How to Take a Bad Job And Make it Better


A recent study by Peter Butterworth, associate professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, suggests that finding an overly-demanding “poor quality” job can be at least as harmful for a person's mental health as being unemployed.

The results, which studied 7,155 people of working age in seven waves, found that people who were unemployed had poorer mental health scores overall compared to those who had jobs, but it also found that having a job didn't automatically result in happiness.

Being stuck in a bad job can wreak havoc on your psychological health. However, the resulting misery can be dramatically reduced if you think of your awful job as an unfortunate, yet necessary, part of a long-term strategy to improve your employment situation.

In other words, while you’re suffering, keep looking. And until the right opportunity opens up, here’s the upside of having a job, even if it’s a lousy job:

Employment Benefits: Medical insurance, with its high co-pays and deductibles, can really be ridiculous if you’re unemployed and paying 100% of the cost out of pocket. Having your employer cover the bulk of this hefty expense can be invaluable, especially if you have a family.

Income: No job, no income. Bad job, income. The chronic, sprawling stress of not having a paycheck (savings depletion, family tension, potential insolvency, scrambling to pay bills, insomnia, overwhelming anxiety) is much less desirable than the challenging, yet narrowly-focused unpleasantness of a bad job (surviving a difficult job, seeking a better job). Your situation at work may be tough to deal with, but the absence of consistent household revenue with no foreseeable turnaround or resolution is far more horrific.

Increased Desirability/Value: You know how you’re always more appealing to a potential mate when you’re already in a relationship? The same holds true for a potential employer: If you have a job, you’re a more attractive prospect to an employer.

By having a job your positive economic value is more evident to a prospective employers.

The key to surviving a bad job is to look at it as something that you currently need to do until you can eventually make something better happen. By shifting your bad job’s timeframe from “forever” to “for now" you’ll relieve some of your mental anguish, gain a sense of control over the temporarily unpleasant situation, and give you a goal: to land a new job that you love.

Rafe Gomez is business strategy and marketing communications consultant, and the author of the audiobook WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? A POWERFUL NEW INTERVIEW STRATEGY TO GET YOU HIRED IN TODAY’S CHALLENGING ECONOMY, available on Follow him on Twitter @rehirementcoach