Heather Gray

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How to Leave Your Soul Sucking Job for Something You Love

by | Apr 6, 2016 | 1 comment

Job dissatisfaction is one of the most insidious causes for chronic unhappiness. It takes over your life. You’re not just miserable when you’re actually at work. You’re miserable outside of work every time you think about it or anticipate having to go back to it. Feeling trapped in a job that makes you miserable affects your mood, energy level, and motivation. Job dissatisfaction impacts your relationships and steals your optimism.

At some point, you get caught in a pattern of circular thinking. 

You know your job is making you miserable and you know you think about leaving it every single day. Yet, each time you do, you start to think about your salary and how it’s come to support your standard of living that you and your family rely on. You think about the skillset you’ve acquired and wonder who else would need or want what you bring to the table.

You wonder about and doubt your ability to even do anything new.

You shake your head, laughing at your gumption for considering a switch when you’re still paying off the student loans for the job you currently have. You can just imagine how your partner or spouse would react to you coming home, talking about wanting to try something new. Sure, that would go over really well.

Everywhere you look, the same realization comes back to bite you: Simply not liking your job is not a reason to leave it.

Consider the cost of staying.

  • How’s your mood been lately?
  • Have you had energy? Motivation?
  • Do you find yourself easily irritable and quick on the trigger?
  • Have you been pleasant to be around?
  • How are your relationships with your partner, kids, family, and friends?

Chronic unhappiness takes a toll on people. It’s as if you’re moving through the world with grey lenses on. It’s harder to find joy or interest in things. You don’t notice the positive or uplifting things in life but you take note of every time you’ve been cut off in traffic, every time you’ve been screwed, and every injustice and you see those things in high definition.


In relationships with others, you may be accused of being angry all the time. Maybe you’re criticized for being shut down and tuning out. People might lecture you about just leaving work at work but that’s impossible for you and nobody understands that.

You think you’re protecting your professional status, salary, and benefits by staying in a situation that makes you unhappy but the cost of this choice could have a far deeper impact than anything you might imagine making a change would entail. Take an honest assessment of what staying might actually be costing you.

Research your limiting beliefs.

You have a list of reasons why switching jobs at this point of the game is improbable. Have you researched these ideas and confirmed each of them to be true?

  • How do you know your skillset isn’t valuable to anyone else?
  • Are you sure you don’t have transferrable skills?
  • What numbers and stats are you reading that tell you a job change would mean a reduction in your salary?
  • If your best friend were to tell you he/she was miserable in their job, would you consider their salary and skillset just as immoveable?

Before you resign yourself to misery, get out of your head and check the facts. 

What would you do if the tables were suddenly turned and instead of choosing to leave, you were laid off? Would it be immediately true that your next job would include a pay cut? How would this be solved, if the choice were taken away from you? Would you roll over and play dead or would you fight for something better than what you left?

You don’t know what you don’t know. 

When was the last time you did a self-assessment? How well do you really know yourself? If you’re resigning yourself to chronic job dissatisfaction, you might as well check your theory. By finding out more about yourself, you just might discover assets that you’re leaving on the table.

Note from Heather Gray: These are resources I’ve been using with clients that I have seen deliver results. I am not an affiliate or sponsor for any resource listed in this article.

Check out What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. This is a perfect career resource for people considering a job change. It teaches you about the latest trends and topics in the job market but also walks you through self-awareness exercises that might unlock new ideas and possibilities for you.

You might also consider taking a Myers-Briggs assessment. This is a personality assessment that helps you to organize and make sense of your way of thinking and moving through the world. You may have already encountered this before in your career but getting clear on where you are currently at may shift your thinking about what’s possible in the future.

The Myers-Briggs assessments helps you tune into your values, priorities, and ways of moving through the world. Over time and in different career positions, my own assessment and personality type has changed and shifted several times. Even if you’ve done it before, it’s worth doing again to see what might open up for you.

Identify and own your strengths.

You’re probably so used to looking at yourself and career with a singular vision that you can’t get out of your own way. It’s likely that you have talents you’ve been taking for granted as well as hidden attributes you may not be aware of if your current place of employment doesn’t call on you to use them.

Hit the refresh button again on your self-perception and take The Strengths Finder 2.0 Assessment from Gallup and Tom Rath. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself with new eyes and a new perspective. Do yourself a favor and skip the eBook version of this. You’ll want your own hard copy so that you can complete the assessment. At last check, the assessment only reveals your top 5 attributes out of a possible 34. This has frustrated some clients of mine in the past but I still find this to be a valuable and insightful tool.

Often, the only way to change your stuck pattern of thinking is to change your behavior. You don’t have to actually have a plan to leave before you start the process. Make these changes to your behavior and see how your thinking shifts.

Update your CV or résumé: Take a look at these with fresh eyes. Consider what you have learned through the self-assessment process and update your CV to reflect your strengths and highlight your value.

Update your LinkedIn profile: If you haven’t been to LinkedIn in a while, time to go back and update it. Admittedly, I am not a LinkedIn expert and I need to follow my own advice here but these resources will provide you with some direction:

Check job listings without a censor: I hear from disgruntled career professionals often that they’ve looked to see what’s out there and come back with nothing every time.

This is just nonsense.

So often, people look at listings with pre-conceived ideas of what they can and cannot do. They see that a job listing has a certain requirement that they can’t fulfill and they move on, rather than determining how the skills they do possess might be transferrable. People browse profiles pre-determining salary, how they’ll be judged, and a whole host of other things without taking the time to see if they are assuming correctly.

Stop censoring postings before you have chased the tail to see if your assumptions are accurate. Instead of stopping at the obstacles, problem solve them.

New rule: Nothing gets ruled out until you check it out.

Apply for a job: Yes, I am totally serious here. It doesn’t have to be your dream job, a job you want, or even a job you care all that much about but if you want to change your thinking, you have to get your head in the game and change what you’re doing.

You’ve created all of these stories for why you can’t apply for a job, why there’s nothing out there for you, and why you’re trapped. You have to get out of your head and the best way to do that is to apply for a few jobs.

  • If you’re interviewing for jobs you don’t really want, your anxiety won’t get in the way.
  • It may have been a while since you’ve been in the job market and technology has changed the game. If you get used to applying for jobs in this new era now, you’ll have less anxiety and trepidation when applying for the job that really matters to you.
  • You can hone your interviewing skills.
  • You can practice salary negotiations
  • You can see what’s out there and get an idea of new possibilities you may not have considered.
  • You’re risking nothing but may gain the necessary information or insight you need to make a switch.

Get really clear and honest with yourself.

You’re not trapped.

Change is hard. If it weren’t, everyone would be doing it. A job change will require compromises and adjustments but those aren’t reasons not to make a change. Staying is hard. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this blog. You’d just be coasting merrily along.

However, staying still is costing you your emotional wellness. You’re likely seeing the cost play out in your personal relationships. Staying isn’t working out for you all that well, either.

You have to make a choice 

If you’re staying, you’re making a choice to stay. You’re not trapped.

Not leaving is making a choice and the only way you get any sense of control over your situation, is if you get crystal clear with yourself that you’ve weighed options, seen what’s out there, and have chosen to stay. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to give yourself a reset…once you don’t feel trapped and can own your choices, you see your situation differently. You’re back in charge.

Or you choose to shift, to pivot, and to make a change.

Recognize that you’re scared. Acknowledge that there are no guarantees but sitting in the safety and guarantee of this job hasn’t worked and make a commitment to move. Staying in a soul sucking job is no longer an option. Choose to leave.

Stop settling for success. Choose to be successful and happy.