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I'm working at a "stepping stone" job, a job that I don't love, but is good experience, a mark on my resume, needed to land that job that I want. Sometimes you have to do the things you don't like to get where you want to be later on. So I don't complain or anything, just do my job to the best of my ability.

But recently a co-worker asked if I like my job, just casually. It is unwise to be honest about my answer to a question like this?

The easy answer is "Yeah." and move on. But in principle, I try really hard to be honest with others, so as to not one day end up lying to myself. Is it unwise to be honest with co workers if asked? My honest answer was that I don't like the job very much, but am doing it so that one day I can get the job I do like.

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    "My honest answer was that I don't like the job very much, but am doing it so that one day I can get the job I do like.". <-- If that's all you say, it would probably leave me with the wrong impression. If you do want to give an honest/open answer, at least include some of the material and wording that you used in this post. e.g. "I can't complain. The job is a good experience. Sometimes I have to do things that I don't like, but I do my job to the best of my ability."
    – Brandin
    Aug 29, 2015 at 22:43

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But recently a co-worker asked if I like my job, just casually. It is unwise to be honest about my answer to a question like this?

There's no need to lie, but you don't have to be completely open and blunt about it. "No, I hate this job." is probably not something you want to get around the office, even if true.

Instead, try something more along the lines of "Well, every job has parts that you like and parts that you don't like as much. This one is no different. One of the great things about this job is that I'm learning things that are really important to me."

Of course, it depends on the context of the question. If it comes from someone who is unhappy with the company/job - tread carefully. Your tendency might be to commiserate and bear your soul. Don't do it.

If it comes from someone who is "tight" with the boss - tread carefully. You don't want to express dissatisfaction in a direct pipeline to the boss.

And of course if it comes from your boss - tread very, very carefully. You don't want to get cut out of the loop for important projects and learning opportunities because of the fear that you might be quitting soon.

Choosing your words and phrasings carefully will let you avoid lying, provide an honest answer, yet not set yourself up for situations you'd rather avoid.

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  • This strategy of choosing words carefully may fail if the person asking the question notices that they haven't got a direct answer, and continues asking until they either get a direct answer or an explicit refusal to answer.
    – bdsl
    Aug 15, 2022 at 15:14
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I'd be aware of what frame of reference are you using to decide whether or not you like the job. If there is good experience isn't that something to like? Do you not want to be getting to the job you want?

Be aware that whatever answer you give would open the door to follow-up questions where supervisors and managers may well take note in things said in the heat of the moment. While you may not enjoy the job, would you rather not have it and be stuck somewhere else? If you say that you don't like the job and someone asks, "What don't you like?" are you prepared to plead the fifth and see how that goes over?

I'd be inclined to give an answer that isn't that black and white as if you give the blanket yes, then you could get asked, "What is your favorite part?" that may cause you to rethink what you said.

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If you indicate that you don't "like" a job, that really is a form of complaining. And I can tell you that sometimes people learn the hard way that nothing truly good can come from complaining about a job to a coworker, boss or friend.

Instead of complaining, focus on what you are grateful for and bring up those things when asked. Instead of listing what you don't like, use your response as an opportunity to thank co-workers, customers or even just the work experience itself.

Expressing gratefulness has a side-effect of making you feel better about the situation even if it is something you don't enjoy as a whole. By choosing to focus on the positive aspects, you simultaneously remain truthful and authentic and also avoid negative repercussions.

With your close friends, you might also choose to talk about what your long term goals are rather than what annoys or limits you at your current job.

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Politicians have a standard solution for when they are asked a question they don't want to answer - they truthfully answer a similar question.

In this case, when asked "Do you like your job?" you could answer "What do you like best about your job?". You might, for example, talk about the experience you are gaining in some technology that interests you.

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Should I lie if asked whether I like the job?

This is irrelevant. You are not paid to like your job. You are paid to do your job. Of course if you have some satisfaction while doing it this is a bonus for the company, because you might stay longer and be more motivated, but your happiness is not the goal of your job.

Telling that you are simply here to get another job latter can be seen as manipulative. Because it is. You are using this company to get a better resume. You need to accept that fact and its consequences (not being able to be trully honest).

The workplace is a political place. Total honesty can sometime do you more harm than good. Would you vote for a politician telling you he stole money from your country? (he is being honest here) The image of yourself you give to other people is important.

As a rule of thumb, do not say something that can be detrimental to your image for free. There is no value in it.

If you made a big mistake and someone starts asking if it was you, of course you should say yes and take responsability. But you are not forced to be fully honest (i.e. "Yes I am sorry I made this mistake because I drank too much at a party last night after my girlfriend broke up with me").

For your particular example you can say something like "Even if I don't like some of my day to day tasks, this job is helping me to achieve my long term goals."

It has the advantage of showing that some things could be improved and it does not give unasked details.

You have no reason to tell your long term plan to anyone at your work. They are your colleagues, not your friends or confidants.

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One way to phrase the above is "paying my dues". Some jobs are essential but not enjoyable, and nobody really expects you to enjoy them, but they're really designed to be stepping stones. Nobody expects doctors to enjoy every minute of their residency, but they do expect the doctors to do it and to understand that it is teaching them very important things. There's a lot of grunt work in entry-level politics or legal positions that needs to get done, and is part of the pathway to a fulfilling career.

This only applies to some jobs, but evaluate for yourself whether your industry as a whole views your job as a stepping stone. If so, your answer isn't complaining.

Whether your job is a stepping stone or not, if there are widely understood unpleasant aspects to the job, you can be truthful and still positive by commenting on the unpleasantness but inevitability of those aspects combined with the pieces that are positive for you. Even in a call center you can say "Well, I never like dealing with callers that just scream at me, but I'm glad to be able to help solve people's problems."

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