Congratulations! You landed a job. Maybe you even thought this was going to be your dream job… but it’s turning out not to be at all what you thought you wanted.
Don’t worry, you’re definitely not the only one who ends up feeling this way. The difference between barely surviving the work day to actually thriving is in your control more than you might think. Of course there are times when it’s just not the right fit, and you may want to consider a program to help you transition to something else.
But sometimes you can make some tweaks to your actions and your outlook that will make all the difference. Regardless of whether you ultimately stay or go, here are some things you can do to make that not-so-great job into something awesome!
- Change your attitude. You have to want to make the situation better for yourself; it won’t happen on its own. Recognize it for what it is, but turn your focus toward what you could still get out of the experience by allowing yourself to see it as a building block to your ultimate career. There are a small number of people who magically will land their dream job after college. For the rest of us, your first job is the probably best option you have at graduation. Not liking it is normal, what you do with it makes the difference!
- Step back and evaluate. Chances are you don’t hate everything about the job. Take a step back, reflect and make a list of specific things you love about the job, things you could learn to like and things you definitely do not like. What does your list look like? I can guarantee there are some components you do love or want to like, otherwise you would not be here. When I got out of school, I got a job as an underwriter at an insurance company. Unbeknownst to me it required a lot of sales. I had done everything I could while job hunting to make sure I didn’t end up in a sales job because I was such an introvert! Instead of giving up, I did my own reflection. I realized I loved creative problem solving, analyzing information, making tough risk decisions and helping others. I also had a really good boss and was in an industry that was recession-proof. Once I focused on the positive aspects, work became a much better place for me.
- Find opportunities to do more of what you love. Tell your manager and co-workers! They can’t read your mind. Talk about what you love and ask them to keep a look-out for projects where you know you will shine. You never know what comes out of the woodwork when you let others know what you want. I turned out to be a really good underwriter (minus the sales part) and because of the expertise I developed focusing on what I did well, I was the go-to person my coworkers approached when they were stuck with their work.
- Learn more about the things you don’t like. Often times we don’t like something because we don’t understand it or we just don’t know how to do it well. There will be parts of your job you don’t like, but you’ll have to do anyway. Again, this is where attitude comes into play. Why not commit yourself to learn and understand the task when you’re doing it instead of focusing on how much you don’t want to do it. This is an area where you will grow the most from! I ended up leaving underwriting to pursue a different position that didn’t require sales. Many years down the road, I was able to finally make the connection that sales was really about relationship building, listening to the customer and understanding their needs. If I had given myself time and energy to understand more about how sales is about relationships more so than selling things, I would’ve kicked ass! Turns out it’s not much different than leadership coaching.
- Relationships, relationships, relationships. No matter your feelings about a job, it is always important to build relationships with the people around you. They’re the people you spend most of your time with and you never know when you might need them in the future. Even beyond your everyday job, find ways to meet people outside your area. I took opportunities to run the recruiting team at my first job and volunteered through work whenever I could. It gave me the opportunity to take a break from my desk and also meet a variety of people across the company. I was able to do things like run a workshop with our top human resources executive. He was responsible for 30,000 employees, yet he knew me by name after that day. I also met people in other functions and it came in handy when I needed to get things done. Like the guy from finance who was an Excel master. (Pro-tip: Always find a friend who knows Excel really well.)
- Walk-away. You can only try so much and it’s important to be happy at your job. If you can’t find ways to make it work, you have to be able to walk-away. Quitting a job is much harder than you think, even when you don’t like it. When you’re faced with the choice, it could be easy to justify staying. The fear of the unknown often prevents people from leaving something they’re familiar with. I know this first hand. I didn’t leave my first job when I should’ve, I stayed an extra 2 years after I knew it wasn’t right anymore. My last year there was miserable and it affected all areas of my life leading me to depression. I often ask myself how far I’d be in my career if I had the courage to leave earlier. And I’m telling you, it’s not worth it to stay where you know you don’t belong!
At the end of the day, it’s up to you how you want to show up everyday at work. You’re going to spend a significant amount of your waking hours working, so best to do everything in your power to enjoy them!
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