OK. So my job is tedious, unfulfilling, and exhausting. Most jobs are. Capitalism sucks and some places are irredeemable, but I spent the last year trying a few things to make my own work experience better. And you know what? I am happier, more engaged, and more fulfilled at work. This isn’t a fix-all and it’s not possible in every workplace, but maybe something will stick for someone:
- Check for volunteer opportunities outside the workplace. Corporate-sponsored volunteerism is a Thing and you should take advantage of it. Sure, it’s a PR gimmick to them, but use it to make a positive difference.
I’ve taught a classroom full of kids financial literacy, served as a reading buddy to three third graders for a year, and planted a garden, all on company time. Plus, you meet organizations that you might want to work with on your personal time.
1. Check our your company website and see what they do in terms of volunteerism. 2. Check with your boss, supervisor, or HR rep about getting involved. 3. If you’re feeling brave and have a volunteer opportunity you think your company could/should sponsor, bring it up.
- Related: check to see if they do matching contributions to charities. If you have a cause close to your heart, host a fundraiser and leverage that giving!! My friend just asked for donations in lieu of birthday gifts for her 30th. She raised $500 for adopted kittens, her coworkers raised $200 or $300, and the company matched all of it. So. Many. Adopted. Cats!!
- Talk to people. Say hi. Ask how they are and mean it! I walked around for so many years with headphones in ignoring virtually everyone. But like, it makes a big difference? You are stuck with these people for hours. Drop the bullshit and be genuine. And yes, every workplace has shit coworkers. Five of them probably sit right next to you, but connect with the ones who aren’t. A good support network at work can make or break a so-so job. (And those references are so handy if you ever want to get out.)
- Disengage from the drama.
I’ve seen stats referencing that 2.5 hours of the average worker’s day is lost to drama.
I don’t give a shit about your personal productivity, but I do care about your personal happiness. Workplaces are incubators for drama but seriously, just let it go
- Volunteer within your workplace. Yes, I mean the stupid bowling thing they have going on, or the happy hour, or the picnic. It will probably be cheesy and corny but you know what? Be that cheesy, corny person. Join the committee or group to plan the next one – you’ll make friends and you’ll make it better next time. I served on four committees this year. And none of them were terrible. And it looks amazing come review time!
- Take advantage of continuing education. This is another trending corporate thing and you should check it out. Companies offer courses, certifications, industry certifications, tuition reimbursement, etc. I’ve taken seminars, earned certifications, and am currently working toward an industry certification that looks amazing and will earn me a free vacation. Learn Excel. Talk to your boss about what skills you need to develop and build them. Take advantage so that when you move on, you can say “I did this and that” and you have those skills.
- Set goals for yourself. I don’t give a shit if your goals have anything to do with productivity or if your motives are pure here. It can be as simple as, “I want more money and these are the five things I need to do to get that better rating and a bigger raise.” Do those five things every day. It can be “make five people smile today" “work 2 out of 8 hours.” or “plot the next chapter of my novel.” Giving goals to yourself gives yourself structure and something to work for on a personal level. My big goal this year was to earn a higher rating at work, and just about every decision I’ve made has informed that goal. The surprise was that I’ve a happier, more satisfied person at work.
- Ask your boss if you can learn something new, or teach someone something new. Does this sound like your personal idea of hell? Mine too! I did it anyway, and it built my confidence as a trainer. Plus, it’s something to add to your resume.
- Take advantage of misc. perks. Your company have a gym? Use it. Mental health coverage? Go to a therapist while you can and sort your shit out. Free coffee? Drink it. Free crackers? Go for them instead of the vending machine. A bulletin board to put community events? Use it. Find what’s available and squeeze every single perk from their stingy little fingers.
- Build your resume. You do this by doing all of the above. Take initiative. Start projects. Build your skills. Forge relationships. Get involved. Even if you are in a dead end job that won’t translate to your desired career path, start an initiative, lead a project, take advantage of the corporate learning program and become an Excel whiz. Your future employers care a hell of a lot more about the actual contributions you made, not the bullet point checklist of your job responsibilities.
- Use your powers for good. Listen. You are reading this because you are on Tumblr. If you work in an office (or anywhere) it means that you know more about tech than like, 80% of your coworkers over the age of 35. This is a very basic thing that I do, but I will just sometimes pop into a pod and ask if anyone’s having issues with their computers. And you know what? Someone usually is. And it usually takes me 30 seconds to fix their icon or teach them to copy and paste or whatever. I feel good. They feel good. It sounds so cheesy but my boss noticed! Find a thing, whatever that thing is, and use it to make everyone’s life easier. Give back to the shitty, toxic environment, ya know? Make it better.
This basically comes down to do no harm, take no shit, know what your company offers, and leverage those offerings to find fulfillment in whatever way you can.