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Self-Improvement

How to flip your career boat upside down at a mediocre job

Do you love Mondays?

It is a simple question that gives an interesting insight into how you view your work.

If you are someone who is not exactly thrilled to be at your job on a Monday, join the club.

According to the Gallup Poll on Employee Engagement, Millennials are the least likely generation to be engaged at work, as just 29% are "engaged", involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work.

Further, a vast majority of millennial employees (55%) are indifferent at work.

Student debts, the economy, family commitments - there could be many reasons why you have to work at a job that sucks. It is tempting to put yourself on hold till you get your dream job and just survive by doing a bare minimum at this mediocre job.

Career-wise this could a blunder of epic proportions.

I am sure you are wondering ‘why should I invest time and effort into a mediocre job instead of coasting it?’

Why should you care about thriving at a job that you hate?

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Your job is not just your job - it is a part of your identity.

When you are giving a sloppy performance at a mediocre job it will affect your self-image and confidence.

Mediocrity has a gravitational pull that will drag you down in other areas of your life.

Does that mean you should continue to ‘grin and bear it’ instead of quitting the less-than-ideal job? Quitting is a very nuclear option and not practical for most of us.

Drew Carey 

Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar.

Desk jobs are a reality and real life commitments need to be met with.If you get an opportunity to change your job, you must take it.

But if you have to work at this mediocre job for some time to come, you need to learn to make the best of it.

Changing yourself is the practical option because you are in control and you can start right now!

Before you can do what you love, you should start by loving what you do.

Here are 6 strategies that will make your life at that mediocre job easier or even enjoyable.

1. Get into specifics of what is working and what is not

When seen in totality, issues at your job can seem overwhelming and complex. Breaking them into small, specific chunks can help you get to specific actionable solutions.

Only specific questions can get specific solutions.

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Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for and interpret the information that fits our preconceived notions.When you already know you hate your jobs, you will subconsciously look for signs that confirm this bias in your mind.

We are also biologically programmed to focus more on the negatives rather than positives. So, many a times, you end up interpreting opportunities as problems.

The solution is to break down your ‘bad job’ into ‘specific issues that trouble you at your job.’

Only when you recognize each of these issues and to what degree they are aggravating you, you can decide how much time and energy to invest in solving them.

Paul Auster 

The truth of the story lies in the details.

What are the pieces of your puzzle?

Make a list of all the things that you hate in your job. Now think about creating solutions to these issues.

Some of them you can change completely. Take steps to address them whenever you see an opening.

Some of them you can avoid to some extent. Take the little respites wherever you can..

Some of them you can’t change. Understand that even your dream job will have unpleasant aspects. Instead of fighting or griping about it, focus on the benefits for which you are wading through these hardships.

Choose your battles wisely!

There is no point in getting yourself worked up over something you can’t change at your job.

At the same time it makes no sense to not put an effort into changing something you can just because you don’t plan to work on this job forever.

While you are at it, why not make a list of all the positives of your jobs too?

2. Have regular breaks at work and from work

How many times have you sat glued to your chair for hours just to complete the work that you hate?

Your intentions are right but you are working against yourself when you continuously engage in work without breaks.

Alan Cohen 

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.

You brain can only do so much before burning out. It gets even more taxed when you are working constantly at a job that you don’t necessarily enjoy.

‘Breathe’- a study by Staples has found that more than one-quarter of workers don't take any breaks during the workday other than for lunch.

The same workers felt more breaks would improve their work happiness(60%) and personal happiness(43%).

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Many of us don’t switch off from work at all.

According to the American Time Use Survey, 33% Americans worked for 5 hours or more on weekends and holidays.

More than one-third employees eat lunch at their desk.

80% of people continue working even after leaving the office.

When you are working 8 hours a day at the job you hate, your mental resources are already stretched to their limit. If you continue working on the same job even after coming home it will further tax you and make you miserable.

When you hate your job, working more will make you miserable, working smart can actually help you perform better

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A Baylor University study has found that frequent breaks are associated with higher job satisfaction and reduced emotional exhaustion.

Make use of the remote working options if they are available. Taking a break from the workspace and working from the comfort of your home can relax you and recharge you.

Even while you are at work, take frequent breaks. Don’t spend the break checking messages or Facebook. Get up from your desk and get physical movement.

3. Focus on small daily wins to keep the fire burning

The biggest disadvantage of the mediocre jobs is that they are repetitive. It is hard to do the same thing everyday and not switch to the autopilot mode. This kind of disinterest can be the killer of productivity and overall enthusiasm.

One way to overcome the boredom is to set small, daily goals that can be measured and give you a sense of progress and achievement.

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Progress is a huge motivator - even when imaginary.

Researcher Ran Kivetz calls this concept the ‘illusory goal progress’ effect. He says that we can be convinced to shift into a higher gear of work, even when the perception of progress is a complete illusion.

When you are making progress, you are changing your story from, ‘stuck at this soul sucking job’ to ‘learning to deal with challenges of making this job interesting’.

This changed narrative can make your efforts seem valuable and your work an important part of your journey.

Harvard experimental studies show evidence that setting goals increases the success rate in various settings.

Even neurobiologically, collecting wins, no matter how small, can chemically wire you to perform better by causing a repeated release of dopamine.

The small, achievable goals will be easier to reach, and as you reach each goal, your motivation and satisfaction will increase because of small successes.

Another advantage of these micro-goals is that they can engage our emotions.

When we focus on the specifics of the job, it gives us a sense of purpose thereby creating an emotional connect.

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Not all of us work at jobs where our contributions can be clearly measured.

It is often hard to relate to the work you are doing without seeing what it is ultimately leading to.When you are feeling stuck in the daily grind of your job, it is hard not to feel purposeless and hopeless.

Dr. Frank Murtha 

Your vision is your destination, and small, manageable goals are the motor that will get you there. Without the vision you’re on a road to nowhere. Without the goals, you have a destination but no motor. They work in tandem, and you need both. 

Small goals can help you make sense of your effort and help you connect emotionally to your tasks.

Small goals that give direction to your everyday efforts can brighten your outlook and help you stay motivated on the job.

4. Start on your life, don’t push your passion into a post-job timeframe

The very fact that you are not at your dream job can make any other job seem boring and draining.Not able to do what you truly want to do makes you feel stuck and powerless.

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When you are in that mindspace it is very hard to see positives in the job that pays your bills. It gets blamed as the only thing that holds you back from pursuing your goals.

Many a times our frustrations are not about the job we do have but the job we do not have.

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Are you future focused or present focused?

When you are focused exclusively on your present misery, it is hard to take positive actions and see beyond your daily hardship. In contrast when you are future focused, you can use your long term goals to fuel your daily actions. It will be the light at the end of the tunnel that makes today’s hardships bearable.

Psychologist Walter Mischel’s Marshmallow experiment revealed that, people who can delay gratification have higher rates of success.

The ability to sacrifice present comfort for future gains is an important predictor of success.

So, how to strike a balance between future aspirations and present realities?

You need to do a little bit of what you love, everyday.

Israelmore Ayivor 

The great opportunity you are daring to get may not come at once. But it is possible that this opportunity is hidden in the tiny ones you neglect every day. 

Spare time to work on passion projects along with your day job. Don’t postpone your passion into the future.

Keeping in touch with your passion like this will make you aware that what you are going through is temporary. This knowledge eases the pressure.

This will also give you an outlet for the underused potential of your day job.

Working on your larger life goals will help you see how your mediocre job fits into the larger scheme of things.

You will realise how it is actually helping you build up resources for your future while providing a cushion against risks.

5. Block toxic conversations and colleagues

Every workplace has great potential for negativity. If you hate your job these negatives are amplified.

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This situation is further complicated by the rampant dissatisfaction and negativity among your co- workers.

The Gallup Poll into employee engagement has found that organizations typically have 1 in 6 employees who are actively sabotaging the functioning of others in their workplace.

Negativity in the workplace is contagious and brings everyone down.

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You may be thinking, what is the harm in just listening around and not actually saying anything?When you are with someone experiencing a negative emotion your brain mimics the emotions to build empathy. It has the same effect as you having the same emotion.

You will be shocked to know that emotions are contagious.

Psychologists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler found that a person's happiness is related to his friends and the feelings of someone well beyond their social circles.

First of all don't be the person who constantly complains and drowns in negativity. Don’t gossip behind backs or bad mouth your colleagues.

Secondly, stop hanging out and griping about work with the colleagues who are suffering at the same sulky job.

Michael Bassey Johnson 

To be of good quality, you have to excuse yourself from the presence of shallow and callow minded individuals. 

If you are stuck working with a negative person limit your interactions to facts only and get back to work without encouraging toxic banter.

Rise above the backstabbing and snarky comments. Focus on work and get on with your life.

You are already dealing with the stresses of the job that you don't enjoy. Adding negativity to the mix will make a tolerable job downright torture.

6. Make your workspace pleasant to de-stress and increase productivity

If you are not exactly thrilled by the idea of stepping into your office, your physical workspace could be a part of the problem.

Physical environment is the most significant factor in determining an employee’s ability to focus. In fact, it’s been said that a well-designed office can increase your productivity by about 20%. Employees who have control over the design and layout of their workspace are happier and healthier and up to 32 % more productive.

While not all of us can get offices with sweeping views, we can certainly take actions that make our workstations liveable.

Do you want to feel instantly better in the middle of a hellish workday? Declutter!

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A messy desk in an unorganised office space can frustrate you mentally and physically.Clutter has a profound effect on our mood and self-esteem. The clutter competes for your attention and depletes your mental resources.

Princeton University Neuroscience Institute’s research shows that, you will be less irritable, more productive, distracted less often, and able to process information better with an uncluttered and organized home and office.

Make it a point to clear your desk at the end of the workday. Organise your files and folders for better efficiency and a streamlined workspace.

Bringing nature into your office, whether by way of a potted plant or even just a visual representation in the form of a picture will increase your creativity.

Dr. Virginia Lohr of the Washington State University confirms that plants significantly lower workplace stress and increase productivity.

Bring personal touches to the place by adding photos of your loved ones. Add keepsakes from your passion projects to cheer you up.

Creating a workspace that caters to your needs of physical, functional and emotional comfort will help you handle the pressures of a mediocre job.

Conclusion

Mary Kay Ash

A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.

There are no perfect jobs. Even your dream job will eventually have aspects which do not set your soul on fire.

The highway to success is a myth. Everyone navigates through unpleasant but necessary jobs in the course of their career.

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Each job you do adds to your experience. It is an opportunity to polish your skills and increase your competency. So, while you are working at this mediocre job, take every advantage that it has on offer and put your best efforts into every task.

Surviving a mediocre job is not about creating an excuse to continue in a job you hate because of fear of the unknown or failure. This is about positioning yourself for success while minimising the risks of hasty actions

.A mediocre job does not give you the excuse to be a mediocre employee.

The job may pay you but it does not own you - you still have power over how you feel.

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