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Turn That Frown Upside Down: If you don't like your job but you can't quit, there are ways to make the best of your situation.
by the Asbury
Park Press on 07/16/08
David P. Willis
In a bad economy, you may not be able to just pick up and leave a job you don't like.
If it's a question of not having a job after you quit, you might just have to stay and cope with that bad boss, unpleasant project or dreary news from the head office.
"People have obligations, the family obligations, the rent obligations," said Beverly Baskin, a career counselor and executive director of Baskin Business and Career Services in Marlboro. "Sometimes one spouse is not working or lost their job. Sometimes people don't even have the time to look for a job."
So how do you make life at work bearable?
First, take a look at why you do what you do, said Chris Ruisi, owner of The Coach's Zone, a Holmdel-based business coach.
"If you are unhappy, you might have lost sight of why you are doing it," Ruisi said. It might be for income, financial security or family reasons.
For instance, Mark Kremen, owner of Training Unlimited, a Bradley Beach human resources training firm, said one participant in a class pulled out a picture. "This is our future home in Hawaii," he recalled her saying. "This is why I come to work, so we can have this."
Figure out what you are trying to accomplish professionally and come up with some goals so you can take control and are not a "victim of your circumstances," Ruisi said. "Without the goals, you are just being bounced around the ocean like a cork."
Worry about what you have control over, not what you don't. Kremen said.
An employee can ask to work on an interesting project, he said. "What's the worst thing that can happen?"
Another idea is to seek the advice of others you respect, breaking down the problems into small pieces, so you can "try to take small bites at moving forward, as opposed to gobbling," Ruisi said.
If it's a problem with the boss, you might be able to get a transfer to another department Ruisi said.
Or you can come up with a strategy to minimize the negative interaction with your boss, said Jeanie Coomber, owner of Transition Enterprises, a career coaching business in Ocean Grove.
"What is fixable and what is tolerable and how do you fix it or tolerate it?" she said. "You don't have to love the guy or gal. What do you need to do to tolerate it?"
People should take advantage of whatever training programs are offered at the company to brush up their skills, Coomber said. "You are not staying in the frozen position," she said. "You are actually pursuing other things to add value to your resume."
Making the best of a bad situation might be as simple as making small changes, such as adjusting your surroundings or cleaning your desk.
"How are you presenting yourself?" Ruisi said. "You might have the best intentions inside, but people vote with their eyes sometimes. It doesn't take a lot of extra effort to be above average."
Experts say it's critical at such a time not to burn bridges with an employer.
"No matter how unhappy you are, it's important to come into work with your game face on, so that you can be sure of retaining your current job while you're thinking about finding another one," said Mary Crane, a Denver-based consultant to Fortune 500 companies and law firms.
In fact, she said, it's advisable to think about arriving early or staying late, acting eager and excited, even if you feel the opposite way. "Make yourself the one person that every manager would hate to lose," Crane said.
Coming in early also allows you to start the day without pressure, Coomber said. "You have the time to be flexible to make you feel good before your day starts."
Another tip is to build a professional network, so you can obtain mentoring and support outside your office and learn of job opportunities.
Baskin said developing an outside interest or passion is another way to grow professionally.
"There is a possibility that when you take up something passionate or a hobby, that you will meet people with similar interests . . . and that might lead to connections for a job," she said.
Some old-fashioned advice also can be helpful: Focus on a job's upside.
For example, Crane says she constantly is asked how she deals with a job that requires her to be on the road 90 percent of the time. Downplaying the inconvenience, she tells people she is "the luckiest person in the world" because she gets to go in, solve a problem and move on.
A recessionary economy isn't new and won't last forever, she notes, so people shouldn't worry excessively. But they shouldn't be surprised if they are unhappy in a job, and may have to simply hunker down and take it.
"The reality is that work is work, and it's not always fun," Crane said.
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