Work is what you make it.
If your job is really starting to get you down, it’s time to do something about it. Amelia Ball shares ideas on making it work and, if necessary, finding a better fit.
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Whether you’re working full-time carving out a career or taking on shifts at your local cafe, it doesn’t always feel so exciting. The initial high of scoring the job can sometimes seem like a distant memory, but resenting being at work is no fun for anyone. So, how can you turn things around?
It may be hard to see it now, but even the most basic tasks can be important. Taking orders, serving food, stocking shelves, office admin — these tasks won’t always feel like your true calling, but these experiences count for so much. Just think of your next job application, for starters. You’ll legitimately be able to say you thrive in fast-paced environments, can follow direction and work autonomously, have excellent customer service and are team oriented. Sound good? The more you take on, the longer your list of skills will be.
It may feel like you’re far from your dream career, but you might just be closer than you think – it’s all nudging you towards your end goal. And keeping this bigger picture in mind can also help to see your job in a better light.
Recruitment specialist and principal of The Insight Group, Emily Witts says early job experiences are critical because they teach you about the world of work. “And as you learn new skills, your confidence grows and sets you up to take on new challenges,” she says. First jobs also “… teach you about how to work with others productively, and allow you to start to make connections and networks, which can come in handy as you move into your career.”
Emily adds that just because it’s your start in the working world, it’s not the end if you don’t want it to be. “Everyone has to start somewhere, and you have many more years of bigger and better opportunities ahead of you. Learn as much as you can from the job, back yourself and move onto the next opportunities ahead of you.”
The CV Hack.
Employers will always look for relevant work experience on an applicant’s CV, but Emily Witts has other tips for standing out:
“It’s important that your CV is clear and well presented, with no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. You want to keep it brief too, typically no longer than two to three pages, especially when you’re early in your career.”
Rethink the sass.
If you spend your workdays moaning about everything — even if it’s only in your head — you’re on a fast track to misery. That can only lead to the slowest shifts in history and, before you know it, you’ll only be able to see the negatives.
Productivity coach Jo Bendle, who helps people reach their life goals, says to remember the Law of Attraction — the ability to draw into your life whatever you focus on. “If you only think about all the things you don’t love about your job, you’ll get more of that back, with more rubbish tasks being handed to you,” Jo says.
Instead, Jo suggests looking around your workplace to remember the good bits and then make a conscious effort to be grateful for them. There’s always the money you’re earning, the things you’re saving for, and the workmates you look forward to seeing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but taking the time to appreciate the little things will help you shift your perspective and bring in more of the good stuff.
One thing sure to keep you in a negative space is if you’re bitching about everything
– and everyone –
to your workmates.
There’s also a really good chance it will get back to the wrong people. If management catches wind of this type of negative-talk, it can kill your prospects. Even if you don’t plan on staying in the job, beware of burning bridges; former colleagues tend to turn up where you least expect them, and you’ll need at least one former manager to champion you as a referee for that next job you actually want.
If you think you’re being passed over for certain tasks or opportunities at your workplace, find a confidante to sense-check your concerns. Is it all in your head?
Are you missing your moments to put yourself forward? Perhaps there are processes you’re not yet aware of, or other misunderstandings at play.
Seek out a trustworthy workmate who’s been there longer than you — not only will they know how things work, but they also see you in action in the role, which will bring added insights. They’ll be an excellent sounding board to help you figure out what’s really going on. Sometimes, though, it’s also helpful to talk to someone from outside the workplace — perhaps an older sibling or friend who’s been through it all before you. These external, objective perspectives can be just as beneficial.
Improving your situation can often be as simple as requesting a chat with the relevant manager to let them know you’re keen for more. Once they know you have bigger aspirations — whether it’s more shifts, higher positions or more responsibilities — you’ll be surprised what comes your way.
Keep an open mind.
Even if you’re in a job you think is just for now, you never know where it can lead.
Just ask Katie Stathis — she started on the Officeworks shop floor about ten years ago and is now a business analyst at head office.
“I’d just completed my studies in graphic design, but couldn’t find work because employers were looking for experience,” she says. “I thought I’d apply at Officeworks and try to get experience in the Print and Copy department to help me in my pursuit.”
Katie started in Stationery, where her tasks included ensuring shelves were full and well presented, leading a team during the night fill, and offering customer service. “I took on the job with enthusiasm and always focused on the detail to ensure our department looked its best,” Katie says.
“It didn’t occur to me that retail may have further career prospects until my line manager suggested I go for a management role as my work and attitude had been noted within the store’s leadership team,” she says. “That encouragement and recognition lit a fire in my belly to drive towards leadership roles. I realised I loved working with, and leading teams.”
A string of promotions followed for Katie, as well as studies in Business Management, supported by Officeworks. “Remember, you may start in a role or job you may not see yourself in as a career, but give it your very best,” Katie says. “Doors will open for you and you can drive your career in the direction you want. If you want to move on, you’ll have terrific references, and plenty of great achievements and skills to build your resume.”
Officeworks business analyst Katie Stathis believes her first job with the company on the shop floor taught her skills she still values today. “Maintaining a professional and enthusiastic approach to my work, and in interactions with the team and customers at all times, was behaviour I intentionally practised and is ingrained in me to this day. It is always called out as one of my key strengths, so don’t underestimate how important these attributes are!” Katie says.
If you’ve assessed your job from all angles and still can’t get excited about it, perhaps it’s time to go. Despite the temptation to ditch it, try to stay in the role while you find the next one. You’ll appreciate the cash, and future employers like to see that you can stick with a job. Plus, job searching and taking control of your future will remind you that this role will not be forever.
Take the time to consider what you’d rather do, and make a list of all the companies, roles and experience you’re interested in, no matter how big or small.
Get proactive and contact companies by emailing your CV with a personalised note about why you’re reaching out. Scour job sites for roles that tick all your boxes, and think outside the square too, by exploring roles advertised in other employment categories. Never be shy to ask family friends how they ended up in their job — you never know what you’ll learn, or who may know of a great gig up for grabs.
The same approach is also recommended within the workplace. “If you’re working with someone more senior whose job is something you’d like to do in the future, get to know them a little better,” Emily says. “Talk to them about how they got where they are now.”
“If you show interest and ask questions, most people are usually happy to talk to you and give you some ideas for how you can achieve your future career.”