Moving Out of a Bad Job
In previous posts, I have been talking about challenging a bad job’s ability to sap your confidence by taking a look at the assumptions you’ve made about why you stay. In this post, I want to talk about how to start the search for a better job. The job search tactics which usually apply, apply in this case also. Dawn Rosenberg Kay has an excellent article on how to look for a job while still employed.
However, I think there are special factors in a bad situation you need to pay attention to.
Job hunting when in a bad job
I’m sure I won’t cover all of them, but here are some things you need to be particularly aware of when trying to leave a bad job.
Lack of confidence. As I’ve mentioned, the worst thing a bad job does to you is attack your self-confidence. This may come out in various ways. You may undervalue what you can do and apply for jobs for which you are overqualified. Conversely, because you have lost a reliable way to assess your skills, you may overestimate your skills.
What to do: Ask trusted friends or family to help you assess yourself. DO NOT ask colleagues. In a toxic environment, you don’t want it widely known you’re looking to get out. If the boss hears of it, he will make your life miserable.
Uninspiring work accomplishments. When in a de-motivating atmosphere, it is impossible to do your best work and so you may not be particularly proud of what you have been able to accomplish in this job.
What to do: Obviously, you put as positive a spin as you can on what you have accomplished. DON’T use the bad working conditions as an excuse for your lack of accomplishment. If possible, use other jobs or volunteer work to highlight the qualities the recruiter is looking for.
Unenthusiastic attitude. Similarly, it is unreasonable to expect you would have an enthusiastic attitude when in a problematic job. However, this is what employers are looking for. So this is a case of faking it until you feel it.
What to do: When describing your present work, do it with enthusiasm. It’s often true that the work itself is interesting and worthy of enthusiasm even if the situation in which it is completed is not. Be enthusiastic about the work, ignoring the work place.
Bad-mouthing present employer. Of course, you should never do this, but when coming from a bad milieu, there is the understandable temptation to get someone to listen to you and understand the obstacles you have overcome. DON’T do it.
What to do: If asked anything about your present job (e.g. why do you want to leave, what do you enjoy about your present job), give a generic reply with as little lying as possible. You might say, “I found the work challenging and interesting,” or “I feel that I would benefit from exposure to a wider range of products, such as your company provides.” NOT “I did really well given what a terrible place it was to work.”
As we all know, looking for a new job is no fun. There are, however, special challenges when your base is a bad job. But if you know them, you can mitigate them.
And remember what you’re getting away from. That should be motivation enough.