Make lemonade out of lemons

Your job may be miserable, but it could be worse

Yes, I know. Many companies have joined the race to the bottom in a vain effort to stay competitive. Rather than innovate and look for ways to grow the top line, they see cutting costs as the answer. They don’t realize they can’t cut their way back to growth.

Layoffs aren’t a new story, but they continue. If you’re “lucky” enough to stay, you get to pick up some of the work from the folks who left. You’re working a lot more hours for less money.

Perks? Does anybody remember those? No doubt, some were extravagant and should have been cut, but some were inexpensive little touches to ease the burden and the stress. And you’re paying a lot more for health insurance, and it’s not as good as it used to be.

You might even have had to endure a couple of across-the-board pay cuts just so you could keep your job.

So why are you still there?

Of course, you’re looking, and you’ve been looking with no results. You’re tempted to quit the next time things get worse and look for a job full time.

Don’t do it.

Yes, it’s hard to look when you’re working crazy hours. Even so, being unemployed has a stigma attached to it. The longer you’re out, the more everyone thinks you have leprosy or something.

I don’t support these policies, especially since managers often cut the very things that could get them back to solid growth. What they’re really doing is encouraging their customers and their employees to look for alternatives.

Admittedly, your once great job may have become a lousy one, but you’re still not working in the salt mines. We have to keep things in perspective.

Since ancient times, most people had to work from sunrise to sunset to get enough food, wood to cook and heat, etc. If you know any farmers, they’ll tell you it’s a 24/7 job. There are no real vacations or holidays.

When the Industrial Revolution began, conditions in those factories were deplorable. Even so, they were better than working in the fields or the mines, so a lot of people migrated to the cities. Unions were eventually formed and collective bargaining improved working conditions and pay tremendously.

Regardless of how bad your job is, it’s probably better than the jobs most people had, say, a hundred years ago. It may not be as good as it was 10 or 15 years ago, but that is true at or an awful lot of companies. Even if you find a job, there’s a good chance it could turn out to be worse than the one you left.

How can you avoid such a mistake?

It’s been my experience that I’ve regretted every decision I made in anger. It may have seemed right, and it may have been justifiable, but I was never better off. I doubt my experience is unique, as I know a number of people who would readily admit the same thing.

Another thing you want to avoid is running away.

Conditions may be terrible, but if your attitude is that anything would be better than this, you’re probably going to find out that’s not true. Desperation is hard to hide, and it really weakens your position.

If you want to find a better job, you have to think about what you’re trying to gain, not what you’re trying to escape. What would be the ideal job for you? How can you modify your résumé to highlight your strengths for that particular job?

Resist the temptation to make yourself look good at everything. That’s what everyone else is doing.

Who can help you? Do you have a mentor, a friend, a former boss, colleague or teacher that can help you put it together? Maybe they have some of the right connections.

The best approach of all might be to take another look at the job you have. How can you make it better? If conditions are truly miserable, everybody’s probably looking. That dramatically lowers the bar on competition from your colleagues, maybe even your boss.

Come up with some good ways to grow that top line, and you can be a hero. A promotion or two and a couple of raises could make a difference. If you do it right, you can make things better for everyone.

I know a lot of people who hated their jobs until they lost them. Don’t become another one of them.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or