Making the most of the 9-to-5 grind

Hooray, we’ve entered the world of full-time jobs! Most of the time we can pay our bills, buy groceries, and even spend money on sporadic social outings – congrats, we’ve made it!

For those of us working 9-to-5, there are tons of things to be excited about: financial independence, not to mention recognition and compensation for our talents. But, as the magic of landing our first “adult job” wears off we’re stuck with eight-hour days of staring into a computer screen, doing tedious tasks that feel less than awe-inspiring, and evenings feeling drained from responding to supervisors’ and co-workers’ demands. Truthfully, work sometimes just feels like a big ole’ soul-sucking dementor. Fortunately, many 20-somethings feel the same exact way.

To help save your soul here is some advice you didn’t ask for. Kayla, who spent the past year working in the St. Louis tech world, Mariana, a spunky artist and university employee, and I, Patricia, an assistant at a non-profit, are here to offer up insights into keeping your cool while working the 9-to-5 grind.

1. Focus on the good parts of the job

Everyone has parts of their job that they simply don’t like. But hopefully there are a couple parts of your job that you do like. Focus on the good parts. Ask your supervisor to give you more assignments in that realm. Chances are if they value your work they’ll want to make sure you’re challenged in order to keep you around.

2. Network

Okay, so this gig might not be your dream job, but make the most of it while you can. If you’re lucky enough to be in the field of your choice network and get to know your superiors. Ask them about their careers – I guarantee they’ll be happy to chat about their life stories (because who doesn’t like to talk about themselves). In exchange you’ll get some invaluable guidance regarding your own career and really important connections that may come in handy down the line.

3. Keep the venting to a minimum

Complaining about your job to roommates, family, and friends, might seem like the obvious way to blow off some steam, but too much venting isn’t a good thing. If you’re finding yourself in full-winded rants about how Becky in accounting jammed the printer, you’re probably taking things too far. According to my therapist who sees too much of me, venting actually leaves people feeling aggressive and promotes negative thought patterns, which, in short, makes you a pain in the butt for those around you. Kayla’s take: “Distancing myself from upsetting situations usually does the trick. Reading a book, going to the gym, or playing with a friend’s pet helps me get my mind off of work.” And a personal footnote: numbing acts like drinking, netflixing, or eating can feel super fun, but don’t really help you process feelings.

4. Take what is yours!

Mariana says: “Don’t feel guilty taking the breaks and perks that you deserve. Sometimes I feel guilty taking my vacation time, which is ridiculous.” If it’s a benefit you’ve earned, treat yo’ self. That includes taking lunch breaks, sick time, and, yes, especially vacation time. You’re no use to anyone if you’re a brain-dead over-worked zombie.

5. Remind yourself that this is only your first job

Your first job is just that, a starting point for the rest of your career. It’s not going to be perfect, so take a deep breath. Mariana’s advice: “Remember, getting our first 9-to-5 job is an accomplishment. Be proud of that.”

6. Socialize after work

I am terribly introverted. And a lot of the time nothing sounds better after a long day of work than vegging on my couch and binge-watching Girls. But don’t do it! Mariana: “Make plans for fun things to do after work so you have something to look forward to. It’s so easy for me to come home after work and feel like blah. Plan ahead so you can’t bail.” Humans need socialization; it reenergizes us. So just promise me you’ll do it even if you don’t always want to, okay? It’ll make your day feel more complete and satisfying.

7. Get inspired!

If there’s ultimately no way work’s going to spark your fire, find something outside of work to get involved with. St. Louis needs the energy and participation of its young energetic citizens, so get involved in the community, work on something that feels bigger than yourself, and work to make St. Louis an even better city to live in.