In the mid-1990s, I accepted a position at a large consulting firm in suburban Chicago. This was only my second “real” job post-college and I was delighted because this single career move bumped up my salary 20%. I realized my mistake quickly. My very first day on that sprawling corporate campus confirmed the place was a terrible fit. I hated every minute of it… two years worth of minutes, to be exact.
Looking back, that job may have made my paychecks a little fatter and put a shine on my resume, but it cost me a lot, too. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it might be time to ask if all that misery is actually costing you money.
Here are six ways that job you hate just might be keeping you poor.
1. It Keeps You Busy
Even a job you hate has a way of consuming your day. It’s nearly impossible to find time to explore higher paying opportunities, invest in your education, network with other professionals, or properly plan for the future. In the end, what keeps you busy can easily keep you stuck. (See also: 8 Ways to Take a Break at Work and Still Look Busy)
2. It Stresses You Out
Working at jobs we hate can be particularly stressful and exhausting. We often cope by trying to eliminate all other stressors and pursuing a life of absolute convenience. Forget taking public transit to work; drive and pay to park instead. Forget packing your lunch; dine out. Forget housework and yard work; just hire it done. It all adds up to this cold, hard fact: Stress is expensive. (See also: 13 Cheap Ways to Beat Stress)
3. It Might be Making You Sick
The connection between mental and physical health has been proven time and again. If you’re unhappy at work, it affects other parts of your life, including your physical well-being. And (surprise!) being sick is usually bad for your budget.
4. It’s a Constant Punishment That Requires a Constant Reward
If you’re dragging yourself to a job you hate day after day, you deserve some sort of pay off, right? And the more the job seems like a punishment, the bigger the reward needs to be. A new car, an indulgent vacation, and a bigger house may feel like fair compensation for your efforts. But unchecked, those things can create a debt trap that keeps you poor and limits your choices.
5. It Saps Your Motivation
I call it the Who Cares? Syndrome. If you’re in a job you hate, it’s extremely hard to motivate yourself. Who cares if you get promoted? Who cares if you get a raise? Who cares if you spend too much money? Who cares if you fund your 401K? Without that primary motivator — being invested in a job you care about and enjoy — everything else becomes less important. Plans don’t get made and all sorts of goals fall by the wayside.
6. It Feeds Your Fear
People stay in jobs they hate for a number of reasons, and I don’t want to suggest that everyone has the luxury of choice. But often fear can keep us stuck in negative situations both personally and professionally. Over time, we lose confidence, stop looking for new opportunities, and settle for a life of less. From how we work, to how we love, to how we manage our money — fear limits our potential.
I still remember the afternoon my phone rang with a job offer — a new job that allowed me to bid a final, enthusiastic farewell to the one I’d detested for two whole years. I think a few joyous expletives were involved… and maybe an air punch. I gave my required two weeks’ notice immediately and never looked back. And though there have been the inevitable ups and downs since, moving on enriched my life in more ways than one.
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