Making the Best of a Less-Than-Ideal Job

You’ve come to a realization: You don’t enjoy your job. Perhaps you aren’t being challenged, advancement opportunities seem limited or you clash with your co-workers. Whatever the case may be, you feel you could be more satisfied working in a different environment.

But there’s a problem. The economic situation means jobs are more difficult to come by, and even though you’ve inquired about potential opportunities with other firms, you’ve gotten virtually no response. Unless your work situation becomes unbearable, it looks like you’ll need to stick with your current employer for a while longer.

Below are some tips for surviving — and even prospering — in a less-than-ideal job situation.

Identify the roadblock. Before concluding that it’s impossible for you to be satisfied in your current position, ask yourself what you find so unpleasant about it. Be honest in your assessment. By recognizing the factors contributing to your frustration, you might be able to rectify, or at least improve, the situation.

For instance, if you must frequently work with someone who is difficult to collaborate with, speak with your manager about partnering with a different member of the team. Working with someone else could make all the difference.

Look for a change inside the firm. You might be able to find a new position with your current employer. With companies doing what they can to stay as lean as possible, there may be opportunities to take on new projects or responsibilities that you would enjoy more. For example, if you’re a help-desk professional who does Web design as a hobby, you might be able to apply your passion to help your firm enhance its online presence. Talk to your boss and volunteer your services. Taking on different tasks can re-energize you, help you develop additional skills and may even lead you toward another opportunity within the company.

Adjust your attitude. The longer you’re in a job you don’t enjoy, the easier it is for a negative attitude to take hold. This can affect your productivity and how you get along with co-workers. Rather than focusing on what you don’t like about the position, concentrate on what you do enjoy. For example, you may have the opportunity to work from home one day a week, or you might appreciate the trust your manager places in you. By giving attention to the enjoyable aspects of your job, you’ll make the situation more tolerable.

Also avoid projecting an “I’d rather be anywhere but here” attitude. Your true feelings are likely to come through when interacting with colleagues, potentially harming your on-the-job success and long-term professional reputation. As much as possible, look on the bright side, help others when needed and concentrate on producing high-quality work.

Build your skill set. If you’re likely to remain in your position for a while, don’t let your skills stagnate. Continue to enhance your abilities. After all, doing so can help you become more qualified for a different job.

First, look internally. Many companies provide employees with training resources — even during a downturn — so make sure you take advantage of these opportunities. Also, consider enrolling in external classes, either through a local educational institution or a Web-based provider. And don’t forget volunteer work. You might be able to build your skill set by assisting a nonprofit with its IT needs.

Stay on the lookout. Continue to network with technology professionals, both in person and online through Web sites such as LinkedIn. In addition, keep your resume current so you can respond immediately to any promising employment opportunities. You also might set up informational interviews at companies you’re targeting. This allows you to find out more about the organization while establishing a point of contact should an opportunity arise.

One final tip: Remember there is a fine but distinct line between being mildly unsatisfied and completely miserable. If you’ve crossed it, move on as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t have another job lined up, a true change may be your best bet. 

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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