Sometimes life happens. Before you know what hit you, you find yourself working at a dead-end job that’s not really where you want to be in life. It feels unfulfilling and meaningless. When people ask you what you do, you turn 50 shades of red when you describe your job. You fall asleep each night wondering when and how you’re going to get out of this dead-end job.
Have you been there before?
In 2016, I stood behind the cash register at a local fast food restaurant. As a college graduate, punching in someone’s order numbers, restocking condiments, and sweeping floors was the last thing I ever expected to be doing. I was SUPPOSED to be working at a marketing agency as a mid-level graphic designer or copywriter. I was SUPPOSED to be working at a church as a youth pastor or marketing director. I was supposed to be… I was supposed to be… I was supposed to be.
How do you stop surviving at your dead-end job and get the most out of your time there, so that you feel like you are thriving at work?
1 – Develop a new skill.
You can never have too many skills. Seriously. Whether you want to learn how to write better emails, design graphics in Canva, or figure out how to deliver customer service that exceeds their wildest dreams, this is your chance to learn.
Whether you’re looking for a new job that better fits your passions and talents or wanting to start your own business, this is your opportunity to beef up your skillset where it may be currently lacking.
This is a great opportunity to test-drive tools, strategies, tactics for the future. For example, let’s say you want to start your own business. Well, you’re going to need to build an email list and not just build an email list but write subject lines (and content) that gets people to actually open your email and read it.
Now, if part of your current job description includes anything having to do with email or email marketing, this is your opportunity to test and see what email subject lines work, what subject lines fall flat, and what software is best to use.
Take advantage of any personal or professional growth opportunities you have that will propel you into the life and job you want.
2 – Make new friends.
Why in the world would you make new friends at a place that you just want to escape? I feel that. I’ve been that person. However, studies show that having significant, meaningful relationships increases happiness, and the happier you are, the more successful you are. Want to be successful? Make friends.
Also, remember that relationships don’t have to end when you change jobs. Oftentimes, if you choose to pursue a relationship with someone who you used to work with, the relationship can be significantly deeper and more impactful than if you still worked with them.
After leaving a toxic 9-5 job, I took a break from every relationship I had built there for a few months. It gave me a chance to evaluate which relationships were worth keeping and which I needed to let go. Fast forward a few months and I now hang out with a former coworker and my former manager at least a few times per month. I’ve also maintained relationships with people I used work with 6 years ago in another country and know that if I come visit, I’ll have a place to stay.
3 – Practice gratitude and happiness habits.
The dirty little secret (*cue All-American Rejects song) of happiness is that it’s an inside job. Okay, wait. Before you think I’m going to go all woo-woo on you, let me explain. Life is like riding Space Mountain at Disney. You go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a split second, and you never know what’s around the next corner.
The first time I rode Space Mountain with my dad, I was terrified. Now, I don’t mean I was a little scared. I was crying-in-line-the-entire-time sort of scared. My happiness level at what felt like a “low point”? Zero.
However, as I got older and changed my attitude and convinced myself that this was going to be fun and I was gonna be happy about it, the more I actually enjoyed the ride.
You spend 1/3 of your weekdays at your job, so it’s definitely a low point if you’re not in love with your job. If you can figure out how to be happy when external circumstances are not in your favor, then you’ll have it made – no matter what life throws at you.
4 – Network.
If you want a better job, you need a different job. Obviously. At least 70% of new job openings are not listed. This means you need to have a great network to get you into the job position of your dreams. You also never know who knows who in the world we live in. For every person you meet, try to connect with them online – whether it’s through Facebook or LinkedIn. That way, when you’re ready to (discretely) announce you’re looking for a new job, you’ll have a larger network of people who may know of potential jobs that you’d be great for.
Back when I beating my head against that cash register, I had a coworker-friend who also worked for another local business. She knew of a new job position that had just opened up, and because of her connections, I landed an interview and got the job.
The truth is that what we normally consider to be a “dead-end” job isn’t actually a dead end. Sure, it may be the end of you working for that company, but it can also be the springboard for a better position elsewhere.