How to Make the Most Out of a Job You Dislike [Part I]

2:30 PM

You graduate high school, go to university, get the bachelor’s degree of your dreams and then jump on the job hunting wagon. You get called up for the interview and end up landing the job. You’re winning at life. That is until reality hits you like a train: you hate your job.

Suddenly, waking up everyday is a toll. Entering the office is like a cold water bath (unless you like cold water, then it’s a very hot water bath). It is really difficult to concentrate and find motivation when all you are doing is fantasizing about winning the lottery so you can flee that place and never look back.

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Being at a job you dislike can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health if you don’t approach it the right way. You could lose/gain weight, develop anxiety, wrong eating habits, depression, and so on. The truth is, it has happened to all of us, or at least to the majority of recent college graduates. You land the job you thought you wanted and when it turns out to be a nightmare, you question every single decision you took since you graduated high school. Did I choose the right career? Am I not made for this? Is it me or is it just this place?

First of all, you CAN. You are MADE for whatever it is that you set yourself to. It is very easy to lose confidence when a job didn’t turn out to be what you wanted. You start questioning and blaming yourself, thinking you are the reason why things are not as you planned. This lack of confidence will affect your performance, thus sending your stability downhill. So no, you’re not what is wrong. But what is it then? How do you deal with it?

You may have school debts and bills to pay, so handling in your 2-week notice and move to a desert island might not be the right move (just yet). Instead, do the following:

  1. Analyze what is it that you really hate – chances are you don’t hate your career choice, you just feel underwhelmed about your tasks, your voice isn’t being heard, or you work in a toxic environment that is sucking the life out of you. Acknowledging what is the source of your stress will help you decide how to deal with it.
  2.  Take immediate, short-term action – depending on what is making you feel down, you can work towards little changes that will help you calm the waters until bigger steps can be taken. Here are some examples:

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Problem #1: Feeling underwhelmed about your tasks

Solution: Start doing a little extra to demonstrate your capabilities. Old-school bosses have a hard time delegating tasks so if you show off the difference you can make, it might be easier for them to delegate more difficult assignments to you.
Problem #2: Your voice isn’t being heard

Solution: It can be very frustrating when you speak up and it’s like you’re talking to the wall. What you can do is pay attention to how you say things. 

These two will be your allies: facts and solutions. When you voice your thoughts, make sure to base your point on facts. Give examples of how other companies have done what you’re suggesting and how successful they were. Likewise, rather than just pointing out why this or that is a problem, present a solution. Complains without solutions will appear as mere whining, even if you are right. Actually suggesting what to do about it will present you as a mature adult.

Problem #3: Toxic environment

Solution: Don’t let things get to you. It’s easy to get drained when you work with nosy, opinionated, whining co-workers. Limit the chat time and put a stop on people, listen to some music, create a space where you are comfortable. Even if you work in an annex, there’s a chance you can put up a photo of your pet, a little succulent, or a countdown to an event you’re looking forward to. Toxic environments can intoxicate you as much or as little as you let them to. Once you set parameters, you are in control.

3. Gain experience – when you do the same everyday, it may be difficult to realize you’re actually getting experience that will help you develop skills you didn’t know you needed. Sending those emails with suggestions to your boss knowing he won’t read them shows leadership and perseverance. Working in last-minute tasks shows you’re efficient. Answering the phone when nobody wants to, helps you develop customer service skills. Hating on the absurd things that happen along with your co-workers shows you’re a team player. Okay, maybe not that one. But you get the idea.

Photo © Krystel Sierra

4. Do things that empower you – your office job may control 8 hours of your day, but what about the rest? Look for activities you enjoy and do them, read a book, learn a new language, go to the movies, binge-watch a TV show, paint, listen to music. Find what makes you happy and do them after work. That way you will always have something to get you through the day, something to look forward to. I love watching The Office (the irony right?), listening to music, take online courses and finally started learning French.
Goslar, Germany | Photo © Krystel Sierra

5. Accomplish a dream or two – your early twenties are probably the best years to treat yourself. Without kids or huge responsibilities, it is the best moment to save some money and do what you have always dreamed of. This is specially true if you want to later move into a career job with more responsibilities and less free time. What I did? I traveled Europe with my sister. We visited Madrid, San Sebastián, Toledo in Spain; Bordeaux and Paris in France; Brugges in Belgium, Amsterdam in the Netherlands; Hannover, Goslar, Postdam and Berlin in Germany. We made great friends and saw so many beautiful places it was worth saving money for a long time! I also spend money on concerts and even cruised on PARAHOY.
This has been part 1 of a 2-part series. Check out part 2 here.

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