Happy Sunday! I was going to post this tomorrow but I thought it’d be better to do it today, in case my survival techniques can make your Monday better, if you are in a similar situation.
I wanted to write about this for a while although I was advised not to, because it might cause problems at work. But it shouldn’t. I hope it won’t.
I love Solent, it has been my work family home for almost 6 years now (with a short 3 month break). I’ve learned a lot and I made friends for life. This is not about Solent. Although ideally I’d like to work somewhere else for a change, Solent is an awesome employer and I love the people I work with.
This is about being trapped in a dead end job, with no progression and is not even about progression, but the tasks, my day to day roles and responsibilities which are de-motivating. For me anyway. I’m sure for others, my job would be a perfect fit. So this post is about how I deal with it and hopefully you who are reading this right now might benefit from it.
Not many know exactly what I do when I tell them I’m a Senior Compliance Officer. Well first of all, is nothing to do with Compliance. I co-ordinate the fees process working with some of our Directors who I admire and I’m responsible for the course file, basically anything to do with the course set up on the system. I spend most of my day in front of my PC, staring at spreadsheets and Quercus (the course system). Which I find quite frankly soul-destroying. There is no skill variety or challenge. I’m a social person, I love chatting, meeting people, I love anything creative, anything out of the norm and I hate routine. Is obvious I’m not the best fit for an 8-hour a day desk based job.
I have great responsibilities which I honour day in and day out. Because as much as I don’t enjoy what I do, I always want to be the best at my job. I’ve been in this role for two years now and I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that I’ve already improved the processes and the system.
‘A job is just a job’
For many their work is just means to an end. They don’t care what they do and how they do it, it just pays the bills. And that’s great. But unfortunately for me is more than that. We spend most of our time at work. We spend more time at work rather than anywhere else. So for me, it has to be rewarding, challenging, interesting. It has to be more. I cannot numb my brain and switch off for 8 hours.
‘Why don’t you leave?
I’ve recently listened to a podcast of Bob Sutton, a Stanford professor and author of the ‘Asshole Survival Guide’ on how to deal with difficult people at work. His tips can easily apply to ‘Work Survival’ in general, His first advice was: If you can afford it, leave. If you can, quit!
I hear that a lot. Many have advised me to do so. Quit. Follow your dreams. Don’t be scared. Take risks!
Well it’s not that simple. I can’t just quit. I have no savings, I’m still paying off my debts and my family can’t support me financially. And I wouldn’t even ask them if they could. This is my fight. I love them to bits and I’d do anything to help them, not the other way around.
I could just move back home, live with my parents for a while until I get an average job, as there are not many great career opportunities on a gorgeous but small island. So that’s out of the question.
If I were to quit I’d have to move to another data analysis/staring at spreadsheets job to be able to cope financially, which is not what I want.
So what do I do??
Learn as much as you can on what you want to do.
I love digital marketing, Social Media, event planning, guest relations, anything to do with interacting with others, but I have no extensive ‘work experience’ in these areas. I would need to start from the bottom and to do so I need money. Money doesn’t bring happiness but it does help you reach the things that will make you happy.
But what I do at the moment is spend some of my free time learning more about the fields I’m interested in and improving my knowledge on them. Lynda.com is amazing when it comes to free resources (it is free for Solent employees) and I’ve already learned a lot in the last couple of months.
I also volunteer through work whenever I get the chance. I loved helping out with Graduation, conferences, getting out of the office and meeting new people.
So that’s my first tip. If you are in a similar situation use your free time to your benefit and try and get as much as you can through your current role. Learn more on what you want to go into.
It is vital to have a laugh at work, within reason of course. But short breaks to talk to my colleagues and have a laugh is one of the few things that keeps me going. I’m very lucky I’m surrounded by funny, witty colleagues who are always up for a chat and a laugh. Humour is also recommended by Bob Sutton when dealing with difficult people at work.
Make your desk your own
I’ve decorated my desk with memorabilia from home, gifts from colleagues and friends, Kinder Egg prizes because I embrace my childish side and I set up a gorgeous photo of my favourite Cyprus beach I took a year ago as my PC wallpaper. Anything that makes my surroundings colourful and pretty and reminds me of who I am helps. You spend most of your time at your desk, might as well make it feel homely, even if you wish you were anywhere else.
Music is my saviour. It really is. I would simply not survive if I were not allowed to stick my headphones on and listen to music. I absolutely love Spotify and I’d pay more if I had to. Discover Weekly on Mondays, New Music Fridays and my personal long playlist with all my favourites for all moods which I go through several times a day depending on what I fancy to listen to at that moment. This is my playlist, which I add on every week if you want to listen to what I listen to, it has a little bit of everything, from indie to pop to rock to Greek music, not sure anyone else would like it, but even if it helps one person, then totally worth sharing it.
If you sit at a desk all day, have short breaks every hour or so. It is recommended by Health and Safety! Get off your chair, go for a walk or just stand. And don’t spend your lunchtime at your desk. Make time to get out even if it’s in another room or a friend’s office or go for a wander at the nearest park. Lunch time is sacred, is you time, personal time, use it wisely.
Every now and then I’ll treat myself to delicious coffee from my two favourite coffeeshops in town, Mettricks or Coffeelab or a nice lunch or an afternoon snack. Little treats go a long way!
Break the routine
There are many ways to do that, be creative. For me is essential to do something different every day, otherwise it feels like Groundhog day, over and over again. So I have lunch at different places through the week, I change my route to and from to work every couple of days, I try and do a couple of different tasks at work in a single day and not spend the whole day on just one thing, unless I have to.
Do what you love when you are not at work
Finally, what keeps me sane is what I do when I’m not at work. Find what makes you happy, what relaxes you, what you love and spend your evenings and weekends, however tired, drained or frustrated you might feel, doing these things.
For me is daily Yoga (Yoga with Adriene, which I’ve mentioned many a times here), my guitar, singing, blogging, drawing, reading, eating out, theatre, trying new things, photography, travelling and social media amongst others.
I love Instagram, I spend hours scrolling through travel photos, food (I love food), interior decoration, funny memes etc and I post a lot because I love taking photos. Twitter is my public journal. I follow and learn from inspirational people on LinkedIn and Facebook is for friends and family.
I spend a lot of time with my bestie (our daily chats is therapy for me) and other friends I love and since my family and best friends live in Cyprus, you’ll see me a lot of the time on my phone chatting to them.
Don’t forget how awesome you are
Yes, that’s right. You are awesome. When you are trapped in a dead-end job, the chances are you are scared to move on even when you can, because you lose your confidence, you forget all the skills and knowledge you proudly own. When I left Solent the first time, my then manager and now great friend Chris wrote on my leaving card not to forget how awesome I am at what I do and be confident on my abilities and I go back and read it whenever I go through a confidence crisis. I remind myself what Chris said and all the feedback I get from my current manager and my colleagues. I go through the messages and comments I get on my blog and Social Media posts and when I’m feeling low I remind myself that I’m better than I think.
This is how I manage. This is how I keep going until I can move on to a more exciting job.
Nobody will come out of nowhere and offer me my dream job, although that would be pretty awesome, so for now I’m exercising my patience and improving myself whilst keeping my eyes open for any opportunities I can go for.