

3. Change jobs… now, now, now

This one is super common, and is well-disguised as “moving up the corporate ladder”. If you hop jobs for a better salary or a cool “opportunity” people probably think you’re a real go-getter. But you might just find yourself sitting in your new job 3 years, 1 year or even 6 months later, scrolling through job boards, itching to leave.

What’s going on here? Are you just an unhappy person? Will you never be satisfied?

Well, in my experience people who are unhappy at work often fixate on one thing that is wrong. Their boss doesn’t respect them, their salary sucks, their benefits are out of touch, Mary is a real pain-in-the-ass… whatever it is, they get tunnel vision. They don’t look at the job as a whole, or as a part of their lives, and so when they jump ship, they look for a solution to that one problem. Or they look for a higher salary and a solution to that one problem (hey it’s measurable and it sounds like a really good reason to hop jobs at your next cocktail party). But it isn’t long before these hoppers realize that there were other things lurking behind that one outrageous reason for leaving. It’s sort of like treating whatever your most annoying symptom is, instead of looking at the underlying cause.


4. Figure out what’s actually wrong, and what you actually want.

So obviously this is the path I recommend. But I’m definitely biased, I’m a Career Engagement Coach, I’m a big fan of actually looking at a problem rather than just running after a fatter paycheck (and finding yourself in the same problem 6 months later).

There are a few ways to introspect. You can talk your buddy’s ear off over after-work beers for months, you can whine to your mom, you can journal it out, you can read some books. You can hire a coach (Shameless plug: it’s what we’re here for guys! And 99% of people who hire coaches are satisfied). OR if you’d rather do it on your own, I’m working on a few tools to help spark thought in this area. One is this report card, if you want to try it out.

However you choose to explore, figure out the special formula of what’s not working for you in your current position, and what you would most like to change. Do you need more autonomy? Do you feel like you’re unable to learn? Is it simply that you feel like your contribution isn’t valued? Or maybe you feel completely disconnected from your co-workers?

Then look for a holistic solution in your next step …



Now that you know what you’d most like to change… talk to your direct report, or their boss. Share your issues, share possible solutions, ask them to collaborate with you on recreating a position you’d be excited to accept. How can you create a win-win solution where they get your best-self everyday and you get to love your job?

Now I’ve said this to people and they scoff. “That’s not how this company works, that’s not how the world works. My only option is to stay and take it or to quit.” But you really never know unless you try, most companies would rather adjust your position than have to hire a replacement for you – hiring costs them a lot of money and a lot of time. And most bosses aren’t evil Disney villains. Give them the opportunity to show you that they value you. Don’t go into the meeting with a chip on your shoulder, go in really believing that together you can find solutions to their needs and yours.  

5B. Look for something new

Now I’m not going to say the world is all sunshine and roses. Sometimes you and your company and are just a bad fit. But now that you’ve got all this information about what does and doesn’t work for you, make an informed choice, and enter the search with the attitude that you’re interviewing these companies as much as they’re interviewing you.

There’s a fantastic last chapter in Designing Your Life on the job hunt – if you’ve got the time read it, it’s a pretty swell little book.

But the TDLR is, don’t apply for jobs through job listings. Use the informational interview, it is magic. Seriously.

If you’re going to put 50 hours into job hunting imagine putting that into customizing resumes and cover letters and shooting them into the void OR putting it into taking cool people out for coffee and chatting with them about what they do and what opportunities they know about. Informational interviews really, really, really work. They involve a touch more bravery, but if you talk to the right person at the right time, you know about the opportunity BEFORE it becomes a job post, AND you’ve got a contact in the company who has a face to put to your resume, you’re not just one in a giant pile.


So that’s my schpiel – if your job sucks, you have options. Know that you’re amazing and that there’s a perfect situation out there for you, but only if you do the work, figure out what you’re looking for, and help co-create it.