How to Survive Having a Bad Job

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Sometimes you take a job with the best of intentions. Everything, a least on the surface, looks right. But once you start work, you quickly realize you've taken a bad job.

That may seem like a disaster, but there are things to be learned from most terrible situations. What you can learn and how you learn it depend upon why your job is bad. No matter the situation, though, it's possible to come out of a bad situation well.

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So, you have taken a bad job

I've had a lot of jobs over the years before settling into my current delightful life as a contract writer for The Motley Fool. Only a few of those situations have been legitimately bad. In one case, I worked for an excellent boss at a company in a financial position that was so bad, it lacked the tools needed for me to do the work I was hired for. In another case, I worked for a failing start-up where the boss was in over his head.

In both jobs, it did not take long to figure out that each company was likely doomed (both are now defunct). That put me in a position where even if I wanted to stay, I knew my time was limited.

How to approach a bad job

The temptation in a rough situation is to throw in the towel and simply do the least possible. If failure is inevitable or your efforts won't be appreciated, why bother to put in the effort?

That's exactly the wrong approach. If you're on a sinking ship or work for a terrible boss, it's important to do the best you can for the company and yourself.

Focus on both producing the best result possible and ideally making industry connections. Think about sitting at your next job interview and explaining your role in a company that failed.

Would it be better to explain how you produced a level of success in a bad environment or to tell the recruiter you phoned it in because the company was doomed? The answer is obvious, so doing the best you can and working to be noticed in the industry represents that best long-term approach.

What else can you do?

Think of every person around you as a potential resource. You never know where people will land and how they might help you. You should also remain a bit above the fray. People at failing companies or those who work for bad bosses tend to fall into a negative discussion cycle.

Don't be one of those people. There's nothing to gain from it, and it could alter how people perceive you going forward.

It's also acceptable to look for a better situation. And in your cover letter, you can address why you are looking again so quickly after taking a new job. Don't reveal company secrets, but it's acceptable to say something along the lines of "I'm re-entering the job market due to instability and looming layoffs at my current employer."

Put on a happy face?

One bad job does not equal a life sentence. Keep a positive attitude and focus on the good. Maybe you can learn a new skill or get a chance to perform a task you otherwise may not have been able to. Maybe there's good coffee in the break room.

Whatever it is, be positive and do the best work you can do while trying to land on your feet elsewhere. Eventually, something good will happen, and you will be able to find a better work situation.

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