Not everyone has their dream job. (Now there's an understatement.) Whether it's a shortage of opportunities, a lack of experience, or simply the need to pay the bills, sometimes we have to put in mundane hours at a job we don't love. But that doesn't mean you have to be miserable.
JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, advised, "The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does." While some jobs are certainly worse than others, the level of drudgery depends significantly on our attitude about it. Here are a few ways that you can improve your day-to-day experience:
- Take advantage of breaks: Dive into a novel, or write your own novel, or fill your lunch hour with things that inspire and excite you. Short escapes can add color and light to monotonous work days.
- Talk to the people who have the job you want: Without being disruptive, talk to colleagues about their work, learn the jargon, examine the process. People like to talk about themselves, and what you learn may help put you on a path to your dream job.
- Show initiative, not just interest: My friend had a temp job with an athletic gear company. He wanted to get into web coding, so he talked to the coders, asked questions. Most importantly, he studied code at home, so his questions were relevant and particular. The coders noticed, and when they needed to hire for an entry-level position, they skipped the job posting and hired my friend because they had seen first-hand how he was committed to learning.
- Look for ways to improve how the job gets done: Pay attention to the process as you work and look for a better way to do it. Don't assume that your way is the best way (there's probably a reason the company does it this way) but process improvements often come from simple observations. Big-picture focus can make the little things feel more important.
- Avoid negative thoughts and negative people: It can be cathartic to vent your job-related frustrations with coworkers, but that also reinforces those frustrations – and may further fuel the fire.
The bottom line is this: If you have to be there anyway, make the most of it. Focus on the good things about your job, try to connect with positive people, and look for ways to make it more enjoyable. Most of all, remember that working a job you don't love today doesn't mean you are stuck there forever. Make time in your off-hours to learn new skills, network with people in the field you're interested in, and strive for something more satisfying. It's up to you to make that happen.