How to get out of a job you hate, when you're stuck in that job you hate.

A guest post by Karen Friesen, writer extraordinaire and frequent contributor to the

Ridiculously Awesome Resume Service

I spent a lovely weekend at the beach recently, enjoying fresh air, vigorous walks, and the entertaining spectacle of witnessing car after truck after minivan get stuck in the sand. 

Seriously stuck. Like, wheel-spinning, sand-spewing, not-getting-out-of-this-anytime-soon stuck.

As a bystander, I watched the cycle play out again and again. It went something like this:

  1. Denial. Driver cannot accept that something has gone terribly awry, and responds by slamming down the gas pedal, full throttle. Deep ruts ensue.
  2. Driver and passengers circle vehicle, trying to devise a way out. Lots of head shaking all around.
  3. Frustration escalates. Swearing commences. Driver again executes full throttle tactic while hapless passengers try to push the trapped vehicle out. (I’m pretty sure this is where the term “wheel spinning” originated.)

None of these approaches worked, by the way.

Really, the only things budging those cars that day were (a) the national guard (sadly, nowhere to be found), or (b) a fellow beachgoer with a bigger car taking pity, rustling up some rope and hauling the vehicle and its inhabitants out of their predicament. 

The entire process was not unlike the one experienced by people who feel utterly, intractably stuck in their current jobs.

They start out bouncing merrily along in their work until one day, something changes.

The ground shifts, they begin s-l-o-w-l-y sinking, and they can’t - for the life of themselves - figure how to escape.

Could this be YOU? 

Maybe you’re feeling bored and unchallenged.

Maybe there’s no room for growth at your company.

Maybe your boss is Cruella de Vil.

Whatever the source of dissatisfaction, change is needed. You want to look for something new, but your time is already 1,000 percent accounted for: there’s your family, meals to prepare, a dog to walk, a house to take care of, kids to run around town, laundry to sort.

How on earth are you supposed to fit in a job search, too??  It sounds EXHAUSTING.

But getting unstuck is possible, for real.

With the right strategy and discipline, you can land yourself feet first in the middle of a new opportunity.

And that’s worth working for. 

So where do you begin? Here are a few tips that will help you tackle this thing:

  1. Make the time.  In much the same way you can’t wish yourself fit and healthy, you can’t daydream yourself into a more fulfilling career. Commit to set aside time each day (or week) specifically for your job search, and don’t abandon it for anything short of a 911-level emergency.

    My additional advice? Try to make this time in the morning. You’ll be fresher, more energized and more likely to make things happen than later in the day when you may be more motivated to curl up with a glass of wine or address that pile of unfolded laundry.
     
  2. Be focused and specific. Have clear tasks in mind to fill the valuable time you have carved out. What are you going to do to propel your search forward? Set some measurable goals, such as “I will reach out to three contacts today,” or “I will dig in and research XYZ company that I’m interested in working for.”
     
  3. Don’t chase after everything. Don’t spin your wheels. Focus on one area or type of work for a pre-set length of time. Pour your efforts into that rather than letting your energies become diluted by running after every shiny object you see out of the corner of your eye. 
     
  4. Protect the job you already have. Newsflash: the great part about your current situation? You already have a job! (i.e. $ coming in regularly, right?) So be careful about who knows what you’re up to.

    DON’T pull my brilliant maneuver. Years ago, in my first post-college job, I accidentally left a cover letter to a new potential employer sitting on my computer screen when I left my work area. (Side note: do your job hunting on your own time.) Guess who saw it? Mmm-hmm. I was lucky that ‘extremely awkward’ was as bad as it got when my boss sat down to talk with me about it. 

    Even now, I cringe.

    Lesson learned? You’ll surely need to tap into your network of trusted friends and colleagues, but you MUST be careful about how you put your feelers out there. Proceed with strategy and caution.
     
  5. Get yourself out there. Take advantage of opportunities for additional training, industry events and association meetings. Putting your name and face into other people’s orbits will help keep you top-of-mind when an opportunity presents itself. Identify people you would like to introduce yourself to, and figure out a (professional) way to make it happen. And then? Make it happen.
     
  6. Enjoy your life. Sure, all this focus on changing your job can feel tiring and overwhelming. Don’t forget to also allow time to unwind and spend time with family and friends. You have a real life. Participate in it.

Make time, keep your focus, and stick with your battle plan. Play it right and you'll that amazing job.

And when you do? You can finally brush off the sand and kiss that giant rut goodbye.

What do you do when you're feeling stuck? Have you had success getting out of a job you hated? Tell us about it in the comments below!