It's not hard to find someone telling you that you should quit your job. A quick Google search on finding job satisfaction produces millions of articles and bits of advice on starting a business, tapping into your creativity, challenging yourself, and pursuing your passion. The common theme is to quit it all, start fresh, try something new and radical, and work will be better and you'll be happier. Life is too short, right? Maybe, maybe not.

All of the hype is interesting and well-intentioned but not particularly helpful to those who don't love their job but can't quit--at least not right now. There are thousands of valid reasons why leaving a paying job is unrealistic for a lot of people. Kids and mortgages are just two of the obligations we take on as adults that can narrow the range of professional choices we have in a given phase of life. It'd be irresponsible to head off in pursuit of our passion without considering the impact on these other things. At the same time, it'd be depressing and demotivating not to take action to improve today while keeping your sights on a better tomorrow.

So, what do you do when you don't love your job but can't quit right now? Click here to get a printable worksheet and "get well" plan template that corresponds with these steps.

  1. Objectively write down what's right and what's wrong at work. Think about the type of work you do, the environment, commute, team, policies and reporting requirements, meeting norms, etc.
  2. Focus for a moment on the "what's wrong" list, flag everything that you or someone you know can change. The price of gasoline might be out of your control but the person named as your immediate supervisor might be something you can influence. If you think a little bit out-of-the-box, the number of items that you can control might surprise you.
  3. Of those you flagged as changeable (in theory), pick 2. To make this manageable to start, select one bigger one and one smaller but annoying one. Get create and brainstorm any number of actions you could take and work into a "get well" plan. In my last corporate job, I hated writing pitches for new work that I believed we had an incredibly low chance of winning. Writing these proposals often happened late at night or on weekends because normal client work took precedence during the day. It felt like an incredible waste of time. I couldn't opt out of doing this work because it was part of my job. However, I could have been better delegating, advocating against some projects upfront, or finding efficiencies. My frustration made it hard to see these options at the time, but they were there.
  4. Next, focus next on the "what's right" list. What activities can you expand to fill a greater percentage of your time or increase your role?
  5. Consider your goals and aspirations. Are there opportunities to get one step closer to those goals within your current role? Coaching is one that I hear a lot and is a great example of a goal that you can pursue now without asking anyone's permission. The experience you gain will only help in the long run. If you're interested in speaking, events, writing, strategy development or any number of things, you might just find an opportunity to gain experience that is buried just beneath the surface at your current job.
  6. Finally, reflect on your relationship with your current boss. Most unhappiness at work is related to the connection we have with our immediate supervisor. Some people win the "boss lottery" and are truly lucky to have a boss who knows them, is supportive and encouraging, and looks out for their best interests. Unfortunately, that's not many. This infographic tells a grim story: 60 percent of people believe they have a bad boss. Knowing this, I believe bad bosses fall into two categories: 1) they're bad and don't know it and 2) they're bad and don't care. If approached in the right way, bosses in the first category will try to improve. If yours is in the second category, there's no point in trying to work with this person. Unfortunately, you just need to try to negotiate an internal transfer or increase your coping skills while picking up the pace on your job search.

The problem is that most of us put our boss in the "bad and don't care" bucket when, in fact, most want to be better leaders, but they don't know how. Helping your boss improve might not seem like your job, but it is and can be if you want to be happier at work. The trick to helping your boss improve is approaching them first with a discussion that isn't threatening or judgmental. No one responds well when they feel attacked. Open the conversation with questions about the organization's goals and their goals. What's driving them to make certain decisions? What pressures are they under? What can you do to help? In my experience, bosses respond better to those trying to help the business (which ultimately, helps them).

If you're on the fence about whether or not trying to make your job better is worth it, consider the perspective of your family and friends who care about you most. They likely hate seeing you miserable at work and are at a loss about what they can do to help. It can be difficult to see someone give the power over their happiness at work to someone else. They feel stuck. Quitting isn't an option for some people, however, taking reasonable action within your control to make yourself happier at work under your current circumstances is a doable option.

If starting your own business is one of your dreams, you can read more here on how to be an entrepreneur without quitting your job.