Congratulations: You’ve successfully transitioned from lifelong “Student” to the somewhat scary and more mature “Young Professional.” This is an exciting time in your life and the new independence can be exhilarating.
But what do you do when the job you’re in isn’t “the one?” When you don’t jump out of bed every morning, excited to go to work and tackle the day? If you’re not a great fit for your job or company, or the job/company isn’t the right fit for you, your feelings can range from apathy to boredom to frustration. And the difficult part about starting your career is that your life isn’t as customizable as it used to be. In college you select your major, your extra-curricular activities, and if you’re as strategic as I was, you can plan a schedule with no classes on Friday and end up with a delicious 3-day weekend. But once you get a job, you’re supposed to feel very grateful to have one, no matter what it’s like. When a job isn’t “the one,” this can be really challenging. But no matter what your situation is, there are always lessons to learn in any career situation.
1. Learn what you can, where you can.
Nowadays, our generation can expect to change jobs, and even change industries, many times during the length of our careers. Even if something that you’re learning to do in your current job seems small or boring, you never know when you may need to use that skill again. The ability to learn quickly and apply your knowledge is a skill transferable in any industry.
2. Take advantage of the situation you’re in.
Your office may be part of the open-office trend, which makes privacy hard to come by. But think about all of the new friends that you can make that sit only a few feet away from you everyday. On the flip side, your office may be very quiet and secluded, which could help you focus and get work done quickly, giving you more team for your after work activities. It’s all about perspective.
3. Determine what’s important to you in a job, and in life.
Perhaps the hardest part of working at a job you don’t love is that you may not know exactly what you do love just yet. Use this experience to determine what’s most important to you when looking for a new job. Is it important for you to work in a fun, team-oriented environment? Or is it important to have the ability to work from home? What parts of the day do you most look forward to: solving a problem on your own or team meetings? Ask yourself these sorts of questions, identify the tasks that you enjoy doing, and think about how certain tasks make you feel throughout the day. This can help guide your search to make sure your next job is a great fit.
4. Just because college is over doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of extra-curricular activities.
Some of the most important lessons I learned in college weren’t in the classroom, but in leadership meetings with my peers. Use your free time to explore and discover what lights your fire. Volunteer for causes you care about or pursue a passion or skill that you may never had the time to devote to before. Take a cooking class or learn how to code using free online services like Code Academy. Not only will you be able to spend part of your day doing something you love, but this time outside of work can be just as conducive to developing skills and building your resume as time in the office.
5. The rest of your free time? Make it YOU time.
What are the things that really make you happy? Start by thinking about what you used to do in your free time when you were a kid. Then schedule those things into whatever amount of free time you have. Write it down in your calendar. You-time is just as important as your other obligations and responsibilities. Whether that means scheduling a workout every day, treating yourself to a nice home-cooked meal, or coming home to a DIY face mask and a pedicure, it’s important to take the time to take care of yourself. Fill your week with things to look forward to like happy hour or a Skype date with a friend. Your job may suck the energy out of you, but that doesn’t mean that after hours it should do the same. When you leave work, let the stress and bad juju roll of your shoulders.