It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a small apartment will eventually be asked what she does for a living. Or at least that’s my experience. As someone without a significant other or even a pet to gush about, it’s the question people most often revert to on the rare occasion that I leave said tiny apartment for happy hour or a networking event.
And to be fair, it’s kind of the quintessential “adult” question. For some, it’s an open door to brag about accomplishments or show off a sliver of personality. For others, it’s a chance to rant about a terrible boss and all the other things they wish they were doing with their lives. But, for better or for worse, your occupation is something society is going to use to define who you are, whether that definition is accurate or not.
The problem is, my job, like most entry-level office jobs, really isn’t all that interesting. I’m not a rocket scientist or a dolphin trainer. I don’t get to travel internationally or interview famous people. Most days I answer a lot of emails, put data into spreadsheets, and occasionally argue with someone over their punctuation usage. But I love it. I actually, really do. The day-to-day grind can sometimes get monotonous, and those spreadsheets don’t exactly make for exciting happy hour anecdotes. However, even after a year and a half, I’m still as grateful for my job as the day I landed the position.
My reasons may not be glamorous, but they are real. They are consistent. Sometimes stability can be sexy. If you’re one of the millennials doing the 9-to-5 grind and paying your own bills, you should be proud of what you do, no matter what it is. Whenever I’m tempted to downplay my position, I like to give myself a few gentle reminders of why a boring office job can be great.
1. You Like Your Coworkers
This makes all the difference in the world. I’ve had jobs where I loved my coworkers. I’ve also had jobs where I felt like I couldn’t chat with or relate to a single person in the building. When you’re spending 40 hours a week sitting next to someone, it really helps when that person is someone you can talk to without wanting to stab yourself in the eye with a fork. It doesn’t matter if you spend 90% of the time in complete silence staring at your respective computer screens. Being on friendly terms with your office buddies makes the whole atmosphere different.
If you’re at the point that you’ve found a few common interests and even share an inside joke or two without it being super awkward, be grateful for that relationship. These are the people you spend the majority of your waking hours with during the week. It’s a really beautiful thing when you can consider these people your friends.
2. You are Allowed to Feel Independent
Millennials are known to value freedom in the workplace. Relaxed dress codes, the ability to work remotely, the flexibility to choose your own start and end time—these perks might not be as important as salary, but they can certainly help your work/life balance in the long-term. Why should it matter if you are wearing jeans or a pencil skirt if you are just sitting behind a desk all day? And why should it matter if you start at 8 AM or 10 AM if the same emails are going to be waiting anyway?
I don’t have one of those cool jobs that has a gym on site or constantly serves free lunch. However, when you need to be somewhere 5 days a week, just knowing you can show up 15 minutes late without getting berated, or wear your favorite hoodie without raising eyebrows, is a huge perk. And I have no problem with taking advantage of either of these options.
3. You Don’t Feel Pressured to Work a Lot of Overtime
Working 40 hours a week is quite enough. At my last place of employment, I was constantly being pressured to stay late or arrive early to take on extra tasks, all with no reward for the extra work besides not being fired. It was a constant source of stress, to the point that I would wake up in the middle of the night obsessing over all the things I had to do at the office the next day. I rarely slept through the night, even on the weekends. No job is worth sacrificing your mental or physical health. Unless you are literally saving lives, whatever you have to do can wait on your desk from 5 PM one night until 9 AM the next. Busy periods will come and go, but an employer who encourages you to leave on time is worth more than free unlimited coffee.
4. You Have Developed a Routine
This is a job-satisfaction factor that is well-underrated. I don’t think there’s an office worker in existence that doesn’t complain about Monday mornings or cheer for Friday afternoons, but the consistency of my 9-to-5 job has really improved my time management skills, not just in the office, but outside of it as well. Because I start and stop work at the same time every day, I know how much time I have to primp in the mornings, exercise in the evenings, and read or blog before bed. It may not be the most exciting routine ever, but as a person who deals with a lot of anxiety, knowing I have a slotted time to deal with and balance different aspects of my life is essential.
The balance also goes for money and budgeting. The same amount of money comes in every month, and the same amount goes for paying rent and other monthly bills. This leaves me with the exact same amount to divvy up between savings, entertainment, and other random expenses. Stability really is sexy, and the routine holds it all together.
5. Your Job Isn’t Your Entire Life
I didn’t spend my last work week finding a cure for cancer, or writing the next great American novel, or taste testing Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I have no doubt there will be someone at my next happy hour who does one of those three (or perhaps all of the above) and wants to brag about it. That’s OK. Because my job is just a small part of my total existence. It allows me to pay the bills, but it also gives me the time and resources to be who I really am: someone who reads a lot, and who likes baking and going to the theater, and who is saving for her next trip to Europe. At the end of the day, if I’m able to enjoy all of those things and still love my day job, then I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
Although if someone out there could get me in at Ben and Jerry’s, please call me.