I spoke with a friend this week who absolutely hates his job and asked me what he should do.
I’ve been in the same boat. Most of us have.
When I was in college, I worked on the radio part-time. I had a blast being on the air. It was my dream job, something I had wanted to do since I was eight years old. But it wasn’t paying the bills anymore and the whole industry was changing. Instead of having live DJs on the air, radio stations were starting to pipe in prerecorded voiceovers from around the country to save money. I knew that I needed to find a more stable, full-time job soon. I wanted to find a “good” job that I’d love to go to.
So as graduation neared, I decided to look for a “real” job in an office somewhere. I would have my college degree, so of course I expected to land a job making at least $100,000 a year with a corner office overlooking the downtown skyline and my own personal assistant that could make me coffee. They would follow me briskly as I’d walk to my office, calling me “Mr. Fite” and furiously writing on a notepad whatever I’d say I needed to be done that day, just like in the movies. Then I’d close my office door, take off my sports jacket, and practice my putting until 5. I couldn’t wait to land that job.
But that’s not the job that I got.
The job that I landed was answering phone calls in a call center. For $24,000 a year. That was the best job I could find. It was the only job I could find. It was 2002 and nobody was hiring. I didn’t take that job because I wanted to, I took it because I had to. I went from having a dream job to having a dead-end job. I remember hating it just like my friend. On Sunday nights, a dread over the upcoming workweek would come over me like when I was in high school and the weekend was almost over. One Monday morning, a coworker and I joked with each other that it could be worse, we could be cleaning toilets at BK. Yes, that would be worse. Tina always had a positive outlook and although she’d often make light of our situation, she believed things would get better.
Once on a Friday afternoon just before a three-day weekend, Tina told me how excited she was for a long weekend. I made the comment that it was just a temporary solution to a permanent problem. That’s when she stopped me and said, Ken, this is just a season, you won’t always have this job, but you need to learn to be excellent at it or you won’t be excellent at the next job that you have.
That conversation changed my life. The moment I started taking my job seriously, and doing it with excellence, things changed for me. I still didn’t love my job, but I did like being good at it. And a few months later, the hard work led to a better opportunity. She was right, it was only for a season.
So what should you do if you hate your job? My advice to my friend was the same – become excellent at your job. If you don’t like your line of work, if it’s a bad fit, or a hostile work environment, go find something else. But understand this: excellence won’t show up when the perfect job shows up. When you decide to do your job with excellence, you’ll enjoy it more.
It’s only for a season.