If your new job isn't the love of your life, make the most of it during your search for a better one.
You made it! After endless hours of filling out job applications, rehearsing your interview responses, and sending post-interview follow-up thank you notes, you finally received that coveted job offer.
It's not your dream job, but it will cover the rent. Although you're happy to have the promise of a paycheck when so many are still struggling with unemployment, you can't shake the feeling that there must be something better out there.
You're not alone.
These days, everyone from career coaches to celebrities encourages professionals of all ages to “pursue your passion” and “find a job you love.” While this sounds like solid advice for a happy career, the harsh reality is that most people work their entire lives without reaching this lofty goal.
And even if you're lucky enough to find your dream job — you know, the one where you have a rewarding role at a great company that offers a solid paycheck and all the best perks — you'll quickly realize that no job is ever perfect.
Don't get me wrong. I'm one of those career advice experts who believe you should enjoy your work. Life is too short to stay in a job that makes you miserable.
But there's a difference between finding a job you love and finding a job you like a lot.
If you accepted a job that's less than ideal, never fear. I'm here to help you make the most of your new job while you continue your pursuit of a better career.
Start your new job on the right foot.
It doesn't matter if it's a job you love or simply a means to a paycheck. It's never too early to start building your personal brand in the workplace. You already know that it's important to make a good impression on the very first day of your new job, but take this a step further by creating a list of things you can do during your first week, month, and 90 days on the job that will set you up for success.
Related: 8 Tips for Success on Your First Day at a New Job
Make the most of your situation.
Spare yourself a lot of unnecessary disappointment by resetting your expectations for your new job. So, it's not the job of your dreams. That doesn't mean this job will be a waste of your time.
Often, it's necessary to take a step sideways or even backward in your career in order to gain the skills and experience necessary to move forward. Think of your new job as a stepping stone toward your long-term goal.
This is especially true if you are changing careers or a recent college grad starting your first entry-level job. When you're trying to break into a new industry, you're looking for any foot in the door, even if that means taking on an unpaid internship or an entry-level job outside of your field of study, such as a customer service representative.
Your first job after college will require grunt work. If your entry-level job is making you question your career path, take a look at the work the person two levels above you is doing for the company. If that person's role interests you, then you know you're on the right track.
Set realistic expectations for what your new position has to offer and look for the silver lining.
Related: How to Make the Most Out of a Job You Don't Love
Find outlets for your interests.
It's important to find ways to use the skills you enjoy most and wish to pursue in your long-term career, especially if they fall outside your current job description. For instance, if you have a passion for writing, share this information with your manager. There may be opportunities to contribute to the company blog or lend your writing skills to another department in the organization when it's running short on resources. I've seen plenty of colleagues change careers because they were willing to volunteer their skills and time to help another team on a project.
Also, look for opportunities to practice your craft outside of your new job. Using the example above, you may decide to take a creative writing class, pick up some freelance work through a site like Upwork, join a Meetup group to get together with other like-minded individuals, or use a site like Catchafire to find a skill-based volunteer opportunity that allows you to leverage your writing skills for a good cause. All these activities will help boost your resume for your target job in the future.
Network like it's your job.
Studies find that you're 10 times more likely to land a job when your application is accompanied by an employee referral. However, you can't get those coveted references without networking. Make it your mission to become an active networker.
Develop a valuable network of professional connections by getting involved in your alma mater's alumni events, joining relevant LinkedIn groups online, and finding face-to-face networking opportunities through relevant professional associations, trade shows, and conferences.
You don't have to leave the office in order to network. Get to know the colleagues in your department and take advantage of company-wide events to meet those outside of your group. Networking with your current colleagues is especially helpful if you want to pursue a different role within the same company or plan to continue working in the same industry.
Build the skills you need.
You may find that your new job isn't providing you with the opportunity to build certain skills that are important for your professional advancement. If that's the case, take matters into your own hands and seek out opportunities to fill your skill gaps. For example, you can sign up for an online course through sites like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, edX, or Skillshare. You can also pick up one of these highly-recommended career development books to help you improve the soft skills that employers are looking for. You may also learn about relevant seminars, webinars, and other professional development opportunities through the professional associations you join and the conferences or networking events you attend.
While some would argue you want to avoid being labeled as job hopper by employers, most career experts agree that employed professionals should always be looking for new job opportunities. Keep up your job-search activities by regularly updating your resume, monitoring your online presence, fleshing out and creating your LinkedIn profile, starting a brag book to record your professional wins, making networking a priority, and applying to positions you're interested in and qualified to pursue.
Don't let your new job get the best of you.
It can be challenging to stay motivated at work when you're doing a job you don't love, but don't let your current situation bring you down. Try adopting these tried-and-true habits to make you happier in the office.
Know when it's time to move on.
While I strongly encourage my clients to land a new job before they call it quits with their current employer, there are times when it's not worth the wait. If your job is making you sick and you absolutely dread going into work every day, it's time to make a change.
Related: 11 Signs That It's Time for a New Job
If you're a recent college graduate and you're anxious to quit your entry-level job and find a new opportunity, take a step back and read this article first on how long you should stay at your first job. It will help you decide if it's truly the right time to quit your job or if it's in your best interest to stick it out a little longer.
Keep your eye on your long-term job goals and make the most of your current situation. You've got this!
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