By Tara Corpuz
We all know it. We’ve all lived it. We’ve all hated it.
The job that you can slowly feel crushing your soul and withering your will to live. Chances are, it’s one of the first few jobs you’ve had out of college, and you suffer through because you’re—as everyone says nowadays—paying your dues. It might be the only place you could find that would hire you, it might be a stepping stone that will kinda sorta get you to where you need to be, or it might have once been your sought-after “dream job,” one you’ve slowly begun to realize is not dreamy, nor where you intend to be for the rest of your life.
It’s cool. Take comfort in the knowledge that almost every single working person on the planet has been through what you’re currently going through: the daily mantra of “I hate my job.”
Before you throw in the towel with a mix of expletives and arm flourishes, leaving gasps and wide eyes from your co-workers in your wake, take a few deep breaths and try these tips. If not for the sake of your good name and your career, then at least for the sake of your sanity.
Use your down time wisely.
Unless you’re a robot (or your employer expects you to be one), you get down time: lunches, breaks, trips to the bathroom, coffee runs. Allow yourself the opportunity to check-out during this time and not think about work or your hatred thereof.
Pull out your phone during lunch and laugh at those funny YouTube videos you know are waiting in your subscription tab. Plug your headphones in while you head to the bathroom and continue your audiobook or podcast or 58th replay of T-Swift’s 1989.
While you’re in the bathroom and done with your business, get in a couple of good stretches. Take deep breaths and feel the stretch in your side, your hips, your back, your arms, or wherever else you might be carrying tension. These are breaks. Use them to your advantage and let it all go. That way, when it’s time to check back in, you’re refreshed.
Prep for the Dream Job.
So, this isn’t your dream job. Great. Now what?
Now, you plan.
If you don’t know what you really want to do, hit up the library and grab those career books. Pour through them and write down what sparks your fancy. Keep that list with you (I’m a fan of the notes app on my phone) and add to it when you come across something that makes you stop and think, “Huh. That could be cool.” I was watching 13 Going on 30 when I realized Jennifer Garner’s character was the editor of a magazine and it sounded really interesting. (It took me a few more years to realize I wanted to edit books, not magazines, but that singular point of inspiration hasn’t changed.)
Now do your research. Once you’ve figured out an industry you’d like to explore—or you’re already in the industry but just not the right job or career track—research the skills needed for the job you really want.
After you’ve gathered all your information, think about this: what can you gain at your current job that will benefit you down the line? Look at your current situation as a paid opportunity to gain skills, experience, great interview stories, kick-ass references, or more.
Remember why you’re there.
You know those jobs that feel like the content is put before the creator? The kind where you feel as though you can’t take a day off, can’t call in sick, you’re always on a deadline, always tasked with something that can’t wait? I’ve had one of those, and to get through the day, I printed out the photo below and put it up in a spot where only I could see it in my cubicle. It was my daily reminder of who I am and what my worth really is.
It got me through the day.
We all need those. It doesn’t have to be a hidden photo; it could be a daily reminder that you set on your phone or mark private in your calendar in Outlook. It could be as simple as a post-it you stick on your monitor with one or two words—words only you know the meaning of. There is a reason you’re still at that job, and it’s okay to remind yourself of that when you need it.
Scan the seas and keep a weathered eye on the horizon.
I may or may not have recently re-watched the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but the advice is true. (Arrr.)
By now, you should have an idea of why you are at your place of employment, what you’re looking forward to, and how to take advantage of every moment you’re given. All that can begin to waste away, however, if you stay where you are long after it’s time to leave. Don’t let that be you.
Turn off the “Notify your network?” switch in your profile on LinkedIn and get started on sprucing it up. Focus on making yourself employable and your skill set attractive—particularly to your dream job employer. Keep yourself current so that even if you find the need to throw in the towel unexpectedly, you can job search without the added stress of updating your resume and figuring out who to send those cover letters to.
Be patient and keep an eye on those job apps. Something that might be the perfect next step just may come through, and you don’t want to miss it when it does.
Leave with a bang.
This one may be the hardest bit to play out, but it’s important you leave your current place of employment (or transfer within the company) with grace and good feelings. If you find yourself in a niche industry that talks, it’s too easy to become the person that’s talked about—and not in a good way.
Take deep breaths and keep your head up high. Let your superiors know your next move when it’s the right time, and never blame them. Finish your projects and leave everything clean and calm. You want to know your employer is spreading the words of “team player” and “always reliable,” not “poor attitude” and “lacks initiative.”
Remember, your reputation and career are not their responsibility. It’s yours. Take care of it, always.
Tara sees and appreciates all colors, but jewel-tones are her most flattering. With a degree in English Literature and a certificate in Book Publishing, she was bound to be surrounded in words for the rest of her life. It’s OK though, because that’s the way she likes it. An Alaskan by birth, she’s revving up to embrace her future Boston transplant status, where she’ll be bringing her clothes, her books, her dog, and her ideas. Follow her on Twitter @taracorpuz.