At one point or another, you will work in a position or at a company that doesn’t align with your personal dreams and aspirations. Whether you’re working for a start-up or major company, it can be difficult to motivate yourself when feeling trapped and unhappy. However, there are ways you can be sure to excel at your job, even in the moments you feel your sanity slipping.
This being said, there can come a time when stress and unhappiness can overwhelm your ability to fulfill your duties. But before you dive headlong into looking for a new position or the sad reality of unemployment, take a look at these 10 tips for surviving jobs that are unrelated to your dreams.
1. Make friends
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the time you spend at work is a significant part of your life. If you isolate yourself from your colleagues, your impression of your work (and that of the company’s) will decline discernibly.
Even if you only casually discuss plans for the weekend or funny stories over the water cooler, building rapport with your co-workers will make your day brighter and allow you to maintain a positive attitude. No matter what your future plans may be, having people you connect with at your workplace will allow you to push through while you aim elsewhere.
2. Find your niche
With any job you have, always find a way to incorporate your passions into your work. Quite simply, if you’re not adding aspects of yourself into your work, it will be difficult to sustain yourself.
Whether you work in business, marketing, or tech, et. al., besides forming a small group of friends at work, finding a place at work where you shine in your areas of expertise is very important. Not only does it boost your performance, but it also bolsters your professional resume in your field of choice.
Another benefit to this is how your ability to step up your game looks. For you, it is a means to have some say in your day-to-day work life, for your managers and supervisors, it makes you an asset for developing the company. If you have something to contribute, don’t hesitate to mention it to your superiors.
3. Have an outlet
For surviving your ‘stepping-stone’ job, your life outside of work is, unsurprisingly, vital. Aristotle was keen on maintaining a delicate balance, of finding the ideal to lead a happy life. And you may think that sounds crazy, but without time to do what you love outside of work, you may not find the patience and mental strength to continue working at your job.
Having an activity, anything from yoga or painting to playing trivia at the local pub, can act as a buffer between your personal and work lives. It will help you relieve stress and give you something to look forward to. In accordance with eating healthy, exercise, and having good mental health practices, having a regular hobby or activity can leave you with a more positive attitude when working towards your goal, especially while at a less than stellar job.
4. Set small goals (and celebrate them)
This option is notably important when you’re still planning how to reach your dream. Set measurable and achievable goals for the short term, making sure to celebrate and reward yourself for your hard work.
With achievable short-term goals, you’ll be able to show yourself that you really are working towards something, a feat that can seem impossible when you feel as though you’re at a dead-end at work. These will also keep you motivated and positive about the journey to are taking to land the dream job you’ve always wanted.
5. Weigh the pros and cons
An important aspect when working a job that isn’t your ideal is to weigh the pros and cons. If you feel overworked, undervalued, unmanageably stressed-out or unhappy, you must ask yourself: “What benefits me here? How will this affect my end goal?”
If you find that the cons far outweigh the pros, it may be time to consider looking for another position if you’re not yet at the point of getting your dream position. While job searching, if you cannot find anything related directly to your ideal job, look for positions where you could more successfully execute these steps. Most notably, find that niche where you can shine while preparing for that next step.
6. Don’t lose sight of your dream (and don’t give up)
Losing sight of your dream, or telling yourself that given any circumstances you won’t achieve it, is a mood killer. Whatever works best, if it is hiding post-it notes around your house or setting a reminder on your phone, never lose touch with what you want to achieve. Without a keen eye on your path, it will become even more difficult to cultivate a productive and positive work life at your current job.
“It’s often overlooked how important it is to not only find a job that you love, but to make every opportunity, even those you may not like, worth your time. Time is limited, so you want to make the very most of it, even in the most insignificant job,” notes Steven Jaffe, attorney and co-founder of Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L. “Even if you simply enjoy working with your co-workers, having a positive aspect of your job will make your work better and make you happier. Every job will have an impact on your life and your resume.”
Dreams, no matter how attainable they may seem, can be difficult to make a reality. But never give into moments of doubt or fear–always look ahead to your greener pasture, and one day, you’ll make it there.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.