A bad job can be the result of a range of issues. Perhaps it's a lack of growth opportunities for a sales coordinator who's held the same role for four years. Or maybe it's a work/life imbalance for an executive assistant who spends late nights at the office and still has to catch up on projects at home.
We've all had a bad job at some point along the way. If your list of cons is longer than your list of pros, don't fret. There are tactics you can employ to tip the scales back in your favor.
Here are five ways to find the upside no matter how bad a job may seem.
1. Connect with new people
The biggest asset at your disposal may be the people you work with. Expanding your circle to cross-departmental colleagues can bring about unexpected benefits.
For one, they might become sources of support and friendship, helping to improve your job satisfaction. Further, they may be able to expose you to new projects or areas of the company that could hold appeal.
So be a part of the office dynamic. This makes it easier to reach out to an extended group of people. Take part in hallway chats, attend birthday events and bring a casserole to the monthly potluck or the summer picnic. When new people join the company, welcome them and express your interest in learning from each other.
Remember not to mention your discontent. You're not looking for others to gripe with. Simply focus on areas of interest. Any shared experiences or knowledge can open up a useful conversation. Follow up later via email and build a continued dialogue over time.
Bonus tip: In addition to peers, consider connecting with managers and even executives. You can still look upward when networking internally.
2. Tap your potential
Ask for projects that allow you to stretch your abilities and develop new skills. You may find that you enjoy whatever it is you begin working on and that your dissatisfaction is not so much with the company but with your current duties. An added benefit: You also can include action verbs, such as "managed," "mentored" or "developed," on your résumé.
Bonus tip: Ask your supervisors how you're doing with a new assignment. If you get words of appreciation, thank them and keep any glowing emails or reviews for your records. You can use these as a résumé addendum or for your cover letter.
3. Investigate your industry
One thing a bad job can still help you do: explore your industry in greater depth. Many companies pay for memberships to industry associations and conferences, making it easier -- and more affordable -- to interact with your peers. By doing so, you can bring added value to your job, expand your professional network and potentially learn about future career paths.
You may even realize you're not as passionate about your profession as you once were. Instead of pinning your discontent on your current job, it may be the business that's not working for you. Sometimes it's hard to tell.
Bonus tip: Consider not just attending but speaking at an industry event. It's easier to get accepted as a speaker while employed, and being a featured presenter can boost your credentials in the eyes of future employers.
4. Propose process improvement
Your job dissatisfaction may be the result of barriers to efficiency in your office, such as a complicated approval process that drains your excitement for a project as it drags on. Rather than complain, suggest systems or processes that will alleviate pain points. Chances are you're not the only one who is frustrated.
You'll earn the goodwill of colleagues, and these individuals could serve as future references. Also keep in mind that spearheading these types of improvements is résumé gold.
Bonus tip: Create a proposal for your boss that clearly outlines the benefits of any changes you suggest. For example, "If we remove this review step, we can save a week in producing the financial report. Here's why that step is redundant."
5. Examine your career path
It's important to assess what you want -- and what you don't want -- from your future job to avoid landing in another unsatisfying position. And it's easier to reflect on your career path while employed; for one thing, you won't have the added financial stress.
Focus on targeting employers and roles that can offer you what you're looking for. This research phase can take time, so dig in now.
Bonus tip: Sign up with a staffing firm. A specialized recruiter can do much of the heavy lifting in a job search. These professionals are able to identify opportunities that might interest you and approach companies, confidentially, on your behalf. You don't have to make a move until you're ready.
Use the above tips to remain positive and productive when you're stuck in a bad job. Even if you can't leave at the moment, there are ways to stay motivated and find the right fit eventually.
The Most Underpaid Jobs in the U.S.
Could A Bad Job Be Good For You?
Average Salary: $23,900 No. of Openings: 195,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Those who work in security frequently praise the occupation's flexible hours (lots of night and 12-hour shifts result in more days off) and recommend it for people who don't mind working alone. Still, it's a job that can be particularly stressful to the psyche as well as the body. Security guards must remain alert to protect against and prevent fire hazards, larceny, vandalism, and other emergency situations and illegal activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that security guards experience more on-the-job injury than the national average for all professions; gaming surveillance officers specifically have one of the highest injury rates. Too bad the pay is so paltry for those making security their full-time gig. In 2011, the average median salary for a security guard was just $23,900.
Average Salary: $28,470 No. of Openings: 71,400 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
A sports coach trains either amateur or professional athletes for competition. But he or she also serves as an adviser, parent, teacher, and confidante for his or her team. The most-renowned in the profession -- the Bela Karolyis, the John Maddens, and the Pat Rileys -- have earned impressive salaries that came with adulation as well as endorsement deals. But most of the 242,900 professionals working in the field currently aren't coaching on that level, nor are they earning that type of pay. And the adulation they most mention to Glassdoor comes from the impressionable young people they coach on the secondary and collegiate level.
Average Salary: $29,100 No. of Openings: 162,900 Job Satisfaction: MEDIUM
The approximately 530,000 medical assistants employed in doctors' offices and larger medical organizations must do a mix of traditional office operations work and hands-on medical tasks. They take patient histories, assist in patient examinations, change wound dressings, and help with sterilizing equipment. Often, they're the first and last people a patient sees when visiting a doctor's office, so medical assistants play a substantial part in the overall patient-care experience. In recent years, a medical assistant's people skills and practical skills have been complemented by technological skills, since most patient records are now digitized. The multifaceted nature of responsibilities hasn't resulted in substantially higher pay, however. In 2011, the BLS reported a median salary for medical assistants that's $12,573 less than the national average.
Average Salary: $31,030 No. of Openings: 124,700 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
"There is a lot of satisfaction in helping people," writes one assistant department head to Glassdoor about working at Minnesota's Life Time Fitness club. Another recreation and fitness professional with Urban Active Fitness in Lexington, Ken., appreciates "The people you'll meet and relationships you'll start." So it's no surprise that as a whole, recreation and fitness occupations—aerobics instructors, camp counselors, and personal trainers—receive a boost on our Best Jobs list for their reported personal perks. The chance to be physically active and forgo a traditional 9-to-5 schedule also help boost these occupations' curb appeal. But fitness trainers earned an average $31,030 in 2011, according to the BLS. That's more than $10,000 less than the national average median wage.
Average Salary: $31,870 No. of Openings: 118,500 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Today's administrative assistants have evolved beyond juggling phone messages and transcribing meeting minutes. They must now be thoroughly organized, have excellent writing and editing skills, and display a knack for multitasking. Often, admin professionals fulfill the roles of project managers, secret keepers, daily planners, customer service reps, and tech support. And despite wearing so many hats around the office, the more than 2 million employed administrative assistants were earning a salary that's well below the national average -- $30,830 in 2010. In 2011, they earned about $31,870. Corporate culture and outstanding office benefits -- but not compensation -- were the key contributors to this occupation securing such lofty scores for job satisfaction.
Average Salary: $39,070 No. of Openings: 45,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The mercurial economy hasn't made a real estate agent's profession an easy one. Still, the BLS predicts approximately 45,000 openings in this occupation between now and 2020, thanks to population growth. Agents have to stay abreast to the local zoning and tax laws of various communities, plus keep a pulse on the atmosphere in communities where they might do business. Keeping tabs on market conditions is another crucial element of their occupation. This is also a job that requires copious paperwork and patience, but it's not a job that comes with copious spending change. Though the profession's highest-paid earned around $92,000 in 2011, a real estate agent's average salary was less than $40,000 that year. Some tell Glassdoor that they find reward in helping people find homes. For others, they appreciate the chance to make their own flexible schedule.
Average Salary: $40,680 No. of Openings: 58,200 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The stakes are higher when a social worker has a bad day. The average, coddled office employee might become discouraged when the copier jams or the instant coffee machine goes on the fritz. But for a children, family and school social worker, a "bad day" could entail reporting suspected child abuse, having a proposed adoption fall through, or witnessing a parent losing custody of their children. Despite the high stress, social workers report to Glassdoor that they like working with people, and get a thrill out of positively impacting the lives of others. Their tender hearts don't translate to loads of legal tender, though. The BLS reports that a social worker's median salary was $40,680 in 2011, just shy of the national average wage.