You’re feeling bored, uninspired, unappreciated, cranky and just can’t wait to get the heck out of there. You drag yourself out of bed most mornings, dread going to work and can’t stand your boss. Maybe you’ve been DREAMING of being your own boss, training for a new career in your spare time or focusing on a side gig that’s starting to show promise. But what do you do in the meantime? How do you survive a job that you hate?
Well it IS possible to survive and dare I say, even thrive, in a job you can’t stand. You just need to have the right mindset and some strategies to turn that awful job into an opportunity to position yourself for future success.
Here are my top 10 tips to not only survive but thrive until you are able make your corporate escape:
1.) Shift your focus
The first and most important thing is to actually have a GOAL in mind to escape your current job. So, whether it’s switching to another job or being your own boss, identify your goal upfront. Then the next step is working towards that goal. It doesn’t matter what the timeline is. Whether you are planning to make a shift in 6 months or 2 years, the point is that you have a goal and you’re planning to execute on it sometime in the future. Next, develop an escape plan and timeline. Finally, the last step is to FOCUS on that goal. Every day that you come to work, you should be thinking about how you’re going to use your workday to get closer to it. If you focus on your ultimate goal rather than the temporary situation that you’re in, you will feel better and the days won’t seem so long and endless
2.) Focus on skill development
The next strategy is to focus on developing the skills that are going to make you more valuable in your next job or career. For example, if your dream career involves public speaking, use your workplace to develop that skill. Start volunteering to speak at company events and conferences so you can practice and hone that skill. If your ideal job is to be an event planner, find ways to plan events for your company so you can learn the ropes. If you’re thinking of being your own boss, this is a good time to learn about things that you might need to initially do yourself as a solopreneur (the activities that maybe you’ve got other people doing for you like website development or email marketing). Remember, where focus goes, energy flows. If you focus on developing skills rather than “serving time” the time in that temporary job will go much more quickly.
3.) Get as much training as you can (on them!)
Many companies will invest in training their employees. Take advantage of it! If your current position involves online marketing and you’re planning on selling t-shirts online in the future, consider asking your manager for training on WordPress. This example would be a win-win because it will benefit you in your current job and your future business. If your company offers education benefits, use them to make yourself more marketable. Even if it’s a small amount, you can potentially take a class at a community college or even online. As an example, many of the people in my coaching classes were HR professionals whose companies paid for a coaching certification program so they could eventually use those skills in their current positions.
4.) Test and learn so you can use those learnings in your own business
Working for someone else is a great time to test and learn using someone else’s budget. Like I said in my previous blog, I’m not asking you to try all sorts of crazy things with your boss’ budget but there is something to be said for the learnings that you can gain taking risks for someone else. If, let’s say, your current position focuses on digital marketing, all that SEO, email and social media knowledge will definitely come in handy when you start your own business. So, learn what works and what doesn’t because if you take notes now, it will benefit you in the long-run!
5.) Try to make your current position as comfortable as possible
Since you have to be there anyway, try to make your job more bearable. Maybe you can negotiate a work from home scenario with your manager (even just a few days a week) so that you have less distractions and can save yourself that long commute. If there are activities that you just can’t stand doing, talk to your manager and try and delegate them to someone else. Instead, focus on the projects that you enjoy. If you are eating at your desk every day and never leave the office—go outside to eat lunch! Sitting at your desk all day staring at a computer screen isn’t going to make the time pass more quickly as you plan for your next gig. Start setting boundaries. If you are working 60-hour weeks, STOP! There is no way that you can work yourself to the bone and still have the mental and physical well-being that you’re going to need to take you to the next phase in your life and career. In short, start putting yourself first.
6.) Work on Your Personal Brand
No matter what your next step looks like, honing your personal brand and gaining visibility is always beneficial. This is a good time to attend networking events, schedule lunches with contacts in your future field, speak on panels or even join a corporate or philanthropic board. Start honing your LinkedIn and other social profiles and make lists of all the accomplishments and skills that you’ve acquired in your corporate career. Now might be the perfect time to start a blog and keep building on it. Also identify your unique value proposition. What makes you different and special? What will set you apart from your competition? Start designing your website and consider what media channels you will use to promote it. Finally, remember that your brand is about YOU so authenticity is key. Be the real you and keep building on your strengths.
7.) Find someone to confide in
If you’re like me, venting and talking about things out loud is very therapeutic. Don’t feel like you’re just “complaining” (you’re only complaining if you don’t follow tip #1: have a goal and develop a plan to get there). I’ve been in positions I hated, and I remember venting to my boyfriend to the point that he wanted to throw me out a window. So, while venting to family and a significant other is okay, I’m also suggesting you find a trusted friend (preferably one that you don’t work with) or even a coach or therapist to help you through this phase. Unloading all those feelings and frustrations on a regular basis can be a great relief. (Word of caution: I would suggest not venting at work—this will be counterproductive and could spread to other co-workers or worse, your boss)
8.) Fill your tank
While you’re trying to survive that position you don’t really like with the boss you can’t stand, it’s important to remember to fill your tank with activities that you enjoy. Begin committing to that exercise class on a regular basis. Start a hobby that you’ve always been interested in like painting or photography. Go to yoga once a week. Plan a girl’s trip. Write in a journal. Start meditating. Take a French class. Go on nature walks. If you aren’t feeling appreciated or getting positive feedback at work, maybe you can consider volunteering or joining a professional organization to find that sense of purpose. Make it a point to do something fun or exciting after work. Remember, you need to feel satisfied and nourished in order to make it through this in-between stage until you’re able to make your corporate escape.
9.) Practice gratitude
In my blog on how to shift from a scarcity to abundance mindset I discussed the importance of practicing gratitude. According to Oprah Winfrey, “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” It’s very difficult to feel fear or sadness while feeling grateful at the same time. Practicing gratitude is one of the most widely recognized methods for improving one’s overall well-being. In 2007, Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, began researching gratitude and found that expressing gratitude improves mental and physical well-being. Being grateful also impacts the overall experience of happiness, and the effects tend to be long-lasting. One way to practice this is at the end of each day to write down 5 things you are grateful for, or if you really want to incorporate this practice into your life you can create a gratitude journal. Remember to include even the simplest things that you might overlook like the comfortable mattress you sleep on or breathing clean air.
10.) Look at it as a blessing
Finally, remember, if your current position were TOO comfortable you wouldn’t have as much incentive to move on to something else you find more rewarding and satisfying. Sometimes being put in difficult situations is God’s way of telling us that it’s time to MOVE ON! So, plan your time wisely, look at it as a blessing and enjoy the ride!