15 things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit

I hate my job so much.

It’s a waking nightmare.

Sorry if that sounds melodramatic, but it’s true.

Here’s the problem: There’s absolutely no way I can quit with my current financial situation (although I will get fired if my boss reads this).

1) Find any autonomy

What exactly do you hate about your job?

Everything? I know what you mean.

Let me rephrase. What do you hate most about your job?

In my case, it would be my boss. She’s a total clown who makes my life a living hell.

The criticism is constant, the mood swings are 24/7 and the unfair expectations are through the roof.

It’s abusive and her shrill tone of voice should literally be illegal.

But it’s not.

So one of the things I’ve done that are been helping me survive my job from hell is to get a bit more independence and autonomy.

Several tasks I do are able to be done with a bit more input and decision-making from me rather than my boss. Shifting to this has taken off a tiny bit of the edge from having her breathing down my neck.

As Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown explains in this video, people are often able to figure out what bothers them so much about their job and what they’d like to be doing more.

But they get confused when it comes to autonomy. No matter how bad your job is, you need to try to carve out a small space where you have some control and autonomy at work.

YouTube video

2) Buddy up

Every bad job I’ve had has had one redeeming factor: my coworkers.

In fact, I have to admit there’s a certain pleasure you can’t get anywhere else from standing on a break with your work buddies and bitching out your boss and your job.

It just feels really good. And it takes the edge off a bit, like a nice cold beer at the end of a hot day working in the sun.

The profanity flows and the jokes start to get really snappy.

The only thing that can make you shut up is if your boss or a supervisor walks close to where you’re smoking and drinking coffee.

That feeling of solidarity can’t be beaten.

It can even sometimes branch out into having some pub nights and getting together outside work.

In my case, it’s led to some valuable friendships which I still maintain to this day, with coworkers I never expected to stay in contact with.

But the drudgery of some of our jobs brought us together and got us to communicate in ways that lasted.

Yes, your job might be hot trash, but at least you can buddy up and suffer together…

3) Free your mind

One of the best things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit is to find out the meaning of life and enlightenment.

Once you know this, you can be happy all the time and find the perfect job that will shower you with money.

At least that’s what the feel-good gurus tell you…

But how exactly do you find this meaning you’ve been searching for? Meditation? Positive thinking? Maybe visualization and some shiny crystals?

The thing with spirituality is that it’s just like everything else in life:

It can be manipulated.

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandé. He helped me deconstruct some really harmful spiritual practices and career advice I’d been getting involved in.

So what makes Rudá different from the rest? How do you know he’s not just another one of the manipulators he warns against?

The answer is simple:

He promotes empowerment from within.

Click here to watch the free video and bust the happiness myths you’ve bought for the truth.

Freeing your mind won’t make a new job magically pop up, but it will clean the slate for finding the kind of work that will make you truly happy.

And if that’s not possible and you’re absolutely going to be stuck at your current job for at least a few more years, freeing your mind will at least make you more fulfilled overall.

4) Look after your body

One of the biggest mistakes people make when their job is wearing them down is to forget about their bodies.

If your job is destroying your mind and soul, you can’t just focus on feeling better and trying to be happy.

As Rudá explains, focusing too much on your thoughts and feelings can just leave you even more stuck and disempowered.

One of the best things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit is to optimize your physical health. Eat well, exercise, stretch regularly, practice good hygiene and pay attention to how you look and dress.

This will not only make you feel emotionally better, but it will also make you feel physically better.

It will bring you into your body and out of your head.

Far too many of us make our bad jobs even worse than they need to be by separating ourselves from our bodies and becoming dissociated, detached, and weak.

Don’t make that mistake.

5) Maximize your life outside of work

If your job is garbage, it doesn’t mean your whole life has to be.

As Justin says in his video, we spend so much of our time and energy at work that it’s truly a shame to feel trapped and joyless there.

Nonetheless, if you simply can’t quit (right now) and your job is non-negotiable, then you need to focus on what’s still in your control. And that is your life outside of work.

Granted, you may have extensive family responsibilities and little free time when you’re not clocking time at work.

But whatever free time you do have – even a half-hour – you should work to maximize it.

Go for a jog in that small window of time, do a tutorial online that you love, plant flowers in the garden, and enjoy some sun.

If you have to cook and do other responsibilities, innovate them as you do them, exploring your other duties creatively.

Like News18’s editorial team advises:

“Do not let your work life define you. Take out time to do what you love.

If you love painting, then join a painting class after work, or cook your favorite dish.

Dance, sing, or do whatever makes you happy.”

6) Write it down

The truth is that many of us get mentally and physically destroyed by jobs we hate because we can’t figure out how we even ended up in them in the first place.

So how would you be able to find your way out? Especially when you literally need the money to survive and the job market is so brutal?

But the truth is it can turn everything around if you take this step-by-step.

So how can you overcome this feeling of being “stuck in a rut” and stuck going in circles inside your mind?

Well, you need more than just willpower, that’s for sure.

I learned about this from Life Journal, created by the highly-successful life coach and teacher Jeanette Brown.

You see, willpower only takes us so far…the key to transforming your life into something you’re passionate and enthusiastic about takes perseverance, a shift in mindset, and effective goal setting.

And while this might sound like a mighty task to undertake, thanks to Jeanette’s guidance, it’s been easier to do than I could have ever imagined.

Click here to learn more about Life Journal.

Now, you may wonder what makes Jeanette’s course different from all the other personal development programs out there.

It all comes down to one thing:

Jeanette isn’t interested in being your life coach.

Instead, she wants YOU to take the reins in creating the life you’ve always dreamt of having.

So if you’re ready to stop dreaming and start living your best life, a life created on your terms, one which fulfills and satisfies you, don’t hesitate to check out Life Journal.

Here’s the link once again.

7) Save what you can

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One of the best things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit is to focus on saving money.

If you can’t afford to quit, it means you’re at least making enough at the job to hopefully break even.

If possible you’re even making a little bit extra, or have some ways you could try to save some money from this job.

Those savings can one day be the cushion that allows you to do something new with your life.

If possible, invest these funds into a sensible mutual fund of some kind and avoid risky investments or speculative ventures like cryptocurrency.

Also do your best to stay away from impulse purchases, spending a lot on eating out, and activities like heavy drinking and gambling, which are real money vacuums.

8) Start a side hustle

One of the most important things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit is to start a side hustle.

It could be selling sports equipment online, learning how to fix vehicles, or starting a wedding cake business.

That part is really up to you!

Even if you don’t have much time, starting a side hustle can be a way to get ahead of the rat race.

If you do something online to make money then you can also occasionally check it from work if your job involves using a computer and an internet connection.

Just be careful, as trying to mix two jobs overly much can obviously lead to you being fired from your main job which you can’t afford to lose.

Nonetheless, don’t lose sight of a side hustle and start one if you can.

It will help you build those all-important savings I talked about, and it will also provide you some mental and emotional breathing room when your job has you especially down.

9) Embrace Stoicism

Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that basically teaches patience and strength in the face of adversity.

Instead of expecting or hoping life to be pleasant and rewarding, we must acknowledge that a lot of life is unsatisfying and kind of shitty.

Stoicism has been making a real comeback during the COVID years, which might not surprise many of us.

And one of the smartest things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit is to also embrace a fairly Stoic mindset.

Sure, you want things to improve!

But you also acknowledge what’s beyond your control and learn to let that unchangeable burden make you into a stronger person.

For as long as you have to grin and bear it for the good of the salary you need, you do exactly that.

As MoneyGrower says:

“Tough times present you with an opportunity to grow stronger. Each day you slog it out and don’t crumble, you become more resilient.

And resilience is a super skill that will allow you to keep pushing and working hard through the challenges, which is what’s required to achieve greatness in anything.”

10) Ask for a raise

If you’re already stuck in a job you hate but can’t afford to quit, you might as well get more out of it.

Ask for a raise.

That might sound overly simplistic, but one of the top reasons for not getting a raise…

…Is not asking for a raise.

Now obviously your boss can say no, and chances are that he or she will say no.

But by putting this on their radar, you can show two things:

You show that you value yourself and the work you’re doing.

You show that you are wanting more money and paying attention to the financial aspects of your job.

This will gain your boss’ respect.

Related: 11 signs of a codependent boss (and what to do about it)

11) Put out a “NOT WELCOME” mat

One of the top reasons why work can be awful is when you are being used as a doormat.

When people come by your desk or stop by your area where you’re working, they seem to see a giant WELCOME mat.

Then they step all over you and get you dirty, crumpled up, and messy.

If you have a problem with being a doormat at your job, you need to change WELCOME to NOT WELCOME.

And you need to stick with it.

Don’t smile and nod when you’re asked to do extra work.

Don’t answer that after-hours e-mail that interrupts the movie you’re watching.

Just let it slide.

Stick to your duties and stop going the extra mile for people who don’t really care about you.

It will make your bad job a little bit more tolerable.

12) Don’t underestimate delegation

Another one of the common reasons why a job can become intolerable is that there’s just too much on your plate.

You’re expected to figure out and handle everything.

Whether you’re white-collar, blue-collar, or anything in between, it seems like your organization and coworkers expect you to be a one-man show.

This is where delegation comes in.

By delegating and sharing the workload, you can lighten your own burden and make sure that results are better.

Why should you do everything, anyway?

This relates back to not being a doormat.

Delegate some of your tasks to others and share the responsibilities at work. It will make your crappy job more bearable and maybe even result in some days you get to leave early.

Gina Scott puts it well:

“If you hate your job because of the people you work with, see what you can do about putting some distance between you and the offenders.

Closing your office door or wearing earphones when you’re in a cubicle helps send the message that you’re focused on your work and don’t want to be bothered.”

13) Break it down with your boss

If you’re looking for things to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit, then the last thing you’re probably hoping for is direct confrontation.

But there’s a way to approach your boss that doesn’t have to be toxic and can yield beneficial results.

This is how to do it:

Be respectful, direct, and clear.

Tell your boss what’s bothering you and already have some potential ways to improve it in mind.

Don’t go in randomly complaining or venting, that will just frustrate your manager.

Instead, go in with specific points you want to discuss your job and responsibilities and specific ways you’d like to see it change.

14) Keep on searching for a new job

No matter how bad your job is, there should be at least a minute or two you can sneak in after or before work – or on break – to look for another job.

Flip through your smartphone and flag a few potential jobs.

Look through online jobs and listings that have relevant work in your field.

Review and edit your resume to make it as great as possible. Draft a cover letter that will get some attention from would-be employers.

Text a friend and ask what they know about in terms of work.

If you’re looking to escape the 9 to 5 rat race, then look for work that’s more creative and alternative that you feel could give you the kind of room you need to grow and contribute.

Keep your ears open and pay attention, because sometimes new and promising job opportunities can come along when you least expect them.

Finding a new job is no guarantee that your life will suddenly be great, and the new opportunity might end up being a nightmare as well.

But like all the rest of us, the most you can do in this life is to try your hardest and keep seeking better shores.

If you have the potential for other jobs then you should pursue them. It could be your ticket out of your current employment situation.

15) ‘One day’ will one day come

Even if it’s only a day before you retire, the day that you leave your job is going to come.

When it does, who will you be?

Will you be a husk of the person you once were, drinking the cheap wine of tragedy and embracing a victim narrative?

Or will you be a physically and mentally agile rockstar who’s used your shitty job as spiritual training weights to become even more determined and focused?

I certainly hope it’s option two.

All jobs are temporary, no matter how long it feels like this current suffering festival is going to last.

And when that job wraps up, what will you do?

What’s your purpose and what do you want to do to make money now that you’re free?

Like Independently Happy says:

“I know it feels like you’ll be stuck there forever, but all jobs are temporary. One way or another, you’ll leave that job.

Start working now to make sure that you leave on your terms.

You’ll also want to make sure you have a purpose and a plan for after the job you dislike.”

Suffering in solidarity

For now, though, while you are stuck at the job you can’t quit and work away in misery, enjoy the pain.

Let it shape you into someone who’s tough, but still compassionate.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the best parts of a bad job is how it can bring you closer to your coworkers.

If you’re doing a job you hate and can’t afford to quit, I know how you feel because I’m in exactly the same boat.

Sometimes I want to jump out, but I know I’d drown (in debt).

So here I am, stuck here with my fellow poor souls.

We can’t quit, but I’ve found out a lot more about what makes me tick and my dreams, and if I ever do get a chance to do different work I’m going to shine.

In the meantime, let the bad times roll!

YouTube video

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Picture of Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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