Mediocre Job

Dear fellow Bachelor’s degree-holding twenty-somethings stuck working a nine-to-five that is less “dream job” and more “I desperately need a paycheck so I guess I’ll suck it up and do this:” I feel your pain and you are not alone.

I graduated last year and I am nowhere near where I thought I would be one year post-graduation. Instead of working on a graduate degree to get closer to the career I am dreaming of, I’m scraping by with one full-time and two part-time jobs.

My full-time gig is great, albeit not what I went to school for, nor what I am truly passionate about. Part-time job number one is a chance to help out with the family business, and part-time job numero dos is solely to help beef up that ever-important emergency fund and to whittle down those pesky student loans. If any of this sounds familiar, then you know the frustration of wondering if your degree will ever pay off and if you will ever be able to enthusiastically say with complete honesty, “I love my job.”

But here’s the thing: we can and will get through this.

If you are willing in to put in a lot of hard work (maybe years of it) and face mountains of rejection, then you will get to where you want to be in your career.

The first step: don’t sink into mediocrity at your mediocre job.

First, appreciate the fact that you have a job and are at least making some progress. I know this sounds wishy-washy and is reminiscent of the “but there are children starving in Africa, so you have to finish your broccoli” argument, but hear me out. You could be one of the approximately 8.5 percent of college graduates who are still looking for any job at all.

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It may feel like you are running in place, as though you are putting a ton of effort into a job that doesn’t fulfill you without making much progress financially or career-wise, but even your barely-there paychecks are moving you in the right direction. Even a tiny bit of progress is progress, so celebrate it.

Second, look on the bright side and recognize what’s good about your job. Maybe you are one of the few people who genuinely likes your coworkers. Or maybe you get baller benefits, like great health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement account. If you have a regular work schedule, rather than the unpredictable hours that some workers have to put up with, then thank your lucky stars for that!

These are just a few of my favorite aspects of my full time job, which I frequently remind myself of after I have a particularly hard day or am frustrated that my dreams seem decades away from coming true. Even if you would never go so far as to say you love your job, there must be at least a few things about it that make you happy to be there, even if just for now.

Next, pay attention to the strengths you’re demonstrating at work. It may take some creative thinking, but even the most menial of jobs requires you to exercise some type of skill.  Are you great at dealing with customer escalations, or do you demonstrate exceptional attention to detail?  Do you take on leadership roles? Are you flexible about staying late or coming in early to make sure the work gets finished thoroughly?

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Don’t let any of those strengths go unnoticed; make sure to bring them to the attention of your boss during review periods so they can speak to those strengths as a reference for future jobs. Remember the saying, “there are no small parts, just small actors.” No matter how menial your job seems, it does not mean you are unimportant or have nothing to offer. You may be surprised which of these strengths might snag you your next job or get you an acceptance letter into graduate school.

Similar to playing up your strengths at work, make sure you are taking time to grow outside of the workplace. Take a night class, read widely about topics that fascinate you, seek out a networking event in your area, or volunteer your time doing something you truly enjoy (like contributing to an online publication, hint hint).

Not only are these potential resume boosters, they will help keep your eye towards the future. Remembering your long-term goals will help you focus on why it’s important to do your best at your current job. Instead of getting bogged down in the day-to-day routine, keeping your goals in the forefront of your mind will ensure you are always looking for ways your current job might launch you in the direction you want to go, whether through networking, skill-building, or a stellar reference from your boss. Keep your eyes peeled — you may find your “thing” in an unexpected way.

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Dream jobs are hard to come by, and it’s pretty rare for any twenty-something to find theirs quickly after graduation, especially with the minimal level of experience twenty-somethings are able to bring to the table. Chances are, your job has nothing to do with what you studied in college and you don’t have a passion for the work you’re doing everyday.

It sucks, I know. It’s hard to bring your best self to work everyday when your heart isn’t in it, especially if it’s barely providing enough for you to eat, pay rent, and pay down those student loans. It’s easy to lose steam when you feel like you’re stuck, but doing your best at work each day will give you a better chance of someday movin’ on up to where you would like to be.

In the meantime, you just have to pay your dues and do your best at your “meh” job while looking forward to bigger and better opportunities in the future.