For most of us, being a young means working in a bottom-rung, “unskilled” casual job for a period of time in order to fund our studies, travel, hobbies and (possibly) excessive partying. Hospitality, retail and customer service are the classic examples. Here’s how to survive a job you hate.
Some argue that this kind of menial work is degrading and we should refuse to do it. This is an understandable position, as it can feel as though our skills and talents are being wasted on flipping burgers. It can also feel like we are selling our days away to do meaningless work in order to make a profit for “the man”, which is often true to some extent.
However, the problem with this argument is that it is unavoidable that society needs someone to clean the toilets and restock the shelves (at least until technology advances to the point where it does it for us). Given this fact, it seems fair that we all pitch in and assist with the dirty work at some point in our lives. This is certainly better than leaving it up to certain classes and races as has historically been the case. Considered in this light, it makes sense to accept that awful job.
In my call centre job, I spend all day reading a script at people and trying to sell them things that aren’t going to make their lives any better, but will make their bank accounts much worse off. For me, it’s very unfulfilling. However, its flexibility and good pay makes it a perfect job for a student. It would be unwise of my to quit – especially when I’m so close to saving enough for that Europe trip!
I know that I am lucky to have a job like this at this point in my life. But how should we approach trying to endure these long hours that seem intolerable?
Even the worst of jobs can become enjoyable when you’re buddies with the people around you. Be enthusiastic about getting to know your coworkers early on. Seeing friends gives you a reason to look forward to work. You have someone who will empathise you when you have had to deal with a nasty customer and someone who will crack a joke to lighten those dark days stuck in the office.
Keep your eyes on the prize
One more hour is a few dollars closer to that weekend trip to Prague/funding my startup business/[insert your goal here]. Think of the money and visualise your expanding bank account. Remind yourself that after a number of months/years you will be able to quit this job and move on to the life projects that you really care about, whether they be travel, education, volunteering or a new field of work.
I don’t mean just turning up on time. I mean actually being present and mindfully aware throughout the day. Don’t spend the whole time daydreaming about where you’d rather be. Although daydreams can be uplifting in moderation, be careful not to miss out on the good that can be found in the here and now. Don’t miss it by losing yourself inside your own mind. This is also means trying not to check the time every minute, but involving yourself in the work you’re doing. Not only will this make the time go faster, it is likely to make it more enjoyable.
Try to do a good job
The work may feel pointless and tedious, but there is always the opportunity for doing your best and going the extra mile. Not only is this going to please your boss (pay rise, anyone?) and your customers, it’s also a great way to develop self-discipline and humility. Working hard at whatever is in front of you is a sign of integrity and conscientiousness. This will benefit you in the long run, even if it may go unnoticed initially.
Pack a yummy lunch
Along with seeing your friends, having some good food to look forward to puts something positive into your day. Do not hesitate to spend all of the previous evening preparing lunch to take to that eight-hour shift. A healthy, tasty lunch will motivate you to make it to the lunch break, and energise you for the rest of the day. When all other strategies fail, good food is guaranteed to boost your mood.
Recharge in the evenings and during your breaks
Do whatever you need to do to get through the next period of work. Forget whatever is happening at the office. To quote the eternal wisdom of Queen Elsa: “LET IT GO, LET IT GOOOOO.” Refuel by taking a walk, chatting with friends, drinking tea, reading, meditating, watching Youtube videos, whatever. Make the most of the time that belongs to you. Take every break you’re entitled to and enjoy every second of it.
Formulate your escape plan
As this is a temporary job, the time will come to leave. Prepare you finances and get ready to notify your boss that you’ll be outta there soon. Start looking for a new position elsewhere. Do not end up like a colleague of mine who is still working at the call centre a year after graduating from a law degree. Although it may seem unthinkable to stay there a minute longer then necessary, it’s easy to get comfortable in a familiar job. It can be scary to move on, but undeniably worth it.
A version of this article was originally published on Hijacked.