How to Get a Job That Doesn’t Suck

on April 29, 2013 | in Work | by

There are lots of sucky jobs out there, but you don’t have to have one of them. Learn to master the 5 steps below and your chances of landing a job you actually like will increase dramatically.

1. Know people. We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” If this is so true, though, then how come you spent 30 hours last week doing schoolwork… but you spent zip, nilch, nada hours networking and really getting to know people? Riddle me that. So how do you get to know people, you ask? Well, for one…

2. Be interesting. Because let’s face it: In order to know (the right) people, you have to have something to offer that the average Joe does not have. If you want to know, befriend, and work with interesting, passionate, happy people, then you best become one yourself. After all, when’s the last time you saw an awesomely interesting person hanging out with a boring clone who’s just like everyone else? Stop watching The Voice every night and go out and do something interesting instead. Start a project. Write a book. Help a cause. Hang swings in public places, for gosh sake. I don’t care what you do, as long as you do it with everything you’ve got. Because the world needs more interesting people who are full of passion. Hell, the world needs more interested people, too… which brings me to my next point:

3. Do informational interviews. Be interested in other people and they’ll become interested in you, too. Find a handful of people on Linked In or through your network who work in a role or for a company you’re interested in — or who are just plain cool. Ask them what they love about their work (or don’t love about their work) and what they love about their company (or don’t love about their company). Ask what it takes to be great at what they do, what keeps their bosses up at night and what skills & abilities are most valued in the industry. This won’t just help you discover whether you might enjoy a job or a workplace, but it’ll also help you…

4. Be a mind-reader. Know specifically what the employer wants — then sell it to ’em. The good thing is that you just got stellar insight into the employer’s needs from all the informational interviews you just did, right? Now lay it all out, get specific, and frame it from their point of view in terms of how you can solve their specific problems. NO ONE CARES that your objective is to “work in a fast-paced environment with room for growth and advancement!” Show them instead how you’ll increase sales, make a process more efficient, or otherwise solve the problems that keep them up at night. At the end of your interview, they should feel like they’ve just spoken with a mind-reader.

5. Look sharp. I hate to say it, but everything else you do may be for nill if you don’t look sharp doing it. Because let’s get real for a second here: Sure, it’s your depth that matters most… but people will never see your depth if they can’t get past your appearance in the first place. Books have covers, products have packaging (YES I DO buy the shampoo with the prettiest bottle), and humans have clothing and such things. The bottom line: First impressions matter, so dress like you mean it.

What’s your best tip for getting a job that doesn’t suck?

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[Image by kharied]

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  • Jess

    Rock the interview by being calm and confident. An interviewer asks you if you can do something you’ve only done once, you say “Yes I can!”

  • The be interesting one is my fave. To be boring is the greatest sin of all whether looking for a job or not. I wear shorts and a t-shirt to work every day, but I realize that this is the exception and not the rule. Great post, again, Therese!!!

    • Sometimes you can pull off shorts & a t-shirt depending upon your line of work and whether you’re face to face with customers ;-). I like it!

      BE INTERESTING is my fave, too! :)

  • My best advice is almost a counterargument to this. In this economy, there’s no guarantee you can find a job that doesn’t suck that ALSO pays your bills, especially if you have student loans. But that doesn’t mean that your entire life has to suck, or that you’ll be working a sucky job forever. Yes, keep applying to dream jobs. Keep networking. Keep thinking outside the box. But you can do that while working another job. My dream job is writing, so I spend a lot of my free time blogging, entering writing contests, and submitting articles for publication. I don’t get paid for any of it, but if I keep working at it, I eventually will be paid to write.

    Also, any job is what you make of it. I’m working two right now (the second for health insurance), and I love both of them. Neither job is my dream job–I do social media, editing, communications, IT stuff, etc. for a start-up, and I work part-time at JCP. Instead of being unhappy that neither job is “perfect,” I focus on everything I like about them. At the start-up, I love my flexible hours, the opportunity to telecommute some days, everything I’m learning, and my co-workers. At JCP, I love my employee discount, the numerous compliments I receive on my hair and clothes, the opportunity to meet new people, and the general camaraderie with my co-workers (not to mention my health benefits and my retirement account!).

    • Agreed, Belle. I don’t necessarily think that anything you have to say is a counterargument to my article — in fact, I think it fits right in! I think you have the right perspective, and you’re doing all the things I mention in the article, btw ;-)

  • B

    Remember at the interview that you’re not the only one being interviewed — take advantage of the question “Do you have any questions?”

    • YES! Ask questions! This fits under “being interested,” too. Thanks for contributing!

  • meganlee2623

    Know yourself. Don’t be swayed by the amount of money a job may potentially pay. You have to be there 45 hours a week, don’t set yourself up to be miserable.

    • Agreed, Megan! There are SO many factors to consider that will ultimately matter more than the initial pay: What potential does it hold for growth or for valuable experience/contacts? Who are the people you’ll be working with? And so on and so forth. “Knowing thyself” is gold.

  • Audrey

    My advice for not getting a bad job is do as much research as possible on the companies you’re interviewing with. This way, you won’t be caught off guard, and you will sound intelligent, interested, and well-informed at the interview.

    • Absolutely, Audrey. Always do your research!

  • Connect online with people you’d like to work for — via social media, newsletters, LinkedIn, whatever. Great advice, Therese!

    • Absolutely — connection is key. Thanks for sharing, Susan!

    • Susan… YOU WON, based on my random number generator winner-picker!!! Emailing you :)

  • Jennifer Damhorst

    Ask questions! Find people in the career field you want to enter or company you want to work for. Get the inside scoop! Great article!

    • Yes yes yes! Ask questions! Thanks Jennifer :)

  • If you find a company you love and respect be willing to start at the bottom doing a job you may be over-qualified for. Sometimes it’s more about the company and less about the initial job title.

    • Devan, I’m totally in agreement that it’s more about the people and the company you’re working with than it is about the title. Whatever you need to do to surround yourself by, and work with, the right people is worthwhile, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Alex

    Be willing to work for nothing (or very little) money. Now I’m not talking about an unpaid internship. I’m talking about if you really want a certain job or position, you will reach out to that person or company and you will give them value with asking for very little in return. You are so passionate about this job position or company that you would be willing to work unpaid or for peanuts because you know how many doors it will open and how much experience you will get from it. You could get a lot of dream jobs just by being proactive in contacting them and adding value (something you think they could improve, interesting industry data, awesome new ideas) and then asking for very little in return.

  • Never let yourself become obsolete! Be hungry — so always be taking a class here and there; if you see a skill that a workmate is really good at and you’re interested, ask to be taught; and never stop reading!

  • Leigh

    I would say research the best few companies in your industry near where you’d like to work, and meet as many people who work for that company. Make sure they know exactly what you are looking for in a position. Great article!

  • I always try to remember that I am interviewing them as much or more than they are interviewing me.

  • Feel confident in yourself and your skills while job searching. The better you feel about yourself, the more opportunities you will try to take advantage of. If you feel like crap and think you suck at certain things, you’re going to doubt your abilities MUCH more and miss out on great leads!

  • nina

    A true gesture of appreciation is sending a thank you note/email after you meet someone. A simple thank you goes a loooong way!

  • The best option is to bring something to the table that 1) is different from what most others are offering or b) is of a higher quality than what others are offering. At the end of the day, if you’re consistently bringing value to a person, organization, etc. – you will have a job. Figure out how to meet somebody’s needs better than other people can and you will stand out.

  • Kevin Van Hoesen

    Awesomeness. Tip #1: Design a resume that doesn’t look like resume. I once designed a high-gloss resume that looked and read like a airline safety brochure. People in the marketing space that I met for informational interviews loved it! It was a representation of my personality and people saw that. It was more than just information on paper. It was me on paper. Once I became an accountant though, I had to sideline it and get back to boring.

    • I freaking love this Kevin, and I want to see your resume.

      And who says accountants have to be boring? ;-)

  • Susan

    Tell them why you are the best choice they could make!

  • I think that one of the first thing you need to do is to decide what it is you actually want to do with your life. I’ve found that for a lot of people their jobs suck because they ended up there by default (or because of others’ expectations) instead of consciously working to get to that place. This isn’t to say that you have to have it all figured out with a 5-year plan, but you have to have some idea of what things you like and dislike. Along the same lines you have to realize that things you like may be very different from what your friends and family like. I would hate being a full-time teacher or doctor, but I love spending most of my time in front of a computer.

    If you make conscious decisions about what you like and then actively work towards them (learning both the technical and soft skills you’ll need on the way) then you may not have the best job, but it’ll be one you chose instead of one you happened to fall into.

  • To get a job that doesn’t completely suck, you have to take your time and not settle.

    A lot of times people pounce on the first job they can find right out of college, but 9 times out of 10 this job is merely a means to an end or a way to pay the bills, not something that will allow you to have fun, be creative and get paid for it!

    I would say that regardless of what other people may say, if you want a non-sucky job you have to start to be picky about what you want out of your career and your life.

  • 1. Figure out what you want to do
    2. Start doing it and get an MVP or a base established
    3. Find a business/person that is willing to pay you to do that same thing, but under their brand instead of your own.
    4. Leverage what you’ve already created to negotiate a high salary because you are lessening their risk. They know you can do what you promise because you’ve already done it. The best indicator for future success is past performance. Show them past performance and you’ll be worth more money to them.

    Worked for me…. but I’m still a little lost. All I can think about now is trying to do it again in another un-related field. Anyone know someone that develops land in South America? lol :)

    • We’re all a little lost… it keeps things interesting ;-)

  • Rachel

    Your outlook on the job itself might be the difference between it sucking and being a great opportunity Go into each job, no matter what it is, with the attitude of learning something from it. This means that you aren’t wasting your time, you’re expanding your horizons. Often, your attitude will change how you feel about a job, so have the right attitude!

  • Kelsey

    Keep positive. The better you’re attitude the higher chance they’ll like you

  • I definitely agree that “know people” should be #1. And networking events, btw, are sometimes the *worst* way to meet people. I do much better at social events, personally, and I meet much more interesting people. My network has never let me down, whether I’ve been looking for a job or freelance work. In fact, in the last few months I’ve had way more job opportunities than I could ever possibly need… yay for being a connector! (Side note: don’t put me in the contest. Banana doesn’t make clothes in my size. Pardon my activism moment, but I had to say it. :-b)

    • Agreed, Sarah… with a few exceptions, networking events suck. :-0

  • Best advice, I tell new professionals is to stay positive, know people (by networking or by just meeting people), connect with them (by caring about them, being interesting, memorable, and looking sharp) and leverage all of that to get your name thrown into the hidden “job market.”

    In my opinion, the hidden job market is where all the magis is at. It has worked for me a number of times, and you will be totally surprised at how many jobs are in that market. Lou Adler recently wrote an article on the hidden job market, and I have been sharing that link like crazy.

    From my experience, if you are able to things right, the people with the job opening (in the hidden market) are more likely to tailor the job to your needs (work/life, salary, growth, etc). To me, that is how you get a job that really does’t suck. Getting into the hidden job market is not easy, and can be tricky, but it is well worth the time and effort.

  • Erica

    While stumbling through college with a full time job working in a restaurant I begin to wonder, what the hell I am going to do with my life? I want to do something that will benefit others as well as myself but sometimes I don’t know where to start or if I’m doing what I feel I should be doing. After a long day of school and work I sit at my kitchen table sulking with a bottle of wine bumbling around on the internet, when I come across this very article. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after reading this (or maybe it’s the wine settling in…okay, a combination of them both). Either way, I realize how I can apply these steps to my current situation rather than getting caught up in the same old gritty thinking routine and for this, I thank you. :-)

    • Aw… thanks Erica! Glad you’re here. :-)

  • Thank you all for the comments! Feel free to leave more; I love reading them, but the contest has been closed and a winner, Susan Shain, has been randomly selected!

  • Knowing people is important, and so is knowing people who know people. With a solid network of friends you can go to for finding work, the number of people and opportunities can feel almost limitless.

  • It’s simple, but the most important thing to me is to listen to your gut. Your instincts should have the final vote in my opinion. A job can seem right for so many reasons but if you have a nagging feeling that you are taking it for the wrong reasons (pressure from others, the great salary, etc.) it can quickly become a bad fit. Hone your instincts and then listen to them.


  • For what it’s worth, I’d say start by journaling. I know plenty of fulfilled individuals who have never kept a journal outside of a high school English class, and I often envy them. But few other experiences have made me learn more about what excites me and made me feel most like myself, so I’ve come to accept that it works for me. And as I’m learning now, through writing like yours, it’s a process that the happiest individuals all go through, so that’s reassuring!

    At the same time, find individuals you have a personal connection to, and try to figure out why you feel that connection. Out of the dozens and dozens of career advisors/bloggers out there, I find that some have styles that resonate with my disposition and some that don’t, and I focus on really listening to what those I do click with are saying, and I integrate that into my journaling.

    I know my current job doesn’t “suck”, to quote this article’s title, but the bottom line is, it still feels like work more than anything else. I’m hoping that if I trust in this process (and myself, which is much harder to do!), I can customize my career as I go along.

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  • Qiana W

    I’ve learned to treat any interview as an interview in itself, meaning I am not only the interviewee, but also the interviewer. I want to learn as much about the company and the position as I can, because the company might choose me, but should I choose the company?

  • Ian

    This list of tips addresses the concern of getting a job; however, what about getting a job that doesn’t suck? I look around and see five options: cashiering, flipping burgers, bagging groceries, desk jobs, and sales.

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