Quora: When High-Paying Jobs Make You Miserable

What do you do when you’re bringing home the bacon, but you can’t stand your job? We turn to the Quora community to see what its members have to say about sticking with a high-paying job that you hate versus ditching the 9-to-5 to pursue a more fulfilling (and potentially less lucrative) career path.

job satisfaction

(Photo Credit: William Brawley/Flickr)

Question: I hate my job, but it pays a lot of money. What should I do?

Original question posted on Quora by Career Advice.

Choosing a career can be difficult, in and of itself, so how do you know if you’re heading in the right direction before it’s too late? Many people decide upon careers based on earning potential, neglecting to consider whether they’ll actually be happy in that line of work in the long-run. As it turns out, money isn’t everything when it comes to pursuing a career, especially when it costs you your happiness. The wise and honest members of Quora explain just why picking an occupation that is fulfilling is greater than picking one for a big paycheck.

Anonymous – This member chose to remain anonymous because he is in the same situation with being miserable in his lucrative career. He explains that the money is great, the job was fabulous at first, all of his friends envy his job; but then his colleagues became “hypocrites and liars,” and “the managers rule by instilling fear in the people in the company,” making it a terrible environment to work in. We don’t blame you, Anonymous. This job sounds absolutely awful! So, what’s his advice for what to do when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place?

  1. Since the member who posed the question was offered a job at a competing firm, Anonymous suggests taking the job because, although it will be the same line of work and, “even though the people at that company are probably [jerks] and back-stabbers […] they are new [jerks].” Touché.
  2. “Save, save, save money, as much as you can.” That way, when the time comes that the individual just can’t take it anymore, he can quit and have a nice nest egg to fall back on temporarily.
  3. “Work in a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. See people less fortunate than you. Get to know them. Help them.” Helping less fortunate people gives you a sense of  gratitude and perspective.
  4. Do whatever it takes to spend as much time out of the office as possible (e.g., go back to school).
  5. Get spiritual, religious, or meditative guidance to help cope with the stress and anguish.
  6. Cheat on your employer.
  7. Construct an exit strategy and stick to it.

Phil Darnowsky, co-founder of H Engage, suggest a very enticing, yet probably unrealistic answer to the question posed:

  1. Cut your expenses and start aggressively saving money. Suck it up at your current position until you have $X in the bank, where the exact value of X is to be determined.
  2. Quit your job, break your lease, sell or give away everything that won't fit in a suitcase.
  3. Go someplace with sunny weather, nice people, and a low cost of living.
  4. Stay there, just farting around and not doing much, until you get bored.
  5. When you find yourself consistently fantasizing about what you could be doing besides hanging out on the beach, go do that.

Another Anonymous member poses three questions to consider when trying to decide whether to stick with a lucrative, yet miserable occupation or quit and pursue other more fulfilling endeavors:

  1. What good is the good life if you are not living?
  2. What good is money if you're too miserable to enjoy it?
  3. What good is a job that shortens your life from stress?

In the end, it’s important to select a career path that aligns with your overall life goals. If you want to own fancy things, think about whether they're worth the time you sacrifice with friends and family. However, if you’re focused on being able to spend ample amounts of time with your family, then know that working in a field that requires 80-plus hours a week probably isn’t a good choice; maybe chart an entrepreneurial path instead.

Having a job that makes a ton of money doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be unhappy, nor does pursuing a career that makes you happy mean that you’ll be broke. The lesson here is to find a path that suits the objectives you have for yourself and your family and the rest will fall into place in the end. 

Tell Us What You Think

How did you choose your career and are you happy with it? If not, what do you wish you would be doing instead? Share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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