Career Talk

/ 4 years ago /

 Article by Jem Collins

What to do when your dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Getting a job feels like the ultimate end goal from the minute you start school. Do you want to be a doctor? A firefighter? Perhaps you’d rather be a writer or an engineer? Either way, it’s best to make your mind up now and make a plan for how to get there.

Pick your GCSEs and A-Levels right and you’ll undoubtedly get on the right uni course for the job. Snag some relevant work experience and then you’re really all set. The job’s yours before you know it and all your dreams have come true.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a plan and playing the long game, but when you get to the promised land and it isn’t at all how you hoped it can be pretty devastating. But there is a way out, even if it isn’t exactly what you planned.


Acknowledge the problem – but don’t blame yourself

Hermione waking up | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

As soon as I started my first graduate job I knew it wasn’t right for me. On paper it was perfect, but even on my first day I was missing the buzz everyone else seemed to have.

As I slowly but surely became more miserable I began to wonder what was wrong with me. Video journalism, like many other industries, is intensely competitive. I knew hundreds of other young people would figuratively kill to be in my shoes.

I’d been writing newsletters since I was in primary school and spent three years slogging towards a journalism degree. Yet now I was here I’d never been so unhappy.

It’s not an easy thing to do, but the first step to improvement is to stop blaming yourself. Life is complicated, and no matter how well researched or prepared you are, sometimes things just don’t work out.

Try to focus instead on how to get through the problems you’re facing. Things may not have turned out as planned, but one job is never the end of your story.


Commit to taking action

Hunt for the Wilderpeople fist clench | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Acknowledging the problem is the first step to moving forward, but it won’t solve things alone.

I putting off dealing with the situation as long as I could – after all, we’re always told that perhaps you just haven’t given it a proper try.

Every day I’d wind up in tears at home, crying on the phone to friends who urged me to do something. However, it wasn’t until I had a full blown panic attack at my parent’s house I forced to make a change. I handed in my notice the very next day.

This isn’t to say you should do the same once you realise you’re seriously unhappy. It means you should have a serious and honest conversation about what’s making you unhappy and what you can do to solve it.


Try to work out what the problem is

Man at computer feeling frustrated | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

It’s easy to forget how many reasons there are for hating a job, especially when you’re having to live it five days a week. But working out why it’s a nightmare is essential to moving forward.

Set some time aside, perhaps with a close friend or family member, to talk it through, and try to be as honest as you can.

Is it the tasks themselves or the workload? Do you have problems with the management or feel underappreciated? Or do you feel there are no options for progression?

In my case the job itself was good – and my colleagues were great – but staying in the same area I went to university stifled me.

I also had to realise that not all jobs in an industry are the same. Thinking about how much I hated my job left me despairing – I didn’t feel I had any other callings, and if I wasn’t doing journalism what would I do? But not having a passion for local news is not the same as not having a passion for any form of journalism. Sure, you may want to change profession, but you don’t have too.


Figure out what you want to do next

Mulan deciding to run away | dream job turns out to be a nightmare

Once you’ve pinpointed the things which make you feel awful, you can work out if they can be addressed.

If you feel there’s a problem with the way you’re being handled or the opportunities available, speak up. Your boss should help you work out a plan to improve your experiences and set a realistic timeframe to see things improve. If they don’t, it’s time to leave.

On the other hand, if your problems are irresolvable it’s time to look elsewhere. Use what you do and don’t like about your job to help you guide your search for a new one, and remember your current gig has not been a waste of time. All experiences, even negative ones, help build your skillset and knowledge.

Don’t be afraid to just hand your notice in either – sometimes you may need a bit of space to work out exactly what comes next. Your next job might not be in the same field. You may want to consider something totally different like starting your own business, freelancing or taking some time out at home. But, whatever you choose to do, that’s totally OK.


Jem Collins is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on education, politics and careers. You can find her tweeting way too much @Jem_Collins.

Images via Pexels, Giphy

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