I’m very unsatisfied with my job right now. It’s my first job out of school and I’m pretty miserable everyday. I don’t feel like I’m using my brain and I feel like I’m being criticized at every turn. This isn’t my dream job, or my dream career path. I’m feeling very stuck. How do I stay motivated if I’m not working toward my dream job?
Here’s the thing about “dream jobs” – they don’t exist. Before you call me a cynic, let me tell you a little story. When I was a senior in high school visiting colleges, I sat in on one career seminar that has stayed with me even though I didn’t pick that school. I was sitting with my mom, an elementary school teacher, and a bunch of other high school seniors and their parents. The person speaking to us (someone from admissions, probably) asked any parents in the room who loved their jobs to raise their hands. Most did. Then, the speaker asked if anyone had the job they had dreamed of as kids. Only a small handful of people kept their hands up. My mom was one of them. Then the admissions woman said, “I assume those of you who have your hands up are either teachers or you work in medicine.” She was absolutely correct. The room was more than a little shocked.
The point is, gown-ups don’t have dream jobs. We have jobs that we like, jobs that make us feel satisfied and useful. Hopefully, those will also be jobs that we love. Your first job is never your dream job because no job is ever your “dream job.” No kid dreams of the frustrations and weird minutia that happen in every job. Unless your job is the kind of thing kids dress up as for Halloween (doctor, fireman, cop, teacher), then your first job out of college will not be what you dreamed about. And even if you are a doctor or a teacher, your job will not be like you dreamed, unless you were a very weird kid who dreamed about paperwork and staff meetings.
There’s something you need to understand about your first job: It sets the bar for every job you’ll have after. If your first job blows, then you’ll know what you don’t want next time. And you’ll also know when something is truly good.
If your first job is fun, engaging, challenging, and fulfilling, and you don’t have some middle management pretend-boss breathing down your neck and micromanaging your life, then where the hell are you supposed to go from there? How are you supposed to build from that? I’m not saying your first job has to suck for you to realize a good thing when you have it, but it helps to know that things can be worse. It helps to have some perspective.
My first job out of college was horrible. I hated every minute of it. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and I had a creepy boss who called me “little lady.” But it’s been uphill ever since, friends! Perhaps having a weird, not-exactly-great first big-kid job is all part of the circle of life.
You’re learning invaluable things right now, even if you don’t realize it. You’re cutting your teeth in a safe space. Sure, you don’t like this job and you feel like you’re screwing things up (well, you probably aren’t, but that’s beside the point), but you don’t care about the job–so what are the stakes? You are free to royally screw up at this job, learn from it, and take what you’ve learned to a new job. This way no one at your new job will know about all the ways you screwed up at your first job. No one can tell you how to be satisfied in the job you have. That’s something you have to make happen for yourself. I might even argue that not being satisfied in this job is good. It will help you seek out the next thing, and this time you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. Then you can make sure that the next thing is better.
Feature photo by Pham Khoai // VIA Pexels