What To Do When Your Dream Job Becomes a Nightmare

Farai Chideya has combined media, technology, and socio-political analysis during her twenty-year career as an award-winning author, journalist, professor, and lecturer. She is a senior writer at the data journalism organization FiveThirtyEight, and has taught at New York University and Harvard. She frequently appears on public radio and cable television, speaking about race, politics, and culture. She was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated magna cum laude with a BA from Harvard University in 1990. Find out more at farai.com.

frustrated at work, toxic workplace, When Your Dream Job Becomes a Nightmare, Farai Chideya, The Episodic CareerUnhealthy workplaces exist: In extreme situations, colleagues may undermine you, bosses can ignore major human resource problems, and false accusations start to fly. Gracefully exiting tough situations is an art, and you need assistance learning the ropes. Build an action plan from information in The Episodic Career.

So what do you do if you are in a position where people underestimate you or, worse, undermine you on the job? Expert Matt Youngquist of Career Horizons advises, with some caveats, to stick things out while you think things out. “You likely shouldn’t quit a job until you have the next one lined up—unless you’re truly in an abusive situation that’s leading to depression, hostility, or a severe loss of confidence,” he says. “Additionally, of course, if a person is being asked to engage in some highly unethical behavior, that might be a time to immediately cut the cord as well.”

“But in general,” Youngquist continues, “I’d encourage a person to ‘hold out’ as long as possible and just start searching aggressively for something new, on the side, if their current assignment isn’t working out—or the company they’re with seems to be facing potential challenges.”

Below is a list of reasons Youngquist offers for holding out in a less-than-optimal job:

• Many employers today practice “unemployment discrimination” and greatly favor candidates who are currently working elsewhere over those who are “on the street” and unemployed.

• While people might not realize it, their self-confidence is usually a lot higher when they’re working somewhere and applying their skills on a daily basis, as opposed to being in the ambiguous limbo that unemployment can represent.

• Things can change fast in organizations these days, so somebody might, for example, be dealing with a bad boss—only to have that boss leave or get replaced in the near future, making things better.

• Last, and most importantly, unless you are independently wealthy and don’t have bills to pay, giving up a steady paycheck isn’t something to do unless you have almost no alternative.

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