It's hard to find much to be happy about when you think about the news for job seekers now. In theory, it seems like the rotten economy would turn that annoying job you took to pay the bills right out of college into the best thing ever if you're still "lucky" enough to have it. The unfortunate reality is that most workers are trudging through the day doing the same work they were doing before plus the work of colleagues who had their positions cut. Meanwhile, the pressure is on to work overtime on short notice and without complaint, and to forgo little things like using vacation or sick time. Even though your boss may be delighted to remind you that you should just be grateful to have a job and get over your case of "survivor guilt" or whatever the hip corporate term is now, it's hard to be happy about working longer, harder, and sicker for the same or less money. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you decide your situation is totally hopeless.
- You're not crazy. Being stuck in a job you can't stand is always depressing and it's even worse when you can't see a way out.
Thanks to the credit crunch, a lot of us are saddled with financial obligations that make it impossible to risk 6 months to a year without steady income. It's normal to not feel blessed to slave away for 40+ hours a week just to keep the wolf at the door. Take some time to consider where you would like to see yourself 6 months from now, a year from now, and so on. If you're having trouble getting more detailed than, "I never want to see this desk again!" set up a time to meet with a career coach at Job Search Central.
- Consider the advantages you have as someone who isn't currently unemployed.
Supposedly, the best time to find a job is when you already have one, and in this economy, that seems to have become even more true. Employers generally will be more enthusiastic about interviewing someone who already has a job than someone who isn't currently employed. It's silly and unfair, but it works to your advantage. Another plus about being employed is that you still have good access to a network of working professionals: co-workers, managers, vendors, etc. Gear-up your networking now! Set-up lunch dates with people who are working on projects that interest you. Attend training sessions and conferences when you can and follow-up with the people you meet. This is a good practice even if you're happy with your job, but it can be even more critical when you're not because it's a great way to overcome a sense of isolation. Don't forget to set-up or spruce-up your LinkedIn profile! Social media shy? Check-out these books in our collection about LinkedIn, Facebook and more.
- Pay off your credit cards and build your savings.
Okay, this is old news to most of us, but I still get a lot of questions about first-steps to career freedom and nobody likes this one, but if you're unhappy where you are and the job market stinks, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you or your boss may reach a point where you've got to go. So, if you're still out there stimulating the economy with retail therapy and your credit card bill is too high to pay off month-to-month, thank you for doing your part for America. Now, you can take a breather and pay that down. Again, even if you like what you do, it's generally a good practice to try to have enough saved to get you through at least 6 months if you find yourself between jobs. Try booking a free consultation with a financial advisor at SIBL's Financial Literacy Central.
- Stop equating work with who you are.
Business frequently gets personal, especially in the work place. Nasty co-workers might make comments about how you always do this or never do that. Supervisors might complain that you aren't being flexible enough or don't seem invested enough in this or that. Maybe they're right; maybe they're wrong, but it's important to remember that work is all about the perceptions of people who often aren't very perceptive and this sort of feedback is just information that can help you manage those perceptions. For example, if your boss thinks that being seen in the office after 5 p.m. means your work ethic is to superior to people who leave right at 5 p.m., stay a few minutes later a few days a week. Better yet, work on a project you're actually interested in during that time. Retaliation and confrontation usually aren't effective with unreasonable people. If at all possible, you'll get farther working around the neuroses of those around you than trying to get rid of them. See John Hoover's How to Work for an Idiot for more tips.
- Don't skimp on lunches and breaks.
Even before the recent economic meltdown, author Richard Conniff observed in his book The Ape in the Corner Office: Understanding the Workplace Beast in All of Us that American business went through a period where people were not supposed to have needs for "animal" things like food, water, and rest. Executives observed that being seen eating during a business meeting was viewed as a sign of weakness even if they had back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Later on, pizza was permitted in the boardroom as long as everyone accepted that business meant running with the wolves and survival was the ultimate goal so little things like being inconsiderate shouldn't matter. In other words, how your company views your biological needs is subject to whatever fads are leaking out of MBA programs across the country, but human beings need food, water and sleep. That's not going to change. So make time for lunch and breaks away from your desk. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.