Congratulations! You’ve started your first “real” job! Welcome to the wonderful world of adulthood. It’s exciting to start establishing yourself in your new company and proving to your boss that you’ve got what it takes. There’s just one problem—you hate your new job and you’re starting to think you made a big mistake. Now what? In today’s economy, most people don’t have the luxury of quitting the moment things get a bit difficult. Jus the thought of those student loans, credit card bills, rent, and groceries could be enough to make you think twice about handing in your notice. So how can you make it through 40 hours of torture each week?
• Figure out why you hate your job. Pinpointing the cause of your unhappiness will make it easier to figure out what to do about it. This is key, according to Julie Jansen, author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. “When people are unhappy, they don’t tend to figure out why,” she says. They just know they are. Many people just expect the problem to fix itself, rather than actively working on a solution. Is it the work itself? If you’re in your first job, chances are you’re the lowest member of the office hierarchy. But take some comfort in the fact that everyone has to do their share of data entry and making copies. That’s all part of the “first job” experience. Are you swamped, or not challenged enough? If your workload is the problem, talk to your boss. He or she may be able to give you additional responsibilities. Is it the overall work environment? Is it your boss? A transfer to another department might help. If that’s not an option, try to tough it out until you can find something else.
• Try not to make enemies. If you think you hate your job now, imagine it if you were disliked by your co-workers. Though you don’t have to be friends with everyone, put your game face on and be as friendly and helpful as possible. Pitch in to help with a project or volunteer for a committee. Show that you’re a team player and genuinely interested in helping out, and not just doing it to score points with your boss.
• Keep your resume current. Keep your eyes and ears open for job openings and ask your friends and family to do the same. Give your whole resume an overhaul if you feel it needs one. “It helps if you have an escape plan,” Jansen agrees. “It’s a good time to figure out who you are and what you are. If you revamp your job search, it might help you feel better because you’re actually doing something.”
• Learn all you can. Every job, no matter how menial it may seem, is a learning experience. You’ll most likely use at least some of the skills you’re developing at your current job in the future. Take your boss up on offers to attend training sessions, retreats, conferences, or meetings that might help you build your skills, even if you work in a field that you don’t see yourself in long term. Keep in mind that most managers like to see job candidates who are well-rounded and can multitask.
• Have an outlet outside of work. Focus on what you enjoy when you’re not at the office, especially if your job stress is starting to wear on you physically. “Take care of yourself,” Jansen says. “Work out, see friends, do whatever you can that makes you feel good.” Roberta Matuson, owner and president of Human Resource Solutions, agrees. She suggests re-committing yourself to something you enjoy but have let fall to the wayside, or taking a class or two if you can afford it. Do it for fun if you aren’t ready or able to commit to a Master’s degree or courses in your current line of work. Bring a friend and sign up for something like yoga, cooking, painting, or wine tasting. Make a night of it and forget about the office for a few hours.