Work Life

How To Survive Your First ‘Proper’ Job

words by Year13 | photo by @clemcnabb

School is hard work sometimes. The uniforms are lame, you have to work out what the fuck your biology teacher is on about before exam time, and you’re expected to survive through swimming carnivals, assemblies and presentation nights. Who wouldn’t be looking forward to graduation?

But life after graduation can be hard too, because you have to work. When you finally realise that you’re not heading back to school, you’ll want to get out there and start earning some cash instead.

Chances are, at least for a while, you’ll need to get used to early wake ups, being stuck in some tiny office cubicle or ear-busting workshop, doing boring, repetitive tasks for some of the time. How are you supposed to survive that? You could try avoiding it–maybe hide out in the toilet, or call in sick every day but these are hardly long-term solutions. A better approach to surviving your first job is to tackle it head on–try to make the most of it…enjoy it even.

You may not have the power to order minions around or snag an office with harbour views just yet, but you do have the power to make something of even the most tedious job. That power is called initiative, and there are a few ways you can use it.

1. Build alliances

You can always benefit from building alliances, regardless of where you work. If you engage with your colleagues and find out the people worth knowing, you’ll quickly learn the important stuff, like shortcuts to getting your work done more quickly, what jokes you shouldn’t make in front of your boss, and why it’s a bad idea to eat anything Ben brings in to weekly morning teas. You’ll also be able to identify the colleagues that will have your back. As you develop your alliances, you’ll find yourself making new friends, feeling more relaxed, and maybe even enjoying heading into work every day.

2. Reap what you can

The job you’re doing now can be temporary if you don’t like it, so for the time that you’re doing it, you might as well reap what you can. Learn how to use new software, new apps, new power tools. It might come in handy in getting a better job, and you might impress that hot colleague if you can be the first one in the office to work out what the hell that Transformer-resembling ‘Document Centre 760’ can actually do. Plus, if you take the time to learn how your organisation works, it will help you to run your own show one day, if that’s what you’re keen to do.

3. Think about resigning

If you hate your job so much that you dry heave at the thought of having to turn up ever again, think about resigning. I mean that literally—think about resigning, don’t actually resign unless you’ve won Powerball in your lunch break. This will get you thinking about possible new jobs (ones that you’d actually like to do) now that you have a better idea of what working life looks like. Maybe even draft a pretend resignation letter; aside from giving you some practice, creatively writing about the crappiness of your workplace or certain colleagues in a mock resignation letter is a good way of venting, without actually offending anyone or giving up your pay cheque.

4. Improve your workspace

Why not build some playtime into your work time? After all, you have more resources than just your graffiti-riddled pencil case now. You have internet access, office supplies, power tools, or a steady supply of people to talk to. If you don’t like your office cubicle, use your stationery to have fun improving it–create a mini golf course, or a fort. Get value from the internet access your work is paying for too–if you’re not constantly scrolling through all our articles then you’re not using the internet for what it was intended. Try out different accents when you answer the phone; take the reins of your social club and get the tie-wearers pub-crawling it; become the office prankster. If you keep things legal and within HR guidelines, it is possible to have fun at work (just make sure you’re doing some actual work as well).

5. Think of the money

If all else fails, just focus on the money. Sure, you might not be on great wages but that packet of pay landing in your bank account every week/fortnight/month will make it all worth it. Whether you’re saving up, buying Maccas feeds everyday or paying off your car or HECS debt, remember that every time you walk into work you’ll be putting yourself closer to what you want.

There are some shocking jobs out there—think cat food quality inspectors or porno theatre cleaners. But there are good things about even the worst jobs (and if someone can survive those shit jobs, you can survive your average one). There’s the funds they pay you, new things to learn, new people to meet and occasionally, a free lunch. Even if it does end up sucking harder than a cordless Dyson, your current job doesn’t have to be forever. So for the time you are stuck with it, you may as well make your job work for you.