What to do if you hate your job

There is a difference between the moaning that many of us do when it comes to getting out of bed to go to work, dealing with office personalities and not getting the pay rise we wanted, and genuinely feeling strong negative emotions when it comes to what we do for work.


I have been there. I hated being a lawyer. And I felt guilty about that. Because it was ‘such a good job’ with such a big salary and I was privileged to have it. I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t get from it what others seemed to or play the game in terms of networking and promotions. I just felt scared and bored the whole time (a really odd combination). And I was constantly waiting for the end of the day/week/year.

'A job is work, it's not meant to be enjoyable' (not true)

This is the mindset many of us have grown up with. That work is hard and you just have to get your head down and get on with it like everyone else. It’s something we’re trained to believe, usually because it serves other people - whether that’s parents who want to make sure you’re financially independent or companies that need to get unfulfilling jobs done. Of course, there is an element of hard work involved in any career. But when you’re on the right path that can feel satisfying, too. And when you’re not it’s almost unbearable.

Resilience is never about forcing yourself to just get something done like this. In fact, you can wear down resilience at work fast like this. Resilience is much more about freedom and using your tenacity and strengths to live in a way that feels empowering and positive - for you.

Attitudes to work are changing

The pandemic demanded change from employers and blew away all those old stock denials like 'flexible working isn’t possible for everyone.' We now know that it is. And this has opened up whole new perspectives on how you can live when you work. The working week is a corporate invention - and even that is potentially a poor way for businesses to get results. For example, one New Zealand-based business reduced the working week to four days (still paying staff for five). 24% of staff said their work-life balance improved and 70% saw stress levels drop. And there was no negative effect on productivity.

Why am I throwing stats at you? Because unhappiness at work can make you feel like you're trapped in a rigid system. This tunnel vision is the opposite of being resilient when you are open to uncertainty and also opportunity - and trust yourself to create it. I want you to start challenging the idea that there are no other options if that’s how you currently feel.

If you could start again what would you do?

We are sucked into career paths for many reasons. But if where you are doesn’t feel right, or you’re in a persistent state of feeling burned out or low, then these are instinctive nudges to listen to. Take 30 minutes in a quiet place one day to sit and think about what you actually want to do. If someone said to you 'tomorrow you can wake up in your dream job' what would that be? Think about the answers to the following:

  • What would your day-to-day life look like in an ideal world?
  • How do you want your work to make you feel?
  • What is missing from what you do right now?
  • Are there any values that are important to you that your current job doesn’t respect?

Life is too short not to love what you do.

It can be easy to become very focused on everything that is wrong with your current job and, consequently, your life. This will make you miserable. And the more you focus on the negatives the more you’ll miss out on the opportunities for change.

Being resilient is often about staying laser-focused on what you want. But, first of all, you need to know what that is. So, start creating a picture in your head of the life you do want to live. Get really clear on what that looks like - and feels like. This is a process that can take time. You might initially start with a single thought like 'I want to wake up excited every day.' Start investigating this in different ways, e.g. What would make you feel like that about the day ahead? What would get in the way of it?

Resilience at work

This is exactly the kind of process where it can be useful to work with a resilience coach. I can help you to drill down into precisely what you do want instead of being stuck in the mindset of resentment and frustration about what currently exists. The next step is bringing the vision you’ve created to life via a practical plan and set of achievable milestones. The approach that is going to be right for you will be different from the one that works for others. However, here’s a pretty general version of a good plan of attack:

  1. Establish what you need to do to get from where you are now to where you want to be - big goals, small steps, and activities that will make those happen.
  2. Write down everything that comes up and then organise it into a clear structure.
  3. Create a list of all the things you need to start saying 'no' to. For example, taking on other people’s responsibilities which then leaves you no time to actually get the most out of the parts of your job you do enjoy.
  4. Think about where you might be keeping yourself stuck e.g. choosing to feel resentful and fed up rather than channeling that energy into applying for a new job.
  5. Think about why you might be doing that e.g. it’s more familiar to feel resentful, or you are scared to take the risk of a new job, or if you started to be happy with your job then you wouldn’t fit in with your friends.
  6. Start visualising where you’re trying to get to - this will put your reticular activating system to work in making things happen for you. Do this every day for 5 minutes.
  7. Notice how you feel in your body at all times. Your body will show you the way - how does being at work make you feel? How does your body react to the thought of that dream role? When are you in fight or flight mode with minimal cognitive functioning?
  8. Start curbing self-soothing behaviours that might be out of control. If you’re not happy in your job, it can lead to a desire to numb and soothe, whether that’s bingeing Netflix every night for the whole night when you get home or being ultra critical of your coworkers (criticism has been found to be a form of self-soothing). You might feel like you need to continue these behaviours but you can also introduce a chunk of time that’s different e.g. 30 mins of connecting to yourself before you switch on Netflix. The reason you might not want to connect is that it may mean connecting to painful feelings like feeling like a failure or feeling fear - but sitting with these feelings is the first stage to creating change (remember all feelings are temporary).

If you'd like to love what you do and find more purpose in your career as well as overcoming issues like imposter syndrome and self-sabotage, I have created a short 'Resilience at Work' course that covers all the ways to change your work experience if you hate your job (you'll find this on my website).

You can also book in for a free intro call for some 1:1 coaching to transform what work means to you and what you're able to achieve with it. Life is too short not to love what you do.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Winchester, Hampshire, SO23
Written by Alex Pett
Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP certified coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She helps clients build confidence and self-belief, recover from burnout, develop self-assurance, intuitive connection and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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