With people spending so many of their waking hours at work, who wouldn’t want to love what they do and where they work? Well, if you’re one of the lucky ones who finds a sense of self-fulfillment from their current work situations, I commend you. But I’m not one of those people.
Like many college students, I had several internships during school — both to cover some of my expenses and to gain some real-world experience. After I graduated with a liberal arts degree, I couldn’t find work in my field right away, so I looked for a job in an industry that was “in demand.” Which all led me to my present job in healthcare as an office admin. From my first day of training, I knew that I was far out of my comfort zone on this one, but I was up for the challenge. And like most millennials, I needed the work.
It took a lot of patience and adjustment before I began to feel more comfortable with my colleagues, workload, and workspace itself. Here are the four lessons that I learned from the job I hate, which have each allowed me to cultivate a better work environment for myself.
1. Relationships with coworkers
Before I started at my company, I had worked a corporate job before and had found the workplace to be very inclusive and cooperative. With that in mind, I suppose I was rather surprised to find just how different this work environment ended up being. I found myself in a workplace with very chatty, and at times catty, coworkers. They had worked at this company for a long time and formed their own established cliques.
Being quite a reserved and introverted person, it became evident early on that I would likely not be forming lasting friendships with any of them. So I had to learn to subtly navigate social situations, such as not being pulled into the gossiping that often takes place around the coffee station. Most importantly, I learned to walk the fine line of participating in friendly conversation without oversharing. Every workplace has its own interoffice politics and dynamics that can take time to adjust to, and for me, patience was key.
2. Physical space
While I may have dreams about having a beautiful corner office with a view someday, my current workspace is far from that, with not even a window to let in any natural light. Yet over my time at the company, I’ve learned a few tricks on how to tweak my physical work environment that allow me to be more productive and feel generally more uplifted. This may be different for everyone — some may like to have photos of family and friends, others may opt to include a small little plant to bring some life into their space. Whether you are fortunate to have a nice office, work from home, or occupy a cubicle (me), doing a little something to make the space your own can help cultivate a more enjoyable work environment for yourself.
3. Make workload manageable
As with any job, there are points where “you do what you gotta do” to get it done. That saying nicely sums up the general approach that I take into many parts of my life — work included. You may not always feel excited about every work project or team meeting, but with a little energy and motivation, you get the job done. With my current job, I found that I began with motivation, lost it, and had to find a way to get it back. My drive faded rather quickly as the mountain of paperwork on my desk got slowly higher and as my work days got longer and longer. All the while, I began to notice how my coworkers would come back from lunch at first 10 minutes late, then 20, and yet still always managed to leave sharply at 5 each day.
In many workplaces, it is common to find the newest addition being assigned a lot of loose ends of projects or miscellaneous tasks in addition to their standard duties. I’ve always viewed this as an excellent opportunity to get a good rundown of the office. Unfortunately, in my case, it went far beyond that, with my desk ending up as a dumping ground for everything left over that others just didn’t want to do. I was all for paying my dues, but after a few months, I decided that things needed to change. I couldn’t keep up anymore, so I arranged an informal meeting with my supervisor to review the situation. While it is, of course, necessary to do your job, when employers or coworkers begin to push beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, you must protect yourself and your rights as an employee. One of the best decisions I made was standing up for myself and making my voice heard — the only regret I have is not having done it sooner.
4. Talk to someone who knows their stuff
What if you find yourself in a similar situation to my own and feel that you are far from finding your “dream job,” and on some days find yourself mentally drafting your resignation letter? My initial advice in most cases is to take a few moments to just breathe. I cannot count the number of times I have locked myself away in the bathroom to get a few moments of silence during a long workday, often feeling like such a failure at life. It happens to everyone at one point or another — you are not alone. I have found through what feels like much trial and error that it is so important to develop techniques on how to effectively handle one’s own stress in a healthy way. So through the recommendation of a friend, I starting talking to a counselor and career coach. They really helped me gain some perspective on my current work situation and advice on how to work on getting where I wanted to be career-wise. I would often get so caught up in the day-to-day of the office that I would forget to plan for the future by investing time in myself as well. This position was meant to act as a jumping off point — it is not going to be my end game.
While I toughen it out for the foreseeable future at my current job, much-needed coffee in hand, I’m always keeping a sharp eye on the horizon for a new opportunity to come my way. I will never forget the lessons that I’ve learned so far and the many more that I’m sure are soon to come. I’m just going to keep on moving forward until one day I really can put that resignation on my boss’ desk with a huge smile on my face no doubt.
The author prefers to remain anonymous.
Image via Unsplash