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Look on bright side of bad job

  • Story Highlights
  • Put problems in positive light until making an informed decision about leaving
  • While you may be overburdened, think of it as a chance to learn new skills
  • Every day you are at work is a chance to network for new opportunities
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By Anthony Balderrama
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Whether it's a playground bully or a bad breakup, unpleasant situations are just a part of life. You've inevitably been told to "just look on the bright side" or that "you'll get through this." As annoying as these clichés can sound, they hold some truth.


When your job situation is anything but rosy, however, it's hard to keep a positive outlook.

After all, once you add up the time you spend picking out your clothes, packing your lunch, traveling to and from work and then actually working, your job takes up most of your day. You can only put on a happy face for so long before you're ready to walk out the door and never come back.

Julie Barrett*, an employee at a public relations firm, would like to leave a job she used to enjoy, but she's making herself stay. Although her once-attentive boss has begun a new venture and has all but abandoned his current position -- sticking her with his responsibilities -- she won't leave until it's convenient for her. Over the next 18 months, Barrett and her husband want to have a baby and move to a new city.

"I wouldn't feel right starting a new job, having them pay for my maternity leave and then quitting," she says. Plus, many companies require a waiting period before benefits take effect, so changing jobs now might affect her plans.

She's not alone. Plenty of people are unable to leave their current positions because it's just not the right time. Maybe they don't yet have the skills to find another job, unemployment is high in their city, they need the money or other factors are preventing them from quitting.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to Barrett's, here are some reasons your job situation might not be as bad as you think.

Paycheck and benefits

Let's be honest: No matter how bad a job situation is, you feel better -- at least a little bit -- on payday. That's not to say your happiness has a price tag, but it's nice to know you can pay the bills each month.

Plus, if you receive medical benefits, you don't have to worry about what happens if you get sick. Until you find a new job, take comfort in the fact that you have some security.


You learn new skills and can improve existing ones regardless of where you work. They will continue to help even after you leave your current job because you can add them to your résumé. If you don't yet have the skills and experience to get the job you want, find a way to obtain them by initiating new projects and accepting additional responsibilities.

In Barrett's case, she's been able to take on more roles as her boss has disengaged from the company. In addition to learning more about human resources and accounting, she's also found herself in a new leadership position.

"Through this experience I've learned that I actually like -- and am good at -- managing people," she says.


Every day you go to work is another day you're interacting with people. Depending on where you work, you might encounter executives, customers or colleagues who can be valuable contacts. They might serve as good resources if you need a mentor or for putting the word out about a future job search.

Barrett is taking advantage of the fact that she interacts with notable business figures across the country on a daily basis. "I am using these contacts to learn about new industries and explore career options. I hope that they will also be good references for me down the road," Barrett says.


If you're unhappy, examine why. Do you dislike the people you work with or is it the actual work? Are you in a dead-end position? Think back to your interview and see if you missed any warning signs that this job might not be the one for you. Use your experience to avoid falling into the same predicament in your next job. If the situation didn't turn sour until after you'd been with the company for a while, you know to stay attuned to shifts in attitudes and practices.

Barrett says her situation was fine until the boss disengaged himself from daily coffee breaks where he would ask employees about their current projects and accomplishments.

"At first I thought it was nice to have this little stress of the day removed, but then I realized he wasn't asking about our work because he didn't care," she says. "And when your boss doesn't care about your work, your motivation and morale take a nose dive."

Making the best out of a bad job situation doesn't mean being complacent. A positive outlook shouldn't replace your plans to move on.

Barrett's advice to other people in her situation is to have a timeline. "Decide when you will leave your job if things do not improve, and stick with it. This will help you get through the weeks," she suggests. "Also, by having a timeline, you can be more prepared for your transition in to a new position or career."

*Not her real name E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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