A good friend of mine finally quit the job she had suffered through for over a year. Quitting was an easy and impossible decision to make. Early last year she and her husband sold their east coast home and moved 2500 miles for a new job with a healthy income and the promise of professional growth. She threw herself into work, enduring 15-hour days, working weekends, leaving little time to spend with her family.
After 14 months she was strung out and stressed out due to an unsupportive and undermining boss. Turns out, this extraordinarily talented professional wasn’t the first to quit; others in her department had quit too for the same reasons. Her work colleagues were sad she was leaving, but said they understood why. The boss was just that bad.
My friend’s situation illustrates a reality captured in an April 2015 Gallup report stating that 50% of U.S. workers surveyed had quit their job because they were unhappy with their boss, and that only 31.5% felt engaged in their jobs. That means 68.5% of the workforce is not involved in, enthusiastic about or committed to their work. As stated in the report, “Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and negatively affecting their overall well-being.”
In a perfect world you never leave a job until you’ve landed another one. Well, my friend’s world, as it is for most, is imperfect. In an act of self-preservation she quit before she had another job lined up, although she wanted and needed to be employed. Her immediate relief and exhilaration from quitting was soon replaced with worry and doubt about the future of her career.
Taking stock of yourself, and what you really want, will help set the stage for your next moves. If you happen to be in my friend’s shoes, or are one of the 68.5%, here’s how to transition from an awful job to a job that brings out the best in you.
1. Take Time to Reclaim Your Self
Being unhappy at your job and having your foot pedal-to-the-metal 24/7 takes its toll. You have sleepless nights. Your alcohol consumption is on the uptick. You eat more. You don’t eat enough. There’s little time for physical activity. Now that you have the time, be intentional about pressing the reset button on your intake, exercise and sleep. Your body will thank you.
2. Talk About It
For all the months you were too busy to connect with friends and loved ones because of your nightmare job, well now you can. Pick up the phone, have a Skype session, meet for coffee, take a walk together. Tell them your story about what happened, why you quit, how you feel, and above all, what you’ve learned. There is immense comfort in having empathic listeners who’ll encourage you, share their networks with you, and help you land a job where you won’t just be coping, you’ll be thriving.
3. Be Patient
For many there’s a knee-jerk reaction to jump at the first job that comes along, especially since the bills still keep coming. A sense of urgency may push you into a new job situation that’s not unlike the one you just quit. When going through the search process ask yourself: If this company were a person, would I want to be in a relationship with them? If the answer is no, think twice about applying. Do your research on what the company culture is really like. You may be perfectly suited for the job on paper yet a company’s culture will likely impact your happiness in a new role. If you interviewed and didn’t get the job, understand it wasn’t the right opportunity for you.
4. Ask For Feedback
After detoxing from a bad work experience, make time to learn from it by asking for feedback. This will help lay the groundwork for your return to the workplace. Consider using a 360° multi-rater report to receive feedback from former bosses, peers, direct reports, clients, and others in your work universe to capture how you’re perceived. A 360° report provides insights you may have overlooked. It will also help you project genuine confidence and purpose when seeking your next opportunity. Knowing what’s working for you, and what you have to work on is a prerequisite for getting back on that bike and steering it towards a path that brings you energy, not despair.
You’ve experienced professional successes in the past and you will again. Only this time you’ll be re-entering the workplace with a greater sense of purpose and clarity. You’ll better know yourself, what you want, and what kinds of people and places are likely to bring out the best in you. Like Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be, that isthe question.” He was right. What do you want to be, what does your dream job really look like?