"We'll miss you, Cliff." said Andy, my manager. His face looked long when he was sad. We were both working for a company that just experienced a major product failure, and, unfortunately, it prompted a massive round of layoffs. Since I was just an intern, Andy left the decision to leave or stay up to me.
I decided to leave.
"I'll miss you guys, too," I replied. "Thanks again for the opportunity. Let me know what you end up doing after all this chaos dies down." We both shook hands across the conference table. "Will do," he responded. "Keep in touch, Cliff."
After I packed up my things and said goodbye to the remaining employees, I headed out the office and into the elevator.
As soon as the doors closed, a feeling of liberation washed over me. I let out a booming "Yes!", followed by a triumphant fist pump. I was finally out of that place. I had dreaded going to work everyday. At the same time, though, I felt a little regretful.
I realized I had essentially just wasted two months of precious internship experience. The company had fired their entire marketing team a week before I started, so I was the only marketer in the office. There was no one to learn from, and I barely had anything to do. Half my time was dedicated to playing ping pong and watching office drama escalate on Slack. Amusing for sure, but not really beneficial for my skillset.
My colleagues jokingly called me "CMO Intern", but I didn't think it was funny. If I was the only marketer at the company, who was going to mentor me? And how was I going to develop my skills? It was one of the most frustrating few months of my life.
But even after the pang of regret I felt walking out, I would do it all over again. I'm glad I accepted that internship. I didn't gain the valuable marketing experience I was expecting, but I did walk away with some surprising career lessons. And without them, I wouldn't be where I am now, working a job I love
If you currently have a job you're not too fond of, don't beat yourself up. We've all been there. It hurts, but your suffering will help you figure out what you actually want from your career.
A lot of times, working a job you hate can actually lead you to the one you love. Read on to find out how.
3 Ways Having a Job You Hate Can Benefit Your Career
1) You'll figure out what you like to do -- and what you don't like to do.
There are a lot of variables that influence your satisfaction at work. And sometimes, you won't discover what you actually like doing until you figure out what you really don't like doing.
If you can identify your favorite and least favorite aspects about your current job, you'll know exactly what to look for in your next job. Ask yourself the following questions to learn more about your personal work preferences:
Do you like your role/department?
If you just jumped into a new role or department and you realize you aren't really enjoying it, then it might be worth exploring different career path entirely. You should also reflect on your favorite aspects about your previous and current jobs, and pursue opportunities that let you do those things.
Is the company too big or too small?
Do you find solace in the financial stability and stockpile of benefits an enterprise company provides? Or do you prefer the passion and hustle it takes to build a startup? Or maybe you favor a blend of the two, at a medium-sized company?
If you feel like your current company doesn't have enough resources to support your growth, then maybe a bigger company is better for you. If your company isn't challenging enough, then you could pursue opportunities at a smaller company, where you'll get more responsibility.
Are you genuinely interested in your company's industry?
When you write blog posts about your company's industry all day, it's a lot more enjoyable if you actually like learning about the subject matter (trust me on this one). Work becomes a chore when these topics don't pique your interest. Whether you work in marketing, sales, product, engineering, or support, if you're not excited about your company's industry, it's tough to stay engaged and satisfied at the office. Try pursuing a job in an industry that you're passionate about, even if it means taking a lesser role or making a lateral move.
Do you feel supported by the company's culture?
Does work run your life? Is the office cliquey? Do people appreciate your work, or does your manager take all of the credit? If you don't like these things (most people don't), then you're better off at a company that treats their employees well. Use Glassdoor to read a company's employee reviews and evaluate their culture.
2) You'll learn to appreciate your worth.
When you work for a sub-optimal company, team, or manager, you'll notice they either don't give you fulfilling work or don't know how to leverage your skill set to its full potential. This makes you feel misunderstood or undervalued, and work becomes incredibly frustrating.
But their neglect also teaches you how to gauge your professional value. It helps you recognize your needs and capabilities. By honing your self-awareness, you can determine whether upcoming job opportunities are worth it or not and trade up for the best fit job in the future.
3) You'll learn how to persevere through tough times -- and appreciate the good times even more.
A lot of times, getting better at your passion requires you to do the challenging things instead of the enjoyable things, like polishing a blog post in lieu of a post-work gathering.
In your career, you'll encounter times where you absolutely hate your job. But if you can persevere and produce results in a less-than-ideal situation, then you'll enhance your work ethic and truly crush it when your morale is much higher in an ideal situation.
A couple of years ago, I camped out in Florida's Everglades for nine days, where I paddled over 100 miles through alligator infested waters and only ate dehydrated food.
When my trip ended, I was so grateful to be back in civilization (and safe from alligators). I almost forgot what living in a city was like. But the thing I looked forward to the most was eating a real meal. My friends and I all agreed we would stop at the first restaurant we saw, so when we spotted a Subway, we immediately halted. I ordered a chicken bacon ranch sub, and it was one of the best meals I've ever had. I ate another one later that day too.
Losing access to everyday things like normal food, electricity, and community has made me incredibly grateful for them. And I try not to take them for granted anymore, which makes me happier in life.
This phenomenon can also happen when your current job situation is less than ideal. You'll be grateful for the privileges you might not have anymore, and when you exchange that dreaded job for your dream one, you definitely won't take its perks for granted, enhancing your gratitude, happiness, and performance at work.
A job you hate doesn't have to be a waste of time.
It's inevitable, at some point in our lives, we'll all have a job that we hate. But if you can view this experience as a life lesson and discover what you actually want out of your career, then there's a good chance the job you hate will eventually lead you to the one you love.
Originally published Dec 8, 2017 8:00:00 AM, updated August 04 2018