Was that question so ridiculously far from truth that you just let out an incensed snort and want to punch me in the face?
If you’re a twentysomething and graduated somewhere within this “great” recession, chances are you’ve had a crappy job (or two) (or three) (or four)….
Before I graduated college, I made fun of all those unfortunate twentysomethings working in lifeless, listless, and pointless jobs. Until that unfortunate twentysomething was me. Then it became a lot less funny.
A crappy job can feel like a black hole — it sucks and feels impossible to escape.
How can you be strategic and smart with your lousy job to make sure it’s a quick stop and not a long, black-hole-sucking, stay? Here’s five tips on how you not only survive your lousy job, but leverage it into a job that is dream-esque.
5 Vital Tips to Surviving and Thriving in your Twentysomething-Painful-Profession
1. You are Not Alone
First, I promise you’re not alone. A majority of your friends are experiencing the same “please God, make it stop” job experience. No matter how cool they’ve made their job sound on Facebook, they’re struggling to find meaning in their days as well.
So pick up the phone. Call a friend or two. Be honest. Don’t put a PR spin on the unspinnable. Then listen for this amazing thing called actual, honest, conversation. Laugh together about how bad it feels. Share war stories and strategies.
You’re not alone. And just knowing that fact can make that crappy job smell a lot better.
2. Start a Side-Hustle
When you’re not finding fulfillment with the old 8-5 thing, start finding fulfillment with a side-hustle. I believe Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation coined the phrase “side-hustle,” basically it’s that thing — that idea, that book, that website, that training, that education, THAT SOMETHING you’re going to pursue during the after-hours.
An effective side-hustle will give you energy and creativity — two necessary flames that need to be ignited if you are going to escape this lousy job. It’s not going to pay the bills right away, but hustle enough and maybe soon it will.
3. Don’t Take to Social Media to Complain
You’ve had another terrible day in your terrible job and you just need to vent. Just say no to sharing it with the entire Internet world.
As I wrote about in 12 Facebook Updates that Need to Stop Happening, complaining about your lousy job on Facebook will turn off Non-Crappy Job’s from luring you in their direction. They’ll worry that if they hired you it would be just a matter of time before you’re complaining about them too.
4. Calls, Lunches, Coffee, Rinse, Repeat
Dive headfirst into that network of yours. Reach out to everyone. No relationship is off limits. Timmy, who you did Boy Scouts with in elementary school. Jessica who you competed against in a pageant. Mary who stole your boyfriend in 9th grade. (Seriously, she owes you one!).
Talk to as many people as you can. Show them your excitement and your passion. You’d be surprised how many job opportunities come through acquaintances and friends-of-friends. People like helping people. Especially if they don’t know all your junk like your best friend does.
5. Learn What Needs to be Learned
I’m one of those everything is happening for a reason kind of people. Sometimes I forget I’m one of these people and go into a deep depression of eating raw cookie dough alone in the dark while listening to Death Cab for Cutie, but give me a week or two and I’ll snap out of it.
Every job, no matter how terrible, has something to teach.What skills can be gained NOW that you can leverage LATER?
What extra assignments or tasks can you volunteer for that better align with your strengths and interests? Who can you start buttering up — “Wow Greg, you designed that brochure so well. You’re so talented. What’s your secret” — so that you can begin informally shadowing them and learning a new set of skills. Start becoming proficient in your passion.
Don’t sit back passively waiting for an opportunity, look for ways to create one.
Sometimes you learn the most in the jobs you like the least.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What’s one strategy you have for surviving or thriving in your lousy job?
My dream for the last seven years has been to encourage, humor, challenge, and inspire twenty-somethings struggling with “what now?”
And every time I chase this dream, a memory haunts me, asking me if it’s worth it.
It was a Sunday and I was behind in my writing. The few weeks prior had been slow going, like dredging through chest-high mud while holding my laptop above me still trying to pound the keys. Deadlines were fast on my heels waiting to devour me come Monday if I didn’t pick up the pace.
I try my best to write in the early or after hours that no one else wants so that I can spend time with my wife and two girls, but with deadlines laughing in my face like the Joker holding a detonator, I didn’t see any other way around me taking a prime-time slot.
As I gathered books and papers, shoving them in my laptop bag, my two year old just stood and watched me. Then she looked at me and said something that instantly became my Dream-Fire – something that propels me to work harder, while also having the power to devour the whole thing. Just two words out of her mouth changed my dream forever.
To read the rest please head over to Life After College where I am contributing today. Thank you again and again and again for all the support and sharing. Groan Ups unite!
There’s a certain crispness to 2013 isn’t there? The smell and feel of this fresh, new year is like pulling warm clothes out of the dryer.
And for all the new Groan Ups who have joined us here recently, welcome! I hope this year All Groan Up can encourage, challenge, inspire, and provide you with ample amounts of guffaws and insights as we learn together how to rock our 20′s.
As we nestle into 2013 and make it our own (2013 looks great on you, by the way) there’s going to be a couple BIG announcements coming here soon to All Groan Up, and well, let’s get right to the first big announcement!
I will be a monthly contributor to the amazing website Life After College founded by author/speaker extraordinaire Jenny Blake!
Jenny and Life After College are the real deal and it’s an honor to join the LAC community along with fellow contributor Melissa Anzman of Loosen Your White Collar.
And don’t worry I’ll still be kicking it large (do people say this?) here at All Groan Up. Once to twice a month I’ll just be linking over to my article at Life After College. Easy, breezy! (sorry it’s late and I’m coming down from a caffeine high).
AND coming soon, oh very soon, another BIG announcement.
I paid — God I don’t want to admit or look at my remaining tab (Sallie Mae I will free myself from your chains someday) — for a college degree that taught me how to UnSucceed.
Let me explain.
School taught me how to be successful at school — how to play the scholarly game to win an A. Not how to swim the gray, murky waters of life on the outside.
Now on my tail-end-of-20, do I think the education was worth it?
Yeah, I still do.
But it took me a few years (somewhere between four years and today) of UnSuccess to begin to UnLearn the bad habits college and I learned together.
1. People are NOT Here to Teach Us
I remember sitting in my cubicle during the first week of my first job. Binders piled high around me like I was running a science experiment.
With no clue what I was supposed to do next, I kept waiting for someone to tell me when finally I received instruction from my boss.
Figure it out.
That was it.
I kept waiting for someone to show me how. I didn’t realize they expected me to show myself.
I didn’t really understand that for years I’d being paying my professors a big wad of cash. Sure, I didn’t give professors a handshake like a mobster paying off a politician. But I was paying big money to sit there and be taught — all those classes ditched for a nap or volleyball enough now to pay for two months rent.
Of course I didn’t appreciate it at the time. Of course I didn’t realize how rare it is to have a professional in your field dispensing wisdom like a gum ball machine.
In the working world, very rarely is someone waiting there to show us how.
We’re not paying them any longer. They’re paying us.
2. Live Hard, Be Stupid
Eating fourths in the cafeteria, followed by a sundae and two bowls of Berry Captain Crunch.
Drinking until 2 am, then skipping your next two mornings.
Losing a bet with friends, thus walking around downtown on a busy night holding a tin can while wearing a big, cardboard sign that said: I have Gonorhhea. Any Money Helps.
Yeah I had my fair share of stupid in college.
Things is, the cubicle is an unrelenting task-master ready to turn stupid into a sinkhole.
Professors rarely kick you out. Bosses have no problem.
Let’s grab life by the ears and snarl at it. Let’s just stop snarling at stupid in the process.
3. The Procrastinate and Push
College taught me to operate like a sprinter. Push hard. Take long breaks.
I knew if I could just put a semester’s worth of focus into 14 days leading up to finals, then summer break would be there before I could say B +. Then all the studying, learning, and routine went out of my Honda Civic’s window as I drove back to Colorado from California — a whole new reality awaiting me.
After college, as I sat surrounded by rainy-day gray cubicle half-walls, I got beat over the head with the slow, steady, comfortable, monotony of each cascading day that greatly resembled the last. The ability to stay consistent king above all. Summer break no longer waiting there to offer a reset.
4. Feedback is NOT Our Enemy
I hated that moment in class when the professor passed back my big twenty-five page research paper with the worst thing imaginable cascading down the side of the front page.
Often times I’d shove that paper in my backpack and never read one single word of feedback. I hated being told what they thought I did wrong. Ignorance, my stupid bliss.
Today, feedback is gold. I crave it. (Well, when I’m not whispering mean things about their mother in my head).
For someone to go out of there way and give their advice on how I can make something better — yeah we should be sending that person a Cookie-Gram, not muttering things about their large nose under our breathe.
College taught us much, but it might be the things we must UnLearn that our generation’s success depends on.
It’s still true that we get by with a little help from our friends.
So why have so many of us since college discarded them like that Christmas tree freshener under our passenger seat? What used to liven up our lives with pine-needle-fresh — now a piece of highway debris.
For many of us the transition out of college has been ten-car-pile-up scary/gruesome at times. You can’t see, can’t steer, and have no one in the car to help grab the wheel. Because all the friends who used to be in the passenger’s seat have scattered like a dandelion in a hurricane.
So where have all the friendships gone and how do we get them back??
Three Tips to Making and Keeping Friends Post-College
1. Well…Are Friends Still Important?
That’s the first question. Because honestly I think some of us have concluded that in our much-too-busy lives, friends don’t even crack the Top Ten.
As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
Sure we “technically” don’t need friends just like we “technically” don’t need a roof over your head. But once life starts pouring some nasty shiz-i-rain, it’s sure nice knowing there is something there to help protect you.
Plus, relationships are the most valuable commodity we have in our 20′s. That job you’ve been praying for, that introduction, that opportunity — is all going to be linked to a friend.
No friends. No freaking chance.
So first we must ask ourselves: Are we willing to pursue this crazylittlething called friendship? Are relationships going to be a priority in our lives? Or are we going to Lone Ranger this thing, the final scene of our lives just you and your horse riding into the sunset?
And while that makes for a kick-booty Hollywood ending, who’s actually going to be in the audience to watch it?
2. Get Involved
In a recent guest article on All Groan Up, Joe Bunting wrote about our generation being afraid to commit to anything. He’s right. We need to get involved. In something. An ultimate Frisbee team, community service, young mom’s support group, polar bears club — whatever we find appealing.
It doesn’t have to be a calendar-hog. Just a once a week, twice a month type thing. Share some new experiences with some new people. And of course I write this as I try to successfully dis-involve myself from any formal or informal group, so I’m going try and take my own advice here.
Both Mike and Megan in the comments on the previous article made an appeal that church can be an amazing place to find substantial, rooted, community. And while I’ve had a love/mild-disdain for church my whole life (years of being a pastor’s kid might explain why), as I look at the friendships that have survived, most if not all, have revolved around some sort of faith-based place. If you’re looking for community, why not try the one that meets in your neighborhood every Sunday?
Plus, I mean, it’s most likely embedded in their religion for them to love you unconditionally. So even all the complete a$$holes reading this write now have a chance at getting invited to Sunday lunch. (Probably explains my faith-friending-success)
3. Pick Up the Damn Phone
Honestly, I struggle at this. I see a friend calling. I want to talk. I need to talk. But as I begin reaching for the “Answer” button, something takes control of my hand, and turns it the other way as my phone slips sadly back into my pocket like a depressed river otter back into his burrow.
That thing that has Jedi-like-control over me? My schedule. My to-do list. My life. My time. Mine, mine, me, me, MEEEEEEE.
Oh yes, the dreaded ME-MONSTER has thwarted many a good relationship, conversation, (and Japanese city). The next time a friend calls, pick up the phone. Slay the ME-MONSTER. Yes there are things on your list that won’t be accomplished. That’s fine.
A conversation with a friend does more to spark your creativity and enthusiasm than five red-bulls combined.
So actually you’re doing yourself a favor by forgetting about yourself for fifteen minutes.
Bonus 4: Pride Comes Before the Friend-Fall
Or even worse, I don’t pick up for a good friend because I simply don’t want to talk about my life. I don’t want to do the ten-minute rundown about all the non-exciting, obstacles, little tangible success details of the last month. Especially if I know the friend on the other line is experiencing more success than I. Terrible I know. Maybe that’s more a guy thing, but I definitely need to combat my Obsessive Comparison Disorder and just pick up the damn phone. Just because I can’t one up my friend doesn’t mean I should hide from them.
Why Can’t We Be Friends…
We need friendships like a reality show needs dysfunctional drama. Friendship is just that important. But it’s not always going to be easy. As one of my favorite bloggerista’s Jamie the Very Worst Missionary writes in a recent post about pursuing a friendship:
“The thing about dating, I mean friending, is that it’s kinda risky. You have to be a little vulnerable, a lot honest, and totally willing to be rejected by the person you’re trying to connect with” ~ Jamie the Very Worst Missionary
Friendships require us to be humble, open, and more….well… us. Friendships force us to be real. live. human. beings. Friendships force us to pull our heads out of our asses once in a while to come out for some fresh air and a drink. And what’s more important than that? Just as you shouldn’t kiss dating goodbye, you shouldn’t say farewell to friending either.
Whether in our 20′s, 30′s, 40′s, whenever — friendships don’t lose their value just because we’ve decided we’re too busy for them.
So consider this a collective challenge for you and I both to give friending a chance. What do you say?
Do you have any other tips for making friends?
Need some friendly-inspiration? Watch probably the best TV show intro below to The Wonder Years.