Why You Should Be Happy Your Job Sucks
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Like every college graduate, I expected to set the world ablaze with my awesome work ethic and degree. Surely with an undergrad in marketing and management, I would jump into a six-figure career as soon as the diploma hit my hand.
As you'd expect, life didn't turn out that way. My piece of paper netted me $38k in student loans, but no job prospects to go along with the suffocating student loan debt. I applied to 200 jobs, AT LEAST, and landed zero of them. I got good grades, I did an internship, and I had worked through college and high school.
This definitely was not the way my post-grad life was supposed to be.
A week after graduation, I got lucky. My dad worked offsite for a local business who needed a new office worker. I interviewed for the position on Friday, and my first day was set to that following Monday. I had my own office, my own computer, and a paycheck! My starting salary was $13/hour, or roughly $27k a year—a far cry from my six-figure dream, but it was a job with a fancy title and fancy office.
The first few weeks, it felt like my dreams had come true with this job. I had a lunch hour, wore professional clothes, and got to speak with clients. My boss trusted me with a lot of important tasks, and as a new grad, that meant the world to me. It felt great being thrown more and more responsibility like I was really proving myself.
But a year into this dream job, I had an emotional breakdown as I was working late to catch up on reports. After crying in my office, smearing the accounting reports with my tears and looking like a clown with my makeup all disheveled, I had an epiphany. This job was ruining me. I looked around and realized just how underpaid and toxic my work environment was.
It took me about six months to secure a new job, where I have been for nearly three years now. For the longest time, I was bitter toward my first job after college. I didn't see it as a learning experience. It was a toxic work environment filled with low pay, drama, and being undermined and micromanaged by the sales force every step. Any mistake I made, there would be a company-wide email berating me. Or worse, we'd have a meeting over it in the conference room, throwing me under the bus for things I had no involvement in. I'm all for owning up to my mistakes, but the staff blamed me for everything. It was exhausting and draining.
But I stayed because I had student loan debt up to my eyeballs. I stayed because I didn't deserve any better. I stayed because 200 other people had already rejected me, and that meant I was incapable of finding anything else, right?
The job made me feel worthless and stupid—like a child playing make-believe, an imposter behind the desk, and an incompetent fool. Every mistake I made was amplified, berated, and I had no support in my role. My co-workers made it feel like I'd never amount to anything, and it broke my spirit.
But instead of being bitter and upset over that 1.5 years, I have FINALLY (nearly three years later... I'm a slow learner) learned to appreciate my awful first job after school.
And you should too! Working a terrible job after getting a degree and job hunting like crazy is demoralizing, but it teaches you life skills you've otherwise might not have learned.
1. It teaches you to take risks.
One of the best Bob Dylan quotes—"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose"—sums up my first job perfectly.
Every job looked way better than my current position, and nearly everything paid more. I was open to taking more risks to advance my career since I was so miserable. Starting from the bottom makes you more open to risks since you have less to lose.
Now in my current role, there are good days and bad days, and I'm making about $40k salary with overtime. Compared to where I started, that's good money! There are a few perks of my government job that negate the lower pay, and actually make me appreciate my job a little more now. Do I love it? Nope. But am I comfortable? Yep! And let me tell ya—being comfortable makes it so much harder to take risks and initiate change. It's easier to walk away from something you know you hate than it is to walk away from something that you are lukewarm about.
It is easier take risks when you are unhappy and uncomfortable. When your first job out of school is toxic, you're motivated to leave. When it pays so little and has minimal perks, it's MUCH easier to leave and take risks in your life. Let that distaste for you job fuel advancement, jump around, and take bold career moves while you're young!
2. It teaches you to be smarter with money.
I wish I had been better at tracking my money back then. By no means was I good with money. I managed to pay off a substantial part of my student loans, despite making a minimal income. Somehow, I made my low salary and high debt work. I got interested in money and being more frugal because I had to. Saving money and debt payoff wasn't fun back then when I was super broke.
Having a low income, however, helped me realize just how little I needed to live on and have fun with. Sure, there were sacrifices: I missed vacations, fun outings, and I wasn't able to buy a lot of clothes. BUT I always had electricity, food, shelter, and was able to take care of my dog on top of accelerating my debt pay off.
Now I have a little wiggle room in my budget. And thank goodness I learned self-discipline right after school. Being frugal by necessity taught me very valuable lessons on money and has assisted in avoiding lifestyle inflation.
3. You learn that you are capable of so much more.
We've all been in toxic relationships. Whether a friendship, romantic relationships, or with family. It's easy to get beaten down and convince yourself you're stuck. I've realized I'm basically a doormat. It is very easy to take advantage of me since I'm so trusting and naïve. I've never had a backbone. And while I had high hopes for a great career, being broken down so much made me think I'd never amount to anything.
I stayed at my job way too long due to fear. If I can't even make this sales rep excel sheet look the way he wants it, how will I ever land a better job?! Clearly, I'm not capable of success. If I can't get the trucks scheduled at the correct time, who else would hire me?! No one, right?
It took a while, but I finally recognized I am capable of recognizing a toxic situation and leaving it. It is scary, but I'm capable of getting myself out there, interviewing, and make a big life change. Leaving a toxic relationship proves you are strong and worthy of so much more.
And I'm capable of being a rock star at my job and designing a life I love.
My first year didn't go as planned. It was a humiliating year, filled with more failures and episodes of depression than I can count. But I can now look back at that rocky start, and actually appreciate it. Sure, my job sucked, my pay was awful, but that taught me so many valuable lessons.
You should appreciate your bad job and experiences. Look for something better, but be thankful for your struggles. If your job sucks, you should use that as motivation to change. You'll quickly realize you're capable and worthy of so much more. And in a few years, hopefully, quicker than it took me, you'll be thankful for that challenging first year.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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