I’ve only had a few jobs in my lifetime that I hated. Fortunately, most of them weren’t when I was working as a designer. Although, even when I was working as a designer in a terrible job, I tried to keep things optimistic. That was the only way I could deal with my day-to-day.
It can be really terrible to be in a job you hate. It’s stressful and you continually feel trapped by whatever circumstances are keeping you there. Fortunately, there are a few things you can to help you deal with a job you hate; the most important being your ability to stay focused on your career future, both mentally and physically, and dwell less on your current situation. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Leave Your Emotions at Home
AKA Becoming a Vulcan. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your emotions when you hate your job. The constant stress just gets worse through the day. You could have a phone call with a client that doesn’t go well and it ruins your day. Or you might only realize you made a typo in a project after the job is back from the printers. As designers, we get criticism a lot and it takes a toll. In a job you already hate, this can only make things worse.
One way I’ve found to deal with this is to simply become emotionless. In regards to your work anyway. Tell yourself: “This is just a job. I’m here for my paycheck and that’s it.” If you make a mistake in a project, own it, but don’t let it matter. Fix the problem and move on. Focus only on the task at hand.
Do your very best to keep your emotions from controlling your actions in every aspect of your job. Instead, try to be more Vulcan. In other words, stay emotionally detached and act with logic and reason instead of emotion. I know, it’s harder than it sounds. It will take some practice but it’s an effective coping method to get you through the day-to-day. It’s not forever.
2. Listen and Level Up
Listening to music is a popular way to help you get through the day, but I prefer audio books when the option is available. Like when I’m working on a task that doesn’t require a lot of mental energy. This is a great way to get through the day and level up your skills at the same time.
For example, when I have mindless Photoshop tasks to do, like removing backgrounds in a series of photos, I’ll listen to an audio book on business, entrepreneurship, advertising, or branding. I’m still working, but my brain is learning. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re doing any work tasks that require brain power, like reading or writing. But for tasks that are purely visual, it works great. Audio books can also help tune out distractions from working in an open office.
One really great audiobook for a situation where you’re in a job you hate is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
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3. Look For Opportunities Everywhere
One of the many reasons you might still be stuck in a job you hate is for lack of other opportunities. If you live in a small town that only has one or two design studios or print shops you’re probably stuck. This means you need to keep an eye out for new jobs constantly, before they’re taken. If you’re not interested in relocating, you could consider becoming a freelance designer. There are even remote design jobs that are 100% online that you could do as long as you have a good internet connection.
Don’t forget there are also some non-traditional opportunities for designers online. YouTube, Instagram, and other social sites can all generate you revenue if you use them well and have shareable skills. That being said, even if you manage to make some money via social media, it probably won’t be enough to pay all your bills. At least not right away. But maybe it will propel your design career in a new and better direction in future.
All that being said, the most important part of looking for new opportunities is being ready. If you do manage to find something that’s a perfect fit for you, you need to be ready to jump on it ASAP. That’s where the next few tips come in.
4. Work on Your Resume
When you come home from a terrible day at work, update your resume. Work on it a little bit more every single day. Nothing says “I won’t be in this job forever” like polishing your resume so it’s perfect. This includes not only the actual content of your resume, but also the design.
Designers need to have nicely designed resumes or they won’t get past the first email. If you’re not sure how to design your resume, check for examples online. It should be simple, clean, and easy to print. That means it works in greyscale, uses good font sizes and weights, and has no content too close to the edges of the page.
Eventually, the day will come when you’ve finally had enough at your job and a new opportunity has presented itself. You don’t want to be in a panic to get your resume together. It should already be perfect and ready to go.
5. Perfect Your Portfolio
Similar to having your resume ready-to-go, having your online portfolio perfected is important. This is also a big deal since it’s something viewable to everyone, including headhunters.
Being driven to have a great portfolio is actually quite helpful in getting through your day at work. Every time you get a new project, think if it can be something you want to showcase in your portfolio when it’s complete. Write down your process as you go and record your sketches and initial concepts. Shifting the focus of your day to improving your marketability as a designer might make your days a lot better.
If part of the reason you dislike your job is due to a lack of creative freedom, this is a chance to change that; sort of. You can do a project one way for your job, and then rework it how you want it on your own time. Put the reworked version in your portfolio explaining your process, why you reworked it, and how your rework still solves the original problem.
If you don’t have a lot of projects in your portfolio it can be difficult to get a new job. Spend some time creating fake projects and doing design challenges. These types of projects will give you a low-stress way of improving your portfolio. If you want some project inspiration, check out The Graphic Design Exercise Book by Jessica Glaser.
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6. Polish Your Letter of Resignation
The moment you’re ready to leave the job you hate, you’re going to need a resignation letter. You know, to make things official. Preparing your resignation well ahead of time brings you a step closer to getting out of your job. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just straight and to the point. The only thing you’ll need to update when you finally give it in is the date.
Also, make sure to check your contract with your current company. Some companies put it in your contract that they want two months notice of resignation. I’m not sure how legally binding this is, but you don’t want to be unprofessional and drop the ball on your current employer just because you’re fed up (Unless the horribleness of your job truly warrants it).
7. Know It’s Only Temporary
Because It Is. Everything is temporary. Even a job you’ve been in forever and it feels like you’ll never leave. You will. Then some day you’ll look back on it and say to yourself “Wow, that was a bullshit job. Glad I’m outta there.” It’s hard to think like this when everyday moves at a snails pace, so try to focus on other things until you get there. Maybe in a year from now you won’t even remember how much you hated your job. Maybe you’ll just remember it as a stepping stone to a new and better career opportunity.
Being In A Job You Hate: In Conclusion
At every job, the best or worst thing about it will be the people you work with. Even if the job itself sucks, you might enjoy being there if you like your coworkers. Unfortunately, this works both ways. You could love the actual work but hate the people you have to work with. That usually means, that if you want to enjoy what you do, either a major staff or management change needs to happen, or you need a new job.
If you’re fortunate enough to work with a bunch of good people in a terrible job, you at least have the opportunity to vent to your coworkers. Bonding over mutual hatred of your job can really help you get through the day.
There are really only a few things you can do when you’re completely stuck in a job you hate. The biggest, of course, is to get the hell outta there. In the meantime, stay positive and look to the future. And hopefully, doing some of the things above will help.
Do you know what it’s like to be in a job you hate? Was it in design or before your design career started? What do you think is the best thing you can do when you’re stuck in a job you hate? Let me know in the comments below!