Is the Wrong Job Better than No Job At All?

Fearless Businessman Strapped to the Knife Thrower's Target
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You're probably not surprised to learn that a stressful job can be bad for your health. Australian National University researchers used data from a 20-year Personality and Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project to discover that people working in a tenuous position and always worried about being laid off, or employed in an otherwise high-stress position without a lot of control, were five times more likely to be depressed and twice as likely to be anxious than counterparts in better jobs.

Even when they compared participants who had been unemployed and took a poor quality job, mental health actually declined more for people who took poor quality jobs than for those who stayed unemployed. Researchers went so far as to say, from a health perspective, you may be better off being unemployed than having a bad job.

Another study sponsored, in part, by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, confirms increased levels of job stress can result in depressive symptoms, cardiovascular disease and obesity problems.

Health is just one factor
From a health standpoint, it seems likely that no job is better than a bad job, but health is not the only factor to consider for job seekers who want to improve their chances of landing a good job. Is it a big mistake for job seekers to quit or pass up a job because they may be miserable there?

Depending on your need for a paycheck, it may be more strategic to hold on to that bad job or take a risky position until you can find something better.

Discrimination against the unemployed has been a frequent topic covered in the news. Even as some states pass laws against this discrimination, the fact that some companies would rather hire someone who is currently working is not going to change. In some fields, being out of work means you do not have access to up-to-date practices and your learning curve is too steep to make you competitive for a new job.

While keeping up via social media and learning new information online can help you prove you haven't lost your edge, it is possible that keeping your job, even if the conditions are less than desirable, until you land something else, is practical from an economical point of view, if not from a health perspective.

No-brainer the longer you've been out of work
If you have been unemployed for a while, and finally have a chance to earn a paycheck, it's likely you'll want to err on the side of taking a chance with the job rather than rolling the dice on being unemployed for much longer, even if the new company has a poor economic outlook, the boss has a bad reputation, or the organization fails to recognize any need for flexibility.

Salvage a bad job by doing everything you can to make a positive experience from a negative one. Perhaps your horrible boss rivals Cruella Deville, but some of your co-workers are smart and great networkers. Don't waste your time complaining about how bad things are, strategize about making your next move.

Make sure people you admire at work know about your expertise, skills and past accomplishments. Don't badmouth anyone; if you demonstrate a great attitude in the face of adversity, you'll make a good impression on people who may have opportunities to share with you in the future. You may be able to finesse a promotion to another department or even a different company where things will be more pleasant.

In the end, taking or keeping a less than ideal job will be a choice you make based on many factors. Don't ignore the health effects of a terrible job, and do what you can to move quickly to land the great job you deserve.