Long ago, in my first round of “I must escape corporate hell,” I took a job as a receptionist – at that time my dream “easy” job. We all have these – jobs that we imagine to be so much easier than our own current employment. Some of my former coworkers, for example, dreamed of standing on the street corner, twirling one of those giant sale signs. Personally I would not call that easy, even if they were paying me 80K per year, but to each his own.
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I rapidly discovered that being a receptionist is, in fact, really hard. You have to be great on the phone (which I’m not), have a strong memory for names (which I don’t), be able to do very many things at once (eh…) and be pleasant the whole time. Ugh! I was drained beyond belief within a week. When a Mafioso type burst into the office in week two, demanding that my somewhat shady boss pay him, I was grateful for the excuse to quit. Where did I go? The shady boss’s tax attorney, who put me to good use for several months.
My point being – most of us don’t end up working really far outside of our natural skills, talents, and preferences for any length of time. You might (justifiably!) hate your workplace for multiple reasons, but usually if you can stick it out for six months or more, some of what you need in a work environment is there. Today, I invite you to celebrate what IS working in your current work situation, no matter what that might be. Retired, unemployed, starting a side hustle, chained to a career you hate – whatever it is, let’s celebrate what we can. Here are some celebration options:
Mining for Gold
Thinking about your current employment situation, answer these questions:
- What is good about it?
- What have I learned about myself in this work situation?
- What types of skills have I learned from this work situation?
- What friends did I make because of this work situation?
- How did I change because of this work situation?
You might notice that these questions sound a lot like those from last week’s post on celebrating a problem in your life. As many of us think about our work situations as problems in our lives, it’s helpful to turn this same lens of looking for the good in them.
Often the thing that causes us the most pain is having dichotomous thinking, e.g. “this is good or bad” with no in-between. Most of us are experts at finding what is bad in our work situations. I invite you to just get this all out of your system with an exercise in telling and retelling your job story. First version – you can only write terrible things, and take the role of the victim. Here’s the (very brief) version of my time as a receptionist:
I was hired by this shady character who I think was committing tax fraud. I was supposed to just be his receptionist, but he made me look over his books and put financial data together. Scary people called all the time, and they were really intimidating but I had to be nice to them. The boss wanted everything done yesterday, and would yell if I didn’t get things done right. One time someone came in and threatened him, looking for money and I was afraid for my life. My boss made me work with his tax attorney on his shady seeming insurance claims, and when I got up enough nerve to quit, the tax attorney insisted on hiring me, and he turned out to be abusive too.
Keep in mind, I worked for this guy for less than two weeks. In my ‘real’ jobs, I could have droned on for pages about all my suffering, and I welcome you to do just that.
Then read it.
Feels a little bit repulsive, huh? It’s hard to imagine liking a job when this is the type of crap we’re thinking about it every day. Of course, I know you are not telling a full victim story every day. I never did either. But it still crept in. “I had to” do this. The attorney “was abusive.” Granted, the guy really was not very nice. However, I could have, at any point, established better boundaries with him or looked for alternative employment. I wasn’t his victim.
So, next up – tell the hero’s saga version of your job, and only write positive things. Here’s my receptionist job, revised:
I was hired by this guy who decided to take a chance on me, even though I didn’t really have any experience as a receptionist. I learned really quickly, and my boss valued all of my skills. He saw that I had a financial background, and trusted me with handling his very complicated tax records within the first week I was working for him. I got to talk to all different types of people on the phone, and meet people I never would have met in a corporate environment. Someone even came in and demanded money once – what a story! I’m still telling that one, years later! I didn’t think staying in his office was a great idea after that, so I proposed working from his attorney’s office. The attorney loved me so much that he hired me the second I decided to leave my receptionist position, so I never even had to look for another job!
Both of these versions are true. One of them makes me feel awesome. One makes me feel like crap.
Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Live the Hero’s Saga
This week, live only in the positive story. Your work might still be less than ideal. Your boss might be in a terrible mood. Look for ways to make your work your hero’s saga – how you overcame obstacles to emerge victorious. Just try it out and see what your work life is about.
I’d love to hear how you decide to celebrate your existing work situation. Post a comment below, either with your strategy, or with your hero’s saga version of your work.