Let’s face it. Most of us are stuck at dead end jobs that we are too scared to quit due to ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES™ . Hear me out though: YOU ARE NOT STUCK. Here’s a concept that may blow your mind: Focus on yourself. Don’t let your job become your entire life. Trust me, we’ve all been there. We all have those days where it seems like the world is coming down on us and you won’t be able to deal with your incompetent boss for one more day. Let me regale you with a story.
I work at a small, but well known company in Los Angeles. Being a family owned business, my boss is the owner’s daughter. In fact, all the management is part of their family. Four years in, I began to lose patience with the way they conduct their business. No one does any work, and me and another office employee essentially do the entire management’s work. Just when it seems like the workload reaches its peak, another load is dropped on our head.
One particularly stressful day this past summer while at work, my boss presented me the straw that broke the camel’s back and I had finally had it. Without losing my temper, I wrote a professional email explaining the frustrations we have to face in the office and the unfair workload presented to us. Her response? She forwarded my email to her father, the owner of the company. His response? He confronted me in front of the entire office staff, and berated me in a profanity laced lecture about how there are men and women fighting overseas who are being shot at and that I don’t know hard work if it bit me in the ass. I wish I was exaggerating. I was shocked, embarrassed and unsure of how to respond.
As much as I wanted to blow up, I kept my cool. Instead of sinking to his level, I let him unleash on me. After he was done, I threw my personal belongings in a bag, and walked out. I emailed the management team that I will be taking the next two days off. I did not want to return. How can a business owner be so unprofessional and belittle an employee who puts so much of their business on their shoulders? That’s when I came to the realization that I meant nothing. To them, I am just another cog in the machine that can be replaced. The bitter truth is that most business owners only care about the success of the business, no matter the cost.
Believe me when I tell you that it took EVERYTHING in me to return to the office the next day, even though I said I will not be there. I swallowed my pride and marched back in the office, and during our Thursday meeting, I addressed the elephant in the room. I rehearsed my response the night before to make sure I let all my frustrations be heard. His response? Well, let’s just say he learned nothing. What I laid out for management was simple.
I will do my job. I will not question the decisions made by management. I will not respond with vengeful acts. What I would do is shift my focus from my work to my personal goals.
The point of my story is that you should not be afraid to stick up for yourself. I have to warn you though, life isn’t like a feel-good movie where the villain learns the errors of their ways. Life will beat you down and will not go easy on you. Your job is the be stronger than life itself. Push forward. Don’t let anyone walk all over you, even if it is scary to defend yourself. I am lucky enough to say I stood up to the owner of the company I work for, and still be employed by them. Their opinion never changed, but now they know I’m not a pushover. As pretty as that sounds, I’m not convinced that things will get better. That’s why I offer these tips to help you look to the future with a little more optimism, should you find yourself in a similar situation:
1. Focus on yourself before your work.
Don’t get me wrong. Work hard and stay consistent. Don’t overdo the extra credit. Work hard enough to earn yourself that promotion, but not so hard that your employer is getting free labor without paying extra for it. That being said, leave your work at the office. Don’t take it home with you. Once you walk out of those doors at the end of the day, shift your focus to your personal goals. Staying at a job just because you’re comfortable there is one of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make. The only thing worse than wasted money is wasted time.
2. Actively search for a better job.
You’ll never leave your dead-end job if you never put your foot forward. A job is never going to land in your lap, unless you’re a Kardashian. There’s nothing wrong with searching for work on Craigslist, your local ads, and job boards. Join LinkedIn. I can’t stress that enough. It seems intimidating at first but networking is key to being aware of who is hiring. The easiest thing to do is look for a job similar to your own. At the very least, seeing what work is available is comforting because it lets you know that there are other things out there.
3. Don’t tell your coworkers.
Yes, our coworkers are almost always our best friends. That doesn’t mean that we need to tell them our plans. I hate to say it, but people sometimes subconsciously want you to stay at their level. They don’t want you to move on in your life while they stay comfortably plateaued in life. A good time to let them know about a potential job is when you get hired. More times than not, if you let your coworker know you’re looking for another job, they may take it personally by thinking that you feel that you are above a job that they are comfortable with.
4. Stay professional.
Just because you’re leaving does not give you an excuse to act out or slack off. You are still an employee during your job search. Remember that your job has the right to terminate you if you start slacking on the job or stop caring about the quality of work. If you stay professional, it speaks to your integrity. It will also most likely leave the door open behind you when you leave. If you are trying to keep yourself from leaving on bad terms, just remember that if you leave professionally, you prove to be the bigger person.
5. Polish up your resume.
Keep your resume short and simple. DO NOT use the same resume for every job application. Tweak it to the needs of the job at hand. Put down relevant experience and make your objective clear. Do not underestimate the power of a good Cover Letter. Make it funny. Your cover letter is your chance to stand out from the rest of the applicants. Make a clever joke, and refer to the company you are applying for. Applying to a restaurant? Mention your favorite item on the menu and why!
6. Always give a two-week notice.
Even though you may be leaving due to workplace issues, the way you leave a job says more about your character than you think. It shows that you do not think you are better than the other employees. Don’t leave them hanging because chances are, they aren’t the ones you are angry with so why punish them with extra work? Also, if you are a big believer in karma, then it will do you well to keep a level head during a difficult time.
If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this article is to not be afraid to stick up for yourself. You should be aware that most bosses want employees to act like mindless drones. A yes-man is the ideal employee. What’s even better? An employee with a mind of their own. If you have an issue, speak up. If you have suggestions, make them known! If you are being mistreated, let them know you won’t stand for it. I won’t sugarcoat anything. This will sometimes create negative situations, but at the end of the day, a person who sticks up for themselves earns the respect of everyone. Even those they stand up to. So get out there and show the world that you are in control of your own life. You are never stuck working for a job you don’t like. If you only stay where you are comfortable, you will standing in the same spot for the rest of your life.
If nothing else, use your unwanted job as experience that’ll help you in the future with your dream job. No job is a waste, make it work for you!
Oh, you’re wondering how my story ends? Well, I’m still employed by those people, but I only see them as an opportunity to have great experience on my resume for my dream job. I don’t put them ahead of my goals anymore and I haven’t been happier. In a weird, twisted way, I feel that I needed that confrontation to happen in order to get my head in the right place. More positive things have come my way since it happened because I shifted my focus. I hope you all do the same.