Unhappy at Work? How to Change Jobs in an Unstable Economy


It’s no secret: the economy hasn’t been exactly what you’d call “great” for the past few years. For a lot of people, that might mean staying at a job that they don’t really like—which can have a profound impact on our happiness, future plans, and even our health.

Since getting a new job isn’t as easy as it used to be, pretty much regardless of what industry you work in, you might lose hope pretty quickly. But, if you’re a regular Fresh Goals reader, you know that only one thing can change your life for the better: action. I’d like to discuss a few different real-world actions you can take to change your job, even in a rough economy.

First, it’s important to determine if you really even need to change jobs. Sometimes the problems we’re having at work can be resolved within the context of the work environment itself. Changing jobs isn’t a game, so before you decide to go down that path, make sure that your current occupation is a lost cause.

How much you can change your work environment varies a bit on your industry—if you’re a waitress and you hate serving food to people, there isn’t much you can do. But if you’re a software engineer, you might have the flexibility to request a new project or a different team of people to work with.

The point is: do everything in your power to resolve any issues causing you stress in your current job before deciding to look for a new one.

Which brings me to the next point—and this is something I’ve seen people do a million times and I don’t understand it even in a good economy—don’t quit your current job until you’re officially hired somewhere else. I don’t care if you’re in an industry that requires a hair net or if you’re a high powered criminal attorney. Do not quit your current job until you have a new one. Working at a job you don’t like is tough; being unemployed will almost certainly be worse.

Once you begin seeking out new employment opportunities, you’ll have a much firmer grasp on the current job market for your industry. It might have changed significantly since the last time you looked (which very well might have been years ago). Should you hang onto the job you have like a lifeboat in a storm, or are there plenty of people hiring for the kind of work you do? More likely than not, your findings will land somewhere in the middle.

Interestingly enough, even the mere action of seeking out new employment opportunities might make you grow a little fonder of your current job. A lot of the time unhappiness isn’t really unhappiness at all—it’s a feeling of helplessness, or a feeling of being trapped. You might dust off your resume, realize that you really do have options, and feel a wave of calm that could allow you to resolve the problems at your current workplace.

However, if you’re absolutely dead set on changing jobs, look for opportunities that aren’t likely to have the same problems you’re currently experiencing. Will you have more autonomy? Will your work be appreciated more by this new job? Do you like the people, or do they seem to have the same bad attitude as the folks you currently work with? These are all questions to consider.

Changing jobs in a bad economy isn’t impossible, but you should approach it with caution.