Not Just Surviving, But Thriving: How to Deal When You Can’t Get Out of Your Crappy Job

So, last week I gave my advice on knowing when to leave your job. But, what if you know it’s just shit, but you can’t leave. You are place bound. You have a home, kids in school, partner. You have a mortgage. Or maybe it’s because you just can’t find anything else. A full time job takes up the bulk of our time every week. And if this full time job is a part of your long term career goals, you have a lot vested in it.

I have only had to survive a real hellish job situation once. So, I am not an expert. But, here’s my advice (with some from my peers sprinkled in). You need to find out how you can not only survive, but thrive, until the right time comes along to leave. Also, before you go negative, the right time *will* come. This is a game of biding your time.

1. Find a friend at work. I’m going to advise that this not be someone in the same department. Sometimes you think you can trust work friends. But, when the stuff hits the fan, you know it’s every person for themselves. So, just be careful. But, you need someone, because being by yourself all day gets really lonely.

2. Find your online tribe. True facts. Joining Twitter and meeting online librarians (and @sarainthestacks) saved me when I was in hell at work. It wasn’t just a trust issue with those I worked with, but having online friends to laugh with while I locked myself in my office was really sanity saving. We are a good online tribe, us librarians.

3. Build your resume/CV. Take some online workshops, do whatever you can. Teach yourself new skills. Join ALA. Work on committee work. If you feel like you’re going nowhere in  your place of work, then you need to be going somewhere in other professional avenues or you will become a non-competitive candidate. And before you say you can’t afford this or that, listen, we’ve all been there. Ask your grandma for a loan for ALA dues. Or spend your shoe budget. Or your wine budget. But, whatever you do, don’t cut off all of your professional ties when you feel stuck or you won’t be able to get unstuck.

4. Network. This is related to above, but even networking locally can tip you off to an opportunity opening up. And when you make friends at other libraries, you have people outside of your job to give you a reference as well.

5.  Don’t let this place define you. You are in charge of the narrative of your career and your life. If you’re not being valued, that doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t do a good job. You can force people to appreciate you, but you don’t have to let their choices ruin how you view yourself.

6. Focus on everything else that is good. This might be your friends, your knitting group, your book club (stereotypes much?) or your family. Something is making you get out of bed in the morning and power through. Put things all around you at work that remind you of those parts of your life.

7. Compartmentalize. I am *really* good at this in life. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing yet. Deal with work at work. Leave it there.

8. Stay away from the complainers. This is hard to do when you’re in a bad situation, but misery loves company. You know those people who are miserable inside and they hate everything so of course they hate work? Those people are a fungus. It spreads. Stay away if you want to keep your sanity.

9. Keep a paper trail. If your job is really that bad, make notes of who is saying what to you. Always watch your back.

10. Take mental health days. Use your vacation time. use your sick time. Don’t put in more than you have to.

While we’re at it…..don’t do these things:

  • Take it out on your family. Or your friends.
  • Don’t lie when people ask how you are. Sometimes you’ll just need an ear.
  • Let people help you. Maybe a friend of a friend knows of an opportunity. Let people try and cheer you up.
  • Don’t self medicate. If it’s really bad and affecting your health in that way, see a counselor.

Good luck, friends.

For those of you who have survived and thrived while working the job from hell, what’s your advice?

PS. OMG, I posted two weeks in a row!


3 thoughts on “Not Just Surviving, But Thriving: How to Deal When You Can’t Get Out of Your Crappy Job

  1. This is really great. I would add two pieces of advice. If you have a union, use them. This is what your dues pay for! If nothing else they are a good resource for commiseration and advice, and if things are seriously dire they can help move toward rectification of problems. The second is kind of touchy-feely, but if you develop a mantra or have a power song, that might help. I had a playlist that I blasted every morning when I got to work or whenever things got tough, and I had several inspirational quotes taped to my monitor to look at whenever I got too infuriated. My favorite was “Don’t let the bastards win.” Kept me fighting till I found my chance to leave.

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