will asking for a raise after 3 months make my awful job more tolerable?

A reader writes:

This will end up making you laugh at me for being a fool, but here goes: Can I ask for a raise three months after I started a job?

I took this job, knowing it a) was for a company I did not respect much and b) involved long hours and c) involved work I cannot stand (staring at a computer screen for 10 hours/day). I took it because I had the skills for it and it paid much more than my previous job, which I took in a low-self-esteem moment and basically made me have to seek additional part-time work, it paid so low. One job versus two and three seemed an improvement.

So I am now in the new job and have found out I am at the lowest end of pay in my dept (although my skills are mid-range, I would say), and I do not like how much of my life is lost to the extra hours. It is obvious this job is a bad fit, but I wonder if, say, a few extra thousand a year might not make it tolerable [I think it won’t, but hey, I’ve never actually made enough to live on (student loans)] and maybe I’d be a whole new person, and able to tolerate my misgivings/boredom/eyestrain/headaches/no personal time.

I guess that’s the bottom line: I don’t think I’m getting paid enough to suck it up, and I want to be, at least until I can find a healthier job.

There’s also the bad-faith question, but I really have no tender feelings for this company and watch them waste money in a variety of ways every day and think I ought to get in on that, if I’m stuck here. (Not that I waste anyone’s money, I am a super-hard-worker-conscientious, etc., but it is a waste if I have no plans to stay.) I do happen to know that, as I am being trained to replace a senior member who is leaving in a month, they would be in a terrible position if I walked. Which if I can find anything that pays equal to what I’m making now and has better hours/better culture/better job description, I will.

So, does anybody do this? Does it even work or just cause ill will?

I hate to say it but, the company I work for is so known for disorganization and sloppy practices that it wouldn’t really be burning a bridge, to act in bad faith with them. I took the job strictly for money though, so maybe I should learn from that lesson and not try to make things right with another wrong?

I realize after writing this that I really just want to quit, but of course who does that without a job lined up? Not me, not yet anyway.

Yes, I think you do just want to quit. And yes, you should get another job before doing that, of course.

I’m skeptical that an extra few thousand a year will make this more tolerable: You’re talking about work that you hate, a company you hate, and hours you hate. I doubt very much that that’s worth an extra $187/month to you. (Because that’s roughly what a $3,000 raise will come out to after taxes.)

But perhaps more to the point, no, you can’t really ask for a raise after three months, not unless there are very exceptional circumstances (like the job dramatically changing). The most likely outcome of that is that you’d looking naive, and with an annoyed manager and no raise.

I will apologize in advance for turning your plight into a lesson for others, but this … well, this is why you it’s not a good idea to take a job you know you won’t like, just in order to get out of a bad situation. You end up miserable all over again. Or at least, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to go into it really clear-eyed about what you’re doing and why, and what it will mean for your quality of life, and how long you’re willing to do it for, and what your exit strategy will be.

Speaking of exit strategies, that’s what I’d recommend you focus on now. Start thinking about what your next move should be after this one, and what you can do now to position yourself as strongly as possible for that when the time comes. Fixate on that, not the situation you’re in currently. Good luck.

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager*

    I am being trained to replace a senior member who is leaving in a month

    The only way its not a terrible idea to ask for a raise after 4 months is if this training actually results in you having signifigantly more responsibility than the job you applied for … but it doesn’t quite seem that that’s the end result of this training.

    I also agree with Alison in that it sounds like you’d need a big raise for this job not to suck so it’s probably not worth asking at this point because that $3000 a year won’t improve your quality of life. Although you can try to reminding yourself that despite the long hours, this one job is probably better than three you needed before to makes end meet.

  2. MrsKDD*

    Bless your little heart; just reading your post made me feel slightly depressed so I can only imagine how miserable you feel. Time for a job search!

  3. Joey*


    Let me clue you in on a few things:

    1. Companies will be just fine if you quit. No one is that important except for say the owner.

    2. Its super easy to look like a star in a crappy company. It might be frustrating as hell, but all of that waste and disorganization is an opportunity.

    3. Working for crappy companies isn’t a complete waste. Besides the few extra bucks in your pocket you now have a better idea of your priorities. Stay there for a little while, kick ass, and learn what not to do.

    1. AB*

      Especially “learn what not to do”!

      OP, ideally you will stay a few years in your next job not to look (on paper) like a person who gives up at the first obstacle in every job.

      I like how AAM framed it: focus on your exit strategy, plan well, and wait to make the right move so you don’t end up in another bad job only because the grass looked greener on the other side. Good luck.

  4. The Other Dawn*

    I’ll have to keep this post in mind in the event I become unemployed and am getting desperate. I don’t want to end up in this situation! I really like the OP’s honesty here.

  5. Anonymous*

    How come the employer can ask the employee to take on additional responsibilities after only 4 months (replacing the senior member), but the employee can’t ask the employer for additional compensation?

    1. Kou*

      I’m assuming LW was hired on with the expectation that they were being brought in to replace someone, not that it was sprung on her suddenly after hiring.

    2. Marigold*

      Also, the employee can ask for a raise. Just like she can say no to extra responsibilities.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Asking for a raise after 3 months will make you look really bad, generally, barring some really unusual circumstances. So while certainly she can, it’s not in her best interests. Also, it’s not always possible to refuse additional work.

    3. Grace*

      “Other duties as required” covers all kinds of sins ;)

      If it’s not an increase in the level of work but in volume of work, it doesn’t really ask for raise. If it were a promotion to a higher level of work with no raise, it would be questionable.

  6. MR*

    Based on personal experience, doubling your salary won’t end your misery. It may make it go away or diminish for a short period of time, but trust me, it will be back regardless of how much your salary increases.

    Chase happiness and the money will take care of itself – not the other way around.

    1. Joey*

      Chase happiness and the money will take care of itself

      This sounds like what the crap they tell you in school.

      1. Meg*

        Yeah, I’m inclined to agree. Money doesn’t just “take care of itself”, although I dearly wish it would. I find it similar to the idea that everyone should just “do what they love”. Not everyone has a passion for something they can turn into a career.

        I do agree with MR on the first point though – doubling your salary will not end your misery. I think the OP would be better off finding another job.

        1. mel*

          Indeed… I’m an artist but I still need that dayjob if I want any money at all! Maybe a better suggestion is to decide how much money we’re willing to forfeit in the name of happiness?

      2. Kara*

        Yeah, I really wish we’d let go of “do what you love and the money will follow.” It’s just not (always) true. If what you love is painting watercolors, you better have another skill because that won’t pay the bills – and if it does, it’ll probably take years. And that expression can also lead people to feel like failures if they follow their hearts and end up poor, rather than looking honestly at the world and marketplace and recognizing that some stuff just isn’t going to make you any money.

      3. Nichole*

        I think “do what you love” has a bad rap. As standalone advice it’s no good, but as a starting point, I’ve found it very useful. Yes, I’m not going to make a living watching horror movies and painting little designs on my nails. I have no interest in the life of a nail tech or film critic. But my attention to detail and avoidance of deserted country roads has served me well. If you take “do what you love” literally, you’re probably going to get your feelings hurt. What I suggest to my students when they ask for advice on finding a path is to look for common bonds in the things they love. What did they love about the best job they’ve ever had? What do you do for fun? What class could you pass without even trying? In my past three jobs I did very different things, but they all had an element of guidance, mostly reliable hours, and copious documentation (I know, I’m a freak). Now I look for that when I seek out new oopportunities. I also hated any repetitive tasks, so I know anything that’s mostly rote might not be for me. Of course, YMMV.

    2. MathGeek*

      MR – I agree with you. I have spent over 10 years doing what I did not want to be doing, while knowing what I *did* want to be doing instead (required more degrees to change). In that time I have approximately doubled my salary just through natural progression, and no, I’m not any happier.

      I think there’s a threshold to the do-what-you-love thing. You have to be able to cover basic living expenses, but earning $70K doing what you love is, in my opinion only, probable better than earning $120K doing what you hate. I don’t believe you’ll ever crack the upper eschelons of a profession you hate, so over time $120k may only grow by small percentages. Depending on what you are doing in that thing you love, $70k has a lot of upward potential. I could never be senior management at my current job because the effort just is not there, but I think I’d have had a better shot in the fields I cared about.

      1. MathGeek*

        (However, I will say that my response is really focused on long-term. In the short-term, more money absolutely can help your happiness. If you can get a bump to accomplish a goal like paying off a loan, you will be able to do something less dreaded career-wise sooner, after your expenses are decreased.)

      2. LMW*

        The problem is, many, if not most, “do what you love” type jobs pay under $70k. Like half that (thinking of people I know in arts and humanities positions. Or many non profit jobs). And I can tell you from recent personal experience that going from a $32K LOVE job to a $78K really like job completely changed my quality of life for the better. I wish I’d gone for the money sooner — it would have saved me years of constant stress and missing out on other life experiences (travel, for example).
        I think it’s not a money or happiness equation. It’s a balance — you have to figure out where the balance is for you. No matter how much money you make, a job you hate won’t be worth it, and no matter how much you love your job, if you spend years in a constant struggle to get by, your overall life quality will suffer.

        1. MathGeek*

          Yeah, I think that’s where I differ in thinking from the Average Joe. I don’t love what most people love. : )

          I tend to think that the important part of the loving your work equation is loving what you literally do every day at the most basic level, and I think in many cases you can apply that skill to a number of areas of work, some more or less financially lucrative.

          The guy who loves working on old cars might really love trouble shooting and could get a tech services job for GE (with the right training) or something that pays well. The social services type at his core might really love connecting people, and you could take the needy people out of the equation and be an executive recruiter or something.

          Those are just off-the-top-of-my-head examples, and I know social worker to executive recruiter might be a little odd, but hopefully my point comes across. You have to dig down to the core of what you love and find alternate ways you can use that to earn a good income.

          1. LMW*

            I definitely think you are right — that’s how I managed to make a career change that I could be happy with — but I also think that this is something a lot of people struggle to think around. Or they don’t want to feel like they’ve “sold out” or something.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Actually, you’re about right… $75K is the threshold where studies find that increases beyond that stop having significant increases in happiness.

        Yeah yeah self reporting, and yeah yeah social science is fuzzy. But the evidence certainly corroborates that you’ll be happier at $75K with a job you love than $120K with a job you hate!

        1. Jamie*

          That number really depends on a lot of factors. You can still be really struggling at $75 in a lot of areas, depending on your circumstances.

          The rule of thumb that makes the most sense to me is that once the basics are covered and you’re making a comfortable living future increases are less life changing so they don’ t have the same kind of visceral impact on happiness.

          I.e. jumping from 35K to 50K is huge. It certainly won’t make you rich, but it will feel like it for a short period of time for a lot of people. It’s lifestyle changing money to a degree.

          Going from 100K 50 135K won’t have the same impact…but that doesn’t mean employers should forget about raises for people in this bracket. Just because you may not necessarily need that raise to eat doesn’t mean it’s not deserved or required to keep top performers rewarded and happy where they are. It’s harder to use money to keep people happy where they are, after a certain point, but if the money stops people will be sniffing around to find out where else it can be found.

          Maslov’s Hierarchy.

    3. The IT Manager*

      doubling your salary won’t end your misery.

      Very true. In this case one source of the LW’s discontent is that it involved long hours of work she can’t stand. Even double the salary probably won’t make her that much happier because she still has less time than she wants to enjoy it.

      Can someone find the study that basically says middle class people are happiest? (I can’t recall the exact annual salary.) If you are paid enough to be able to afford nice enough food and accommodations and a little discretionary spending money a higher salary won’t actually make you feel any happier.

      1. Chinook*

        Considering I recently turned down a job offer that would have doubled my pay but meant living 10 days in camp and then have 4 days at home, I really had to think about it (especially since I was unemployed at the time). I realized that I had, for the first time in a long time, actually created a life outside of work and didn’t want to give that up just to pay bills (even though I could have paid off a lot of my house in that time).

        After much thought, I realized that, for me, happiness is a clean home, food in the fridge, a comfortable place to sit to watch tv and a room of my own to sleep in. Everything else is just icing. I have been much happier since then because I saw the giant carrot dangle in front of me (did I mention it was a stupid amount of money to do paperwork?) and realized that it wouldn’t buuy me happiness if it meant living in and oilfield camp and sharing meals with the same guys who refuse to fill out their paperwork.

    4. FD*

      I think that saying “Chase happiness and the money will take care of itself” is a little bit of an oversimplification.

      Something my father taught me that I think is a good model is that everyone needs to find their vocation. He meant it in the religious context, but it’s true in general too. For some people, fulfillment is found in taking a decent paying, even if overall not terribly satisfying job, so they can go home and spend time with their family, or so they can go home and volunteer at an organization that they truly believe in. Or so they can pursue hobbies they love but aren’t quite good enough to make a living doing. For some people, their career is their vocation, and they find fulfillment in the work that they do, and in developing their career–even if they also do other things outside of work.

      If the thing that fulfills you the most is work, than it’s really important that you find the career you can devote yourself to–finding something you love instead of just like. On the other hand, if you find your fulfillment in other areas, it’s much less important. That said, even if you decide your career is also your vocation, it’s often not something you can simply sit back and allow to happen.

      Let’s say your great love is making art, and that’s what you want to do as your work. Especially in a field that’s more competitive, there’s a lot of work to be poured into it. For example, are you willing to work long hours at a dead-end job to fund your art while you try to get your break? Are you willing to pinch pennies to buy supplies? Are you comfortable marketing yourself and networking to try and get someone to take a chance at you? Etc. Which means that for many people, the sheer work that’s involved in trying to break into doing what you love as a career is just more than it’s worth.

      I do believe that if you’re utterly devoted do doing what you love as a career, you *can* make it happen–but to say it so casually as if it happens by itself is frankly a bit demeaning to those who have poured blood, sweat, and tears into making that happen in a difficult field.

      Now, if you happen to be lucky enough to love doing something very marketable–say, a particularly in-demand kind of engineering or so on–then it may be that easy. But for most people, it takes a huge amount of work. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort to try! But it’s not an easy thing.

      It should probably be noted though, that as website devoted to career questions, it’s likely this site has a high percentage of people who see their career as their vocation.

      For the majority of people, I think that Alison’s advice is probably the best. Try to avoid jobs where the vast majority of tasks are things you absolutely *hate* doing. And try to look for jobs that have at least some of the tasks that you truly enjoy doing, whatever those tasks may be (even if it’s something simple like answering phones or alphabetizing files).

  7. Anonicorn*

    So I am now in the new job and have found out I am at the lowest end of pay in my dept

    I wonder, did you feel the same way about your job before realizing this?

    I ask because I had a similar reaction at a former job that I disliked for other reasons, but learning I was so poorly paid made things seem so much more intolerable. Trust me, you do not want to dwell on your misery. Take the advice about forming an exit strategy and focus on how to improve your situation.

  8. kristinyc*

    If you can’t ask for a raise, could you ask for something else? More flexibility with hours, or at least ability to work from home in the evenings if they still need extra time out of you?

    You sound really unhappy, and if I were you I’d look for a new job immediately. Hang in there. :)

    1. Kerr*

      This, if possible. Perhaps they *want* you there 10 hours a day (you’re getting paid OT, right?), but maybe you could ask to have it cut to 8 or 9. Thinking back to my most miserable job (which sounds remarkably similar to the OP’s), the things that kept me from actually quitting on the spot were: the fact that I didn’t have to work the insane OT that the company would have preferred, and the fact that I got a full hour of lunch time, instead of half an hour. (Some people ate company-provided lunch at their desks, although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t exactly kosher for non-exempt employees, and others only got 1/2 hr.)

  9. Anonymously Anonymous*

    I think the key here is to get focused. You’re in a better position than you were with the previous job that required you to take on another job. Now you know your worth. Focus on an exit. Good luck.

    As for finding the perfect culture, job description, pay and hours. You can only strive to hit the last two with accuracy before anything else. And the fact that you already had disdain for the company didnt make your decision to work for them any better.

  10. Lucy*

    I feel for you, because I am in a very similar situation. I was actively job searching because my company was going out of business. I was contacted about an opportunity for a company I really didn’t want to work for and in an industry I really didn’t want to be in. BUT, they offered me a significantly higher salary than what I making (almost 60k more). I took it and I have been very unhappy. I wonder how much of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy and I know it’s a very first world problem to feel that you would take less money for a job you liked more, but at the end of the day, I’m miserable and I wish I hadn’t chased the dollars so much.

      1. Joey*

        I never said money will make you happy. But, its reckless to think that the money will take care of itself. It doesn’t. Ask all of the people in social work, the arts, hospitality, and all of the other professions where getting a shot at a decent salary is few and far between.

      2. Meg*

        I’m pretty sure that’s not what Joey said. He (and I, and several others) just meant that “chasing happiness” is not going to magically make money appear in the bank. It’s important to find happiness in your life somehow, but you also have a responsibility to feed and clothe yourself, and that responsibility is separate.

        I have a job which I usually like, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m passionate about it. I have other things in my life that make me happy, and my job lets me afford those things. There are a lot of frustrations with my job, but I consider them a fair trade for having the money to enjoy the hobbies I do have.

    1. AmyNYC*

      This happened to me, too! I was so scared of being laid off at my old job, I took the first decent offer I got and didn’t think it through and now I’m leaving after a month and a half.
      It’s not ideal, but if you really can’t do this job, it’s better to have a few month “gap” on your resume (why include the job you hate?) than stick it out for a year and look like a job hopper.
      In the long run, the company would rather have someone who likes the work than someone who just (barely) tolerates it. Don’t make a habit of it, but everyone makes mistakes. Start looking for a new job and good luck!

  11. A Teacher*

    More money, a little more flex time, less hours, more autonomy…none of it will make the job itself better if you truly hate where you work at and what you are doing. I’m speaking from experience in that I left a job in corporate America to become a teacher at an alternative school where kids cussed me out daily (not necessarily directed at me but cussing was common in this environment). I was MUCH happier working with my at risk expelled kids and getting the “b” word thrown in my face than I was in my old job. Again, speaking as someone that did her master’s research on the topic of burnout–you sound burned out in 2 of the 3 components of burnout, which is terrible after only 3 months. I do agree with Joey in that you can learn how NOT to be while working there and can find a lot of inner strength you didn’t know you had. You can also be the rock star employee if you stay–that’s your prerogative. If you can get out and find something less stressful I do hope that’s the route you take. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “dream” job but there are a lot of careers and job out there that you can like a lot and have some dream aspects to them.

  12. Anonymous*

    This reminds me of a question I’ve had…

    What’s the best strategy when you realize that your salary is very low in your specific company, even though it might be average market-wise?

    1. Parfait*

      Kick ass and make the case that you kick ass when performance review time comes. Also ask for more at the right times.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      A similar problem has been experienced by folks hired during the recession who see subsequent employees being hired at much higher salaries. Unfortunately, it seems like some of these people have to move on to get back up to the new market rates.

  13. Hannah*

    I find that all of us tend to go to that “well, if I was making more money, I wouldn’t be so miserable” place when we are stuck in a job that we hate. In truth, as all the above posters are saying, we could be making one hundred million spacebucks a year but if we hate all the aspects of the job that the op mentioned, it’s not going to help. I was stuck in a horrible job with a boss I hated – One example, when I agreed to the job, my hours were set to be from 12PM to 8PM from Tuesday to Sunday. About two weeks into the job, I was told that I was supposed to be at an 8am staff meeting every Monday thru Friday. This was an expectation, no compensation of time and money. When I questioned it, I was told that everyone at the company puts in a lot of hours and that the work environment was one where one doesn’t question supervisors with things like that. – and when I did get a little extra money (well, the raise was because I wasn’t going to get health insurance like I was told so they gave us the cost of health insurance and a slight bump), I found that I resented the company more. I’m not saying that money isn’t important – it is – but like Alison said, it isn’t the root of the problem which is you belong somewhere else.

  14. abby*

    Yeah, you need to be looking for another job. I don’t know how much you make, but I doubt a few extra thousand will make it better. Either that, or suck it up and try to improve your attitude. Not to dump on you, but often it’s a mindset – you can choose to be less miserable. And take this as a lesson to make sure you are at least somewhat excited about the next job you take.

    Hang in there, but work on getting out.

    1. Camellia*

      “Ultimate freedom is the right to choose one’s attitude. When we absorb our attitude we are slaves.” Viktor Frankl

      This quote has kept me sane – okay, somewhat sane – in many an on-going circumstance.

      1. abby*

        This is a great quote! It was when I learned that my attitude is within my own control that many things that seemed unbearable became bearable and I was able to make constructive changes.

  15. Hello Vino*

    Based on personal experience, if you’re miserable at this job, a few extra thousand (or even a 50% salary increase) is not going to make a difference. Chances are, they’re not going to give you a raise after 3 months. And even if they do, it’s only going to make you feel better temporarily.

    Hang in there and start looking for a new job! Good luck!

  16. AllisonD*

    I once took a job because I really, really needed it at the time. It was my field and experience level, but the commute was awful and in the very last minute I learned I would be reporting to someone other than I expected, and this manager was none to thrilled and saw me as a threat. I was miserable and I sucked it up, showed up early every day and did a good job. 7 months later I was laid off. Sometimes things change. Oddly, I was immediately hired for contract work by the same company and this worked out just fine. We’re still friends to this day!

    Yes, sometimes things work out but I don’t think they will in your situation. Do your job well and focus on building references while you job hunt at the same time. Good luck.

  17. HAnon*

    I would add to this…I’m in the same situation, miserable at my current job, aggressively looking for other opportunities. However, it’s a difficult market to find jobs, so you have to figure out how to be as “unmiserable” as possible while you’re still in this situation. My tips would be:

    1) Focus on the positive aspects of your job. There may not be many, but you can find them (ex, you HAVE a job that, while not ideal, pays your bills, which is nothing to sneeze at).

    2) Maximize your off-time. Make sure you’re keeping up with positive friends and people in your life and doing things that you enjoy while you’re not at work.

    3) Exercise. It really does boost endorphins! And it will help you take out work-related frustration in a healthy way so you don’t bottle it up.

    4) Block out time every day/every other day to work on your job search. Keep applying/networking and eventually it will pay off.

    5) Don’t victimize yourself! It’s really easy to let self-pity get the better of you, but don’t! Make the most out of the promotion (?) you’re currently being trained for so you can add those skills to your resume. Keep a positive attitude and don’t let your misery bleed into your work — no one wants to work with a negative nancy.

    6) Save as much $ as you can so if you do decide to quit/are laid off you have a little bit of cushion to get you through.

    Personally, I need to invent a little bit of a fairy tale to motivate me to get out of the bed in the morning and go to my job right now (ex, we live in a post-apolocalyptic world and our imaginary children are relying on me to bring home supplies so we can survive. Or Snow White’s stepmother is looking for me so I need to power through these spreadsheets. Etc.)

    1. MathGeek*

      Good suggestions. Another idea – make the other areas of your life most important for personal development right now and set big goals in those, while taking the focus off career. Exp.: lose those 15 lbs, place in your age group at a 5k race, improve your spiritual practice, learn a new language, plan the trip of your lifetime, etc.

    2. Natalie*

      I’d add – if you can swing it, volunteer somewhere on a semi-regular basis. Speaking from personal experience, volunteering can feel extra satisfying when contrasted against a job you hate. It gives you something to think about and talk to friends about that you actually enjoy, which will help your mood.

      And with some luck, it could pay dividends down the line. As a result of one 2-hour-a-month volunteer position, I’ve gained a very helpful network and some great experience, including chairing a related committee.

  18. TL*

    To be fair, moving from a non-living (or barely scraping by) wage to a living or living+extra wage is most likely going to make a huge difference in someone’s happiness level.

    You may not like the job any better but your life overall will be better which may in turn make you more able to be okay with your job for now. But I think Alison’s note of $/mo more is a good point – is ~$180/mo going to be enough to significantly relieve financial stress?

    1. Chinook*

      I think moving from the non-living wage to the living wage pay range is the only time one can honestly say that money can buy happiness. From experience, I never felt richer than when I was finally able to shut down a credit line. Feeling like I was making progress, even if it is in baby steps, never felt so good!

      1. amilie*

        Yes! Not staring up at the ceiling full of anxiety about money every night can make a huge, huge difference, even if you do dislike or hate your job.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          For the OP, that few extra grand could really make a difference. When you’re paying off student loans, every extra bit helps.

        2. Liz T*

          I have seen this change people many a time. When people go from struggling to feed themselves properly to being able to, say, spring for a cab now and then, it’s like an enormous weight’s been lifted off them.

  19. Kerr*

    Oh, boy. I’m sorry it’s such an awful job, OP! I’ve been there. Fortunately, my job was only a temporary one, but I felt stuck working there for as long as possible, because it was during the worst of the recession and I hadn’t been able to net anything else.

    Do your best to look for a better job, and block off a little time every day (or every other day) to do something related to your job hunt. Even a little chunk of time is something, and when it’s over, you can get on with the rest of your life. This is the approach that helps me, because I hate facing a major goal without any structure. I end up procrastinating and feeling overwhelmed if I don’t give myself permission to only work on X for Y amount of time before dropping it like a hot coal.

    Take the same approach to improving your skills in something that will bring you closer to your desired better job, too. Every other day, take a small block of time, and work a bit on that thing: whether it’s learning a software program that will make you more marketable for the jobs you want, or working on the building blocks of a portfolio (for the creatives among us), etc.

    Also: take your breaks, and don’t feel guilty about them, even if everyone else is skipping them/are always “too busy”. (I’m talking to my younger self here; your coworkers may very well take their breaks, but in my experience, it seems that there’s always a fire to put out in such environments.) During that particularly miserable job, one of my lifesavers was taking a brief walk, or just getting outside and pacing, for 10 minutes, twice a day. Take additional, informal breaks, too, to relieve the physical strain of sitting in one spot and staring at a computer for hours every day. Find an excuse to get up and walk around and give your eyes a break, no matter how flimsy (does somebody need a file? do you need a cup of water? can you walk over to your coworkers’ desk to ask a question?). Or get up and take a walk down the office hallways, if possible. (I used to be terrified that getting up, or taking a 1-2 minute mental/physical break regularly would make me look like a slacker.) Taking those regular breaks and getting in physical activity can mean the difference between utterly miserable and tolerable-until-you-can-get-out.

    1. Sali*

      I completely agree. I posted my background below, but basically I knew I needed to do better. So everyday on my lunch break I would do online courses for about 15-20 minutes. And you know what? When I went on my interview for my new amazing, upcoming job, one of the questions they asked was ‘Can you tell us about something you’ve learnt or taught yourself over the last year?’. They loved that I took time out of my own lunch hour to develop personally and professionally! And it’s so transferable and valuable to many jobs – the discipline and ability to learn new things.

  20. blue dog*

    I think it is important to LIKE what you are doing, because you spend about half your waking life at work. You don’t have to LOVE it, just not dred going into work every day.

    That being said, at this stage in your career, I would look to make a jump to some industry or company or position you would like to do in the future, even if it pays less (the money will come over time).

    I see this all the time in law. Someone comes out of school strapped with $150K in debt and they NEED to work. They take the first job they can find because they need the money — say bankruptcy law or family law or whatever — even though they hate it. Three years go by and guess what? You’re a bankruptcy lawyer, pal. (Not that there is anything wrong with that – just an example.)

    People CAN change industries, but it is hard. You have to get in line behind people who are younger and hungrier and willing to work longer hours for less money. You can get locked in. Golden handcuffs.

    So, getting more money will NOT solve this problem. It will only close the clasps on the handcuffs tighter. If you aren’t feeling the love, start looking now (and don’t quit until you get another position). A job search always takes longer than you think and is always easier when you are already employed.

    Buena suerte.

  21. jesicka309*


    Do not take a 3k pay increase! It will not make you love the job more – if anything, it will make it harder to leave. I’m in a similar situation – when you’re underpaid, it’s easy to say “goodbye job, I’m off to something better!” When you’re paid well or overpaid, you’ll always hesitate to take a new job because the financial hit is that much harder.

    If you truly hate your job, start looking now. 3 months is a short time, but not so short that it’s destroyed your self-confidence or belief in your abilities. Find something new! :)

    1. Sali*

      Whaaaaaat – why on earth would you refuse a raise if you know you are going to stay? Sorry that sounds so bizarre to me.

      Take the raise! Still job hunt! Why can’t you do both?

      1. jesicka309*

        I guess because if she takes the increase, she’s making it harder to leave crappy job. I only meant she shouldn’t take the salary and expect the job to magically get better. It won’t. If she takes the increase and thinks “great, now all the other issues I had with this job will disappear” she is mistaken.
        If the increase is there, take it, but don’t stop job hunting. But it sounds like OP will have to ask for it, so at this point, it’s all hypothetical anyway.

        1. Sali*

          I see your point, but I think I view it less ‘she’s making it harder to leave a crappy job’, but more ‘she’s making a crappy job slightly better’. It’ll be fine for the short term IF they give it (as you say, it’s hypothetical), but as long as OP keeps searching for better in the meantime.

  22. Sandrine*

    I’m actually burning out in my job as well. But I’m in France, and I’m doing customer service, and sometimes, customers do suck.

    I’ve been here one year nine months now, and I have to admit it’s thanks to AAM (despite the site being US-centered) and the support of a few friends that I’m still around.

    For me, it was about changing my attitude. I was so miserable last year that I missed 38 days of work (doctor’s notes and all) , the job made me physically ill and unable to get up and go. For some reason, I changed things around, dyed my hair blue (seriously) and BOOM, not that I luuuuuuuuuuuuv my job now, but quite frankly, I don’t hate it nearly as much as I did six months ago.

    Now I just hate it somewhat while recognizing that yeaaah, bills. Paid. Nice. Woohoo!

    And I get to have fun with fantastic coworkers, to boot. Funny how things can change for the better with just perspective sometimes o_o

      1. Sandrine*

        He he he. Thank you. I went to the evening shift, I’m moving back to mornings, I moved back to Mom’s, found a new BF, life is looking pretty spiffy even though my hair looks like a faded washing rag :P .

  23. workinmom*

    Um…I worked a job for 12 years that sucked the life from me…12 years and I did so because UNEMPLOYMENT is worse. I looked for work from DAY ONE- I had multiple interviews, BUT NO ONE wanted to pay me even what I was making. Losing 35,000 was not worth my credit rating and sanity. For most folks it’s a job, that’s all.
    My former position was ridiculous, I could have shopped 1/2 the day away if I had wanted despite trying every way to get ahead nothing worked. I left being well liked by CEO BUT that did not matter because all of my other co-workers had at least another decade on me of service. No one was going to leave, change and promote me..

    Before you leave, at least have a job. And really, try to get life ( no offense) outside of work so that you are not disappointed with what work is work or in my case, the ability to put up for years for a paycheck.

  24. Limon*

    I agree with staying where you are until you are ready to move on to a better situation. It’s amazing what you can learn from a difficult job and I recommend talking to someone or keeping journal so that you can really see the steps that you are taking and the progress you are making.

    We truly are in charge of our attitudes and we can change our world by changing how we look at it. Building a solid reputation and references as well as experience is very valuable, to the OP – do the very best you can in this job and when you move on you will have learned/gained alot more than just a salary.

  25. Sali*

    My situation was kind of similar to yours. I took on a very low level job, with low pay, and it was really boring and not challenging at all (even though the company I work for are very nice!). They were impressed with my work – probably because it’s all so super easy and I completely low balled myself in accepting a job I am overqualified for – and gave me a raise on my 3 month review. It was not a huge raise, but they offered it to me themselves and although I tried to ask for more, they rebuffed me.

    Anyway, my point is that despite the extra money and knowing how much they loved and valued me – I was still so unhappy and SO SO bored. So, I job hunted on the side, very casually. I’d apply to one or two every couple of weeks, until I came across The Perfect Advert (I refrain from saying Perfect Job, because I just won’t know that yet), which was more challenging, better money, and for a better organisation. Long story short, I applied, for the hell of it, interviewed for it, and got it! I’m still working my notice off at boring job, but I know I’ve got something so much better to look forward to in a couple of weeks.

    So I would say see how your performance review goes and if they seem open to considering a raise then by all means ask for it – what’s the harm? And in the meantime, DO job hunt. You are obviously not happy and you deserve much better.

    Good luck!

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