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How to Get More Out of the Entry-Level Job You Hate

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bored at the office

So you’ve graduated, landed that full-time salary with benefits, been assigned your cubicle and finally enrolled in that fire-eating class you’ve been eying because hey, you’ve got health insurance now!

You’ve got what so many want. But why aren’t you happy?

As anyone with a heartbeat may have noticed, the job market has changed in the past decade. If you’re like most newly graduated job seekers, your first job is outside your ideal field. You know you don’t want to be here forever. But it’s hard to stomach that you’re spending your days not advancing your skill set or developing experience in the field you really love.

What’s a sharp, driven, gold-star employee like you to do? The answer is simple, though its implementation may take more thought: seize opportunity!

If you have no clue what that might mean, following are just a few of the many ways you can make the most out of your less-than-ideal position:

1. Volunteer to take on even more work

Although it sounds about as fun as smashing your hand in a car door, making work for yourself can be beneficial.

Do you work in programming but wish you worked in marketing? Offer to initiate or help design a new marketing strategy for an upcoming program. If you’re interested in research, offer to do an analysis of your own department’s outputs, which can supplement any existing analysis done by your organization.

Does your company already have a marketing or research department? Offer to act as a representative for your own department in the interest of collaboration. Putting to use skills you already have and want to enhance will allow you to shine. Plus, taking on this work will help you build your portfolio, CV or resume.

2. Ask your employee to pay to enhance your skills

If projects aren’t available or are only available on the “upper-level management” menu, try to locate potential for skill development. Numerous companies and organizations incentivize earning an additional degree or certificate. Many even offer financial assistance or will pay for your education.

If school is too much of a time commitment or a financial burden, look into skill set training. Companies often have funds set aside for professional development, and it never hurts to ask. Inquire about software training, conferences, seminars or local workshops. Do your research on these options, and prepare reasons as to why these trainings will benefit the company.

If these opportunities aren’t available, inquire about the possibility of sitting in as a support person on an upcoming project. You can begin garnering skills you may not already have. You can even develop these during your time off by checking out skill-building and educational websites like Code School and Coursera.

3. Play nice with every employee, no matter their status

OK, so maybe projects aren’t easily grabbed where you work, there’s no professional development budget and your supervisor runs a ship so tight you have to ask for bathroom breaks, let alone the chance to branch into other divisions.

Networking is a fantastic and accessible way to enhance your career potential, even if it’s not immediate. Engage with the people you work with. Offer to go to lunch, coffee or conferences with your fellow employees, and take this time to make personal (yet professional) connections.

And don’t only shoot for only high-level employees or even just the people in your own office. You never know when the administrative assistant you used to pal around with will accept a position as the director of resource development at a leading financial firm.

Having to climb the ladder one step at a time can be frustrating, but trying to find ways to speed up that climb will help alleviate some of that aggravation. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)

Still not convinced you can do it? Charyn Pfeuffer outlines four individuals who did. The key is to remember to challenge yourself while simultaneously giving yourself grace; you’re doing the best you can.

Sarah Colomé, M.S. is an educator, advocate and the SOARS Booking Director for A Long Walk Home, Inc. Based in Chicago, Sarah has traveled both nationally and internationally as a competitive collegiate public speaker and teaches on topics related to social justice and diversity, health education, sexual violence and persuasive speaking.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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    It would be convenient and effective here, more modern life, more and more real change, people constantly create new things. Everything seems to be increasingly more difficult, really thank the share of the post.

  • Adrienne

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I really agree with the “take on more work” aspect. Not only does it create the opportunity for you to learn more and communicate your long-term career interests to your employer, but it showcases your work ethic and ability to see the bigger picture. In my experience, less than 1 in 10 individuals is willing to really go the extra mile, but those that do are really able to differentiate themselves with that approach – as long as they are continuing to excel in their primary role.

    Adrienne
    Career Catalyst