Everyone needs at least one crappy job in their lives.
I remember it clearly.
I was sitting in a bar in London, sipping white wine with a girlfriend who was flashing a new Louis Vuitton purse. As I dragged out my tatty coin purse to compare she grimaced and said, “We really need to get you a pay rise”.
“My job’s not about money,” I replied defiantly.
“All jobs are about money,” she laughed.
And that was that. Her words buzzed in my ear like an irritating fly. Before I even grasped the truth that I wasn’t actually unhappy in my current job working on a magazine, I’d replied to a job ad, borrowed my friend’s designer shoes for the interview and was standing in the foyer of a swish advertising company on my first day.
Frankly, I was a fool. The hours were longer, stress was tripled and work was deathly dull. My boss was a screaming, frowning, bald ball of fury with eyes that bulged out of his angry face and trembling fists that were permanently as balled as his head.
I dragged myself across London on a miserable hour and a half long commute (each way) and changed into heels round the corner from the office hating my new life with every second that passed. Gone was the easy dress code of jeans and flats, this was a swanky world of sky scraping buildings and even higher heels. The only thing bigger than the heels were the egos and I was drowned in a world of spreadsheet hell which had replaced the serenity of stringing sentences together.
It wasn’t pretty. So I stuck it out for six months, resigned and shimmied back into magazines as fast as my flats would carry me.
Looking back at that bizarre chapter of my working life though, I have no regrets. Because it taught me six very valuable lessons:
1. Never let anyone else set your goals for you
No matter how fancy their designer purse is. I tried and tested the world of dizzy dollars and found out for sure that money isn’t a major motivator for me. Having a bank balance that had eaten a few more carbs really didn’t flick my happiness switch.
2. Bad managers teach us how not to behave in an office
And never to ball our fists. Don’t shout, don’t stress and be sure to treat people with respect. Plus, remembering to breathe stops your face from turning red.
3. Great work colleagues are everything
You bond with fellow suffers in horrible jobs. I’m still friends with someone I bonded with in that company, many years on from the ordeal. We all spend so much time at work, if you’re miserable, your radar for people you click with is on high alert, we must make the most of that. Great colleagues have the power to make any job bearable, even fantastic, so hold onto them when you find them.
4. Getting out of your comfort zone is important
Even if it makes you cry. Yes, I cried in the toilets, into my pillow and made my girlfriends’ shoulders damp with many hours of soft weeping, but I came through it and earned a badge proudly emblazoned with ‘survivor’. I knew myself well enough to call time and jump out of the fire, pronto. Cue: pat self on back.
5. Always listen to your gut
The heart wants what the heart wants. Like dating the guy who’s sensible on paper, has a flashy car and whisks you off on fancy dates but doesn’t make your pulse race, you can’t force the wrong job to be right, no matter how many boxes it ticks on your sensible list. You learn to follow your heart and trust that it knows where it’s going, even if that means risking it all.
6. Good jobs are hard to come by, hold onto them
It is only by having a bad job you recognise a good job. This is why everyone should have a properly grim job at least once.
Actually, there’s probably a number seven as I’m still a whiz with Excel thanks to the fear and loathing in that advertising grind, which not many journalists can say!
One thing you learn about life as you get older is that things tend to make sense when you look back at them. Even when you’re unhappy and hating your job, have some faith it’s not going to last forever. Even when every awful minute feels like an hour. When you look back at it years later, you’ll see that some good came out of it. So if you’re currently in the thick of a truly woeful job, hold on tight, and I’ll see you on the other side.
Image via femalegazereview.com