We’ve alllllllll worked terrible, horrible no good, very bad jobs. While it’s fun to talk to trash on those jobs while we’re still working them, oftentimes, once we leave a bad job, we just want to cut all strings, pretend it never happened, wipe it from our memory Men in Black style, etc. But while your job might’ve felt like a waste of time, simply writing it off as “that worthless crappy temp job you had in your twenties” ensures that it’s been a total waste of time.
The good thing about working at a job you hate with a burning passion is exactly that you have passion…even if it wasn’t necessarily the kind of passion you were hoping for. Working at a job you hate can actually be much more rewarding than a job you’re apathetic about—but only if you’re willing to tap back into that working-a-crappy-job mindset and do a complete postmortem. Here are three sets of questions you should be asking yourself after working a lame job, and some actionable steps you can take to ensure that you never work a bad job again:
So it was bad, huh?
What exactly did you hate about the job? It can be hard to pinpoint exactly where a bad job went wrong, but you can start by asking yourself some of these questions: Were you not proud of your work? Were you not finding fulfillment in your work? Was there a physical aspect that drained you? A lack of physical aspect that left you restless? Was it too challenging, not challenging enough, or challenging in the wrong ways? Was the company too buttoned up for your taste? Too loose and unstructured? Looking back, were there ways that you could’ve pivoted into a different position? Or was it the stagnant nature of the job that drove you crazy?
When you’re in the trenches with a terrible job, it can be hard to broaden your perspective beyond, “This sucks.” But once you have some distance from it, look back at that lame job with a critical eye. Was it your co-workers that were making you miserable, or do you just like working independently? Was your work undervalued, or were you just paying the classic entry-level job dues?
But what about when it was good?
When it’s hard to drag yourself to work in the morning, the days that actually do feel good or productive stick out all that much more. So identify a few of these times—even if they were fleeting—and try to see what exactly was giving you joy: Were you problem-solving? Were you being creative? Did you love the company culture?
Now what you can do about it?
- Come up with some key phrases that you think describe you and look for them within job postings. Usually when we’re looking at job descriptions, we skim right over qualifiers like “team player” or “ambitious.” But that very well may be the HR manager’s low-key way of telling you, “you need to be a people person,” or, “this company is cutthroat!” If you identify a few core foundations you need/need to avoid in a job, then you can start looking out for those in the subtexts of job postings. (If you need help coming up with these “foundations,” go get some inspiration from our Roadmap tool. *wink*)
- Don’t just apply to jobs that you want; apply to companies that you want to work for. Choosing a job based on the company culture may sound like ~spoiled millennial speak~ to a lot of people. But if you’re going to spend 40+ hours a week in an environment, don’t you want it to be an environment that you like? The good news it that with all of the tools we have today—like Glassdoor and Careerbliss, which let employees anonymously review their employers—you should never have to suffer at the hands of mismatched company culture again…as long as you do your homework.
- Utilize your interview to address some of the problems you had with your nightmare job. Some people think it’s taboo to talk to down on past jobs or employers, but if you’re honest right from the get-go, you’ll open up a dialogue that will help your potential boss understand exactly what you want out of that position. Of course, the other side of the coin is that this will sometimes reveal to the hiring manager that you’re not a good fit—but in the long run, avoiding yet another terrible job is for the better anyways, right?