Not every job is going to be your ideal work situation. But just because it isn’t your dream job doesn’t mean it has to be a job nightmare. There often ways to improve your work situation or, at the very least, make your current job a springboard for more desirable work opportunities.
If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like–one that is boring, unrewarding, or just plain “toxic”–you should make it a priority to find more satisfying employment. But as you search for a job you love, here are some tips on making the most of a job you have.
Examine the job and yourself
Every experience in life is a learning opportunity… and jobs are no different. Take some time to examine your current job and reflect on how it fits into your career goals. Ask yourself:
- What exactly do you like and dislike about your job?
- Is there a way to spend more time doing the tasks you enjoy?
- Are there other things you can do to make the job better?
- Are there skills you can learn here that will contribute to future success?
- Are you making the most of the current opportunity?
Constructive examination helps in two ways. First, it illuminates avenues to potentially make your current job a better, more engaging experience. Second, it frames the job as an incremental step in your larger career, rather than some professional detour. By finding the specific elements of work that you enjoy and identifying the skills you’ll need do more of this type of work, you are creating an effective road map towards your dream job.
Take initiative with a new project
If your current work responsibilities (as identified either in a formal job description or in day-to-day practice) aren’t engaging, take the initiative and seek out new work duties that you do enjoy. Try to find something that allows you to exercise a professional passion.
Ask your manager if there are any new projects that you can take on. Or propose to lead a new project. In many cases, managers love employee initiative and will greenlight new projects if they contribute to the organization’s goals. (Just keep in mind that this often means more work in aggregate, since you’re taking on new tasks in addition to your existing duties.)
Again, the benefit here is that you immediately create a more engaging work environment, while also developing skills and experiences that will help with your next job.
Learn something new
Push yourself to make the most of every opportunity available at you current job–even if it doesn’t seem immediately interesting or beneficial. Does your company pay for professional trainings? Is there an opportunity to learn a new skill from a colleague?
Maybe you’ll surprise yourself and find a new professional passion. Or perhaps you’ll just clarify what you don’t want to do for the rest of your career. Either way, you benefit by building your set of marketable employment skills.
Avoid the drama
Sometimes it’s the workers, not the work, that make a job unenjoyable. If coworkers, management, or a negative “office culture” are the cause of your frustration, you can improve your lot by removing yourself from any drama.
Avoid office gossip, minimize your exposure to toxic coworkers, and avoid protracted airing of grievances. (Sharing your frustration with others can sometimes be helpful, but it also creates an echo chamber that exacerbates your upset.)
Try to focus on the positives of your job, even while acknowledging that it isn’t your ideal work situation. Positive thinking can be a powerful tool for shaping how you feel about work–and life, in general. The added bonus here is that you’ll have an affirmative way to discuss this work experience when you interview with your next job. Remember no prospective employer wants to hear you disparage your last workplace!