Feeling disengaged and uninspired at work? If so, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup Poll revealed that only 31.5% of American employees felt engaged at work in 2014, while 51% reported feeling “not engaged” in their jobs or careers. Hilariously, another 17.5% of adults reported feeling “actively disengaged” -- as in, they pretty much stopped caring a long time ago.
Sadly, far too many of us have been there. If you’ve had a job you truly hate, you have probably schlepped to work and wished the whole place would shut its doors or burn down – with you in it. And you’ve probably stared at the clock until 5:00 at least once, while trying to do something – anything – to look busy.
Yep, being stuck in a job you hate is the worst. It’s like obligatory servitude with paid vacation to take the sting out. It’s drowning in regret while watching the life you could have lived pass you by. It’s slow-motion sadness, and when you really hate your job, the days feel like years.
And the worst part is – if you don’t make a change, you might be stuck there forever.
Plotting Your Escape from a Job You Hate
Fortunately, now may be the perfect time to start looking for a way out. According to an October report from the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), the U.S. economy should add at least 210,000 jobs per month through the end of 2015 and into 2016. And the national unemployment rate may take a turn for the better, too, as it is projected to dip down to 4.8% by the fourth quarter of 2016.
Apparently though, many disgruntled workers have already gotten the memo. As a recent JOLTS report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, the number of people quitting their jobs reached its highest point since 2008 earlier this year. According to U.S. News & World Report, “quits, which are generally considered to be voluntary and can reflect confidence in one's ability to find another job” ticked up to nearly 2.8 million in early 2015.
In other words, people are walking out the door and moving on to greener pastures at the fastest pace in seven years - simply because they can. And can you blame them?
Seven Ways to Escape a Job You Hate
Of course not. But if you want to say “sayonara” to your employer, you need a plan. Yep, leaving your job involves a lot more than just saying "see -ya" and walking out the door.
Most of us need some time, some sort of strategy, and most importantly, a stack of cash to ease the transition. Of course, it always helps to have another job or career waiting in the wings as well – even if you have to create it yourself.
Are you ready to escape a job you hate? If so, here are seven tips from popular bloggers and career experts that can help make the dream a reality:
Network, network, network.
If you like your field of expertise but not your employer, your best bet might be a lateral move to a competitor’s office. After all, employers within the same career field aren’t always created equal.
While some might offer perks to make employment more worthwhile, others have different management principles or superior cultures that increase employee happiness and make the work day infinitely more tolerable.
If you want to stay in your current field, experts say that networking may be the key to changing things up.
“The best way to get out of a job you hate is to network effectively in your field so you will find out about jobs you would like better,” says Teresa Mears of LivingOntheCheap.com. “If you've built a good reputation in your field, you'll do even better.”
Especially if your field is small, says Mears, word can get around rather quickly.
Corporate attorney Valerie Rind agrees, adding that you may never hear about lateral opportunities if you seem disinterested.
“If you want to stay in the same industry, reach out to all your colleagues and contacts,” she says. “They might be unaware that you're dying to pursue other opportunities in your field of expertise.”
Start a business on the side – or launch a side hustle.
If you hope to exit your job and head straight into business, it’s a smart idea to get your business off the ground before you quit.
“The best way to get out of a job you hate is by working on an alternative business idea to replace your income during all your breaks,” says Kayla Sloan, freelance writer and founder of Shoeaholicnomore.com.
Before Kayla walked away from her 9-5, she worked on her business before work, at lunch, after work, during breaks, and on the weekends. Eventually, she says, all the hard work paid off.
“When it gets hard, just remember that it's a temporary sacrifice so you can quit your job,” she says. And no matter what you do, don't quit the side hustle when the going gets tough. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
Grayson Bell of iMarkInteractive took a similar approach when creating an online business to replace his day job. After working in a related field for many years, Grayson became an expert in WordPress and website management and struck out on his own. "The best way to switch careers is to educate yourself on a skill you can sell to others," he says.
“Perfect that skill over time and hustle your way to money at night. Over time, build upon that skill and sell more of your service. The entire time, save the money you make on the side. Stash enough cash for a year and then quit your job.”
Learn new skills – or simply build on the skills you have.
If you’re stuck in a career with limited potential, improving or adding to your skill set could open the door to new opportunities.
“Take on new responsibilities at your current job, learn from online classes, and use side hustles to gain more experience,” says Kate Dore of Cashville Skyline. The more experience you have, and the more work environments and strategies you have been exposed to, the better off you’ll be.
If you’re in a field where specialties pay off, you could also consider that route. In fields like nursing, information technology, and computer science, advanced certifications in software programs or special skills can not only beef up a resume, but can lead to better, higher paying positions as well.
“Expand on your existing skills by taking a course and become a specialist in a particular field,” says Tai Stewart of bookkeeping and accounting firm, Saidia Financial Solutions. In the end, the more credentials you have, the better. And what's more, your current job may even offer education reimbursement for programs related to your field.
Find your ideal job – and go after it.
Know what you really want to do? If it’s working in a specific field or with a specific employer, you need to craft a plan to get your foot in the door.
“Find your ideal job, find your ideal boss for that job, and find creative ways to get their attention as an ideal candidate,” says Kirk Chisholm, financial planner from InnovativeWealth.com.
Some things to try, says Chisholm, include working part-time work for free until you prove your worth, or finding out what they need and doing it for them without being asked.
“You need to solve one of their problems, then you will have a good chance to get noticed for the position,” says Chisholm. Further, internships – both paid and unpaid – can be the first step toward full-time employment with a specific employer. If they're not advertising for an intern, you can always ask. The worst thing they can say is "no."
Cut your spending and create a 'bare bones budget.'
A lot of times, dependence on a job you hate is a financial issue more than an emotional one. Even if you hate your job more than the devil itself, mounting bills and financial pressure can keep you there for way longer than you planned.
If you don’t have a specific career plan in mind, the best thing you can do is cut your spending to the bare bones. That way, you can figure out how much money you really need to live on – and make job and career decisions based on that figure.
“The best way to get out of a job you hate is to start saving up,” says Martin Dasko of Studenomics. “If you don't have any money saved, you'll never be able to leave. You'll be stuck forever.”
Financial coach and author Amanda Abella tells her clients the same. “Save money so you can quit sooner, slash expenses so you can leave sooner, and then figure out how much you need to make each month to quit,” she says. “I've had people come to me thinking they need to make $100k in a year in order to quit when they really don't need anywhere near that.”
If you’re unsure of how to find your bottom-dollar spending goal, read our post on how to create a “bare bones budget” and get ready to live on less. It may hurt for a while, but trust us, it will be worth it.
Pay off debt and buy your freedom.
According to financial coach Melissa Comstock Thomas, debt is one of the biggest deterrents when it comes to striking out on our own.
“Debt deters dreams,” she says, adding that the best way to get out of a job you hate is to use your current job and income as a tool to dump debt and save money. “That way,” she says, “when an opportunity to do a job you love comes around, neither debt nor lack of savings stands in your way.”
Kraig Mathias from Create My Independence takes that advice a step further, adding that it’s time to stop buying into the lie that says “stuff and debt will make you happy.”
"Look, if you're broke and in debt and happen to hate your job, tough,” he says. “You don't have a choice.” To leave a job you hate, he says, you need to “get out of debt and save a pile of cash.” It’s as simple as that.
Of course, getting out of debt isn't always easy. If you want to explore strategies that can help, check out these posts:
- 11 Ways to Get Out of Debt Faster
- Back in Debt? A Strategy to Pay It Off for Good
- 10 Steps to Rid Yourself of Credit Card Debt Forever
Stop making excuses and get to work.
Ryan Guina from CashMoneyLife.com created a lucrative online side business in his spare time. But his success can’t be attributed only to good luck, connections, or anything else. If you want to truly get ahead, he says, put yourself and your goals first.
“Turn off the TV, log out of Facebook, turn your ringer off, and start hustling,” says Guina. “That could be taking classes, writing the next Great American Novel, building a website, recording your music, or starting a business.”
At the end of the day, no one is going to knock on your door and offer you your dream job, just like no one is going to start a business or side hustle for you. If you want something, you have to stop making excuses and go after it with fervor. You have to put all distractions aside and go for it – or as Guina says, “chase your dreams!”
Financial coach and author Todd Tresidder or Financial Mentor echoes that sentiment, adding that a crappy job should add fuel to your fire – not take away from it.
“Use the daily pain of your job as motivation to build that side hustle income into your exit strategy,” he says. “Track your side hustle income against your expenses every month and when the two lines intersect you’re free to get on with your life and go full-time to accelerate the business growth.”
Creating Your Own Escape – One Step at a Time
Like it or not, your finances, your career aspirations, and your current reality are all intertwined and dependent on one another.
Without ample savings, you may be stuck working in a dead-end job forever. Likewise, if you have the motivation to learn new skills, build on the skills you already have, or start a side hustle, your chance of breaking away is a whole lot better.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there – to try something – if you want to change your life in a positive and meaningful way.
Life’s too short to spend it in a job you hate. But if you want a way out, you have to find one or create one yourself. At the end of the day, you have to grab life by the horns and go for what you want - whether that's just a different and better job, a dream career, or a business you own and run yourself. Because, no matter what, no one can do it for you.
What is the worst job you've ever had? Are you plotting to escape a job you hate? Please share your experiences in the comments below.