How to Be an Awesome Employee In a Less-Than-Awesome Job
Let’s face it: some of us aren’t exactly living our dream jobs. In fact, for many of us, our feelings towards our jobs range somewhere on the scale of “mildly dislike” to “stab me in the eyeball.”
Maybe your current job is just a placeholder while you figure out what you really want to do. Maybe it looked good on paper, but now that you’ve got into it, you realize it isn’t for you. Maybe you’re planning your escape, but for now, you need something to pay the bills [raises hand here]. Whatever the case, you are where you are, so for now, you have to figure out how to deal with that.
So, how do you deal with that? There are two simple options: A) Show up, put in your time, do the minimum, and collect your paycheck; or, B) Rock it like it’s hot.
Me? I’m an advocate of Option B. Here’s why:
If you know this job isn’t for you, if you’re out the door the instant it become feasible, why care how much effort you put into it? What does it really matter?
It’s a heck of a lot of time. Most of us spend around 40 hours of our lives every week at work. That’s an awful lot of time to be disgruntled and miserable. You owe it to yourself to make the best of your circumstances, if for nothing else than your own sanity.
Being half-assed never made anyone happy. After a while, being mediocre doesn’t do anything to increase your self-confidence, your self-image, or your day to day happiness. Most of us want to do things well. Being a half-assed version of yourself only makes your situation feel worse. Why not rise above and at least be happy in yourself, if you can’t be happy in your situation?
Everything is a learning opportunity. Sure, making the coffee may never lead to a corner office, but even the most mundane of jobs is an opportunity to build your skill set. My crappy phone survey job in high school taught me people skills (and patience) that I use constantly now to handle touchy clients and diffuse stressful situations. Rather than seeing your job as merely a series of tasks you have to do get your paycheck, look at it as a chance to get some practice in for bigger and better things. See what you can get from it. Use it for all it’s worth.
The best “F you!” is a cheerful attitude. If none of the positive angles above does it for you, and you’re still itching to stick it to The Man, consider this: the best way to stick it to The Man is to refuse to let him get you down. Resenting your job and grumbling your way through the day just gives your job power over you. Don’t let it. Determine to be happy, upbeat, and optimistic, and you’re already one step closer to freeing yourself.
Okay, so that’s the case for the why. Now let’s get to the how.
5 Ways to Rock That Crappy Job
Let go of resentment. Let go right now of the better job you could be at, the way you wish your boss would treat you, the hundred better things you should be doing with your time. You are where you are. So, what are you going to do with it?
Be the best little worker you can be. Collate those copies like it’s an Olympic sport. Make your Power Point presentation the snazziest anyone’s ever seen. Not to impress anyone, not because your job is “worth it,” but for you. Because you deserve to be your best self. You deserve to take pride in your work, even if the job itself is less than ideal.
Find satisfaction in doing a good job. I’ve started to cultivate an almost Zen-like attitude towards the simple act of doing things well, and finding satisfaction in that. My job may not have much personal meaning to me, but I do get satisfaction from knowing at the end of each day that I’ve done everything to the best of my ability. I like getting my work done faster than people expected. I like turning a pile of rampant paperwork into neat, orderly files. It’s not the deep, soul-fulfilling satisfaction I hope to one get from my dream job, but it’s something. It makes me feel like my days aren’t entirely wasted.
Be a ray of sunshine. So many workplaces are dens of negativity and defeatism. People have meltdowns over copier jams. Office politics breed resentment and gossip. A common answer to “How was your weekend“ is an Eeyore-like “Not long enough…” Rise above all that. Come in with a smile on your face, be genuinely nice to your coworkers, and radiate the sense that the world isn’t such a dreary place after all. You’d be amazed how much better your day feels when your attitude doesn’t suck. And if you can make some of the people around you a little happier, too, then that’s bonus points for you.
Have a life outside of work. You may be stuck doing a job you don’t love, but your free hours are still your own. And the more you really make those hours yours, the easier it is to get through another day at the office. Start a hobby, join a club, pursue a dream on your evenings and weekends, and suddenly the hours spent at work don’t seem so be-all and end-all. You have something to look forward to at the end of the day. You have something that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. Maybe your hobby could even lead to that bigger, better job that you’re waiting for. Don’t let yourself fall into the routine of slumping home to watch TV till bedtime. That’s what so many people do with their unhappiness at work, and that’s why so many people are still stuck. You’re better than that. And you know it.
If you’re one of us currently in less-than-perfect jobs, what tips or tricks do you have for approaching your work day? How do you rise above your circumstances and make the most of things?
Kelly Gurnett, a.k.a. “Cordelia,” runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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