I think there are many of us millennials who are finding ourselves in jobs we never really pictured ourselves having. Some of us swore we’d never be broke enough work in retail but now find ourselves folding sweaters at the Gap in order to afford our daily latte. Some of us assumed our art would support us after college and instead have had to resort to waiting tables. And some of us never intended to go anywhere near corporate life, despising the thought of working for The Man, but now find ourselves getting excited over the office supply order coming in so we can snatch up the good pens first. If you’ve found yourself stuck in a dull 9 – 5 that feels like it’s eating your soul, try these tips to keep your attitude afloat.
1. Take advantage of the power of distraction.
Make sure you bring your headphones. Use them. Don’t be the idiot who keeps the volume up so high that co-workers have to throw things at you to get your attention, but you can definitely use them to help drown out general office nonsense. Getting to keep one metaphorical toe dipped in your happy place will make you less likely to want to punch everyone in the face.
Podcasts tend to work better for this than music. Podcast chatter makes just enough noise to tune out what your co-workers say, but you can still hear when they’re actually addressing you. Plus, they’re free and infinite, so just pop over to iTunes or Stitcher and type an interest of yours into the search bar.
2. Stop negativity in its tracks.
Don’t complain out loud. Just don’t. Negativity begets more negativity, so even when you feel like you’re just bonding with nearby co-workers when you start in on a bitch-fest, remember that it’s ultimately just dragging you down. Now, there’s no need to traipse around the office spewing inspirational quotes when you hardly even want to be there, but at least try not to ruminate on how shitty your job is. It won’t help.
3. Turn lunchtime into “Me Time.”
Plan awesome lunches that you look forward to all morning. Take yourself on a date to go get a killer sandwich, or meet a friend for sushi. If you’re stuck eating at your office, pack your favorite foods and at least eat somewhere where you can get all your work out of your sight. If you can leave your desk, even better. Put some space between you and that hellscape if you can.
4. Dress to impress… yourself.
It’s good to dress like the sharp and (mostly) together lady that you are, instead of the dull lemming that work makes you feel like you’re turning into. Even within the confines of a dress code, there are tons of ways to express yourself. Wear stuff you actually like, not just what you think fits the drab office aesthetic. Don’t save all your favorite clothes for the weekend if they can be worn to the office with a little tweaking (i.e. you can throw a cardigan or a scarf over literally anything and make it office-appropriate). You’ll feel so much more at ease if you’re dressed like yourself.
5. Take 5.
Don’t make your lunch hour your one respite. Science has proven that we’re more productive when we get breaks, so make sure you’re taking them. Do a lap around the office, grab a snack, whatever, but try not to spend your breaks endlessly scrolling your social media. Try to give your eyes and brain a break, too.
6. Take pride in your space.
When you’re less than thrilled with your day job, it often starts to show in your job performance and your desk space. Most days, it’s tempting to leave the accumulating coffee cups and messy paperwork and just dart out the door when the clock strikes 5. If you take a few minutes before bailing to make your desk look organized, you’ll be so much less cranky when you come in the next morning. Do it for future you! Your bosses will totally notice, too.
7. Find a “Work Wife/Husband.”
Work is infinitely easier to deal with when you have co-workers to confide in. You don’t need a hoard of them to be happy, either — if you can find just one soul to connect with while you’re at the office, life will be much better. Find someone who you can take coffee and lunch breaks with and send eye-roll emojis to during a particularly obnoxious business meeting. It’s also nice to have someone who knows what you’re going through so you don’t have to waste your time describing that creepy guy in IT to your friends yet again.
8. Make your time off count.
If you’re not happy at work, just look forward to the time that you’re not! Make fun plans for weeknights, even if it’s chill stuff like bingeing the latest Netflix release or meeting your friends for dinner. And make sure you go totally HAM on the weekends (even if that means hitting the farmers market or whatever). Take advantage of the fact that when you walk out of the building, your work day is truly over for good.
9. Turn your commute into a pleasant experience.
Don’t waste your whole commute sitting in a pit of dread. You don’t have to look forward to your arrival at work, but you can certainly try and take your mind off it while you’re on your way there. Bring a deliciously caffeinated beverage. Cue up your favorite music, call your mom, listen to a podcast, whatever. By the time you arrive at work, you might even surprise yourself by being in a good mood.
10. Customize your space.
Like it or not, you spend a significant portion of your life at work, and likely, at your desk. If you’re going to be stuck there, you might as well make it feel comfortable. Whether you have a whole cubicle to yourself or get a section of a free table in an open office, you can customize the space around you. Even something little like making your computer background something that makes you smile can go a long way. If you have a whole cubicle, go nuts. Put up pictures of stuff you like, get a small plant — hell, you can buy customized office supplies if that puts you in a better mood. Make your space feel like yours and it will make being at work a whole lot more tolerable.
11. Reframe your thinking.
You don’t have to be working your dream job to be happy and fulfilled. Think of your day job as what pays your bills so you can afford to buy cool stuff and indulge in your hobbies. Us millennials seem to be the first ones who feel deeply defined by what we do for a living and I won’t lie to you, this can be stressful and unnecessary. You’re not a loser for having a basic 9 – 5. You’re a #BossBitch, ‘cause your bills are paid, you’ve probably got sweet benefits, and you get to do literally whatever you want in your spare time. Don’t discredit that. A job is just a job.
12. Take advantage of the freebies.
Working in an office often means you are bombarded with free stuff. Whether it’s random donuts in the break room, Red Bull samples in the office fridge, or even just cheap pens — keep an eye out for them! Who cares if you don’t need a mousepad with your company’s bank logo emblazoned on it? It feels good to take one anyway. And the receptionist keeps that bowl of candy on her desk replenished for a reason — go ahead and take that Tootsie Roll Pop. These are the little things that make working for Corporate America totally worth it.
13. Stay off social media.
Okay, so a quick scan of Instagram would tell you that literally everyone you know works next to a pool. Or not at all. It’s almost impossible not to feel down in the dumps about yourself when you’re sitting at a job you’re less than satisfied with, looking at pictures of people who seem to be living a literal dream life. Firstly, remind yourself those are just highlight reels and often totally exaggerated, and secondly, remember that you don’t actually have any idea what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Sure, it seems like so-and-so from high school gets paid to travel to Katmandu and strike yoga poses, but she might actually make $0 to do so and is armpit-deep in crippling debt.
14. Find a way to incorporate your talents.
If it feels like nobody at work is utilizing your talents, you might be able to turn that around completely. It’s simple. If a project comes up that sounds right up your alley, volunteer. Even if no one’s asking. If you overhear your boss talking about needing to revamp the website and you’ve got some serious coding prowess, speak up. If you notice some serious lack on the company’s Facebook page, shoot your boss an email with a couple examples of what you think would make good posts. Obviously you don’t want to step on any toes, but showing initiative and trying to use your talents to benefit the company will often make you look and feel really good.
15. Enjoy those bank holidays.
If you’ve got to be stuck in the office during business hours, try and remember how many times the office is closed for holidays. Every office is going to be different, but it’s highly likely you’ll get the basics off, and those really add up! You’ll likely never have to miss a Labor Day BBQ or a 4th of July pool party. Your friends with jobs that seem cooler and more free-spirited probably don’t enjoy that same luxury, so feel free to enjoy it.
16. Offer to run errands.
Keep an ear out for anyone seeming to need to run out of the building for something, and volunteer! Whether it’s running down the street for a coffee, or driving the next town over to Staples, it’ll feel great to get out of the office and you’ll look like such a sweetheart for offering to set aside your “busy schedule” to help out a co-worker. You might even get lucky and become the go-to errand girl, in which case you’ll have excuses to leave the office daily while still on the clock.