Unless you have recently won the lottery or a distant millionaire auntie has left you a stash, the reality of most of our lives is that we have to work. Nine-to-five, or nine-to-nine in some cases. Grind, grind, grind – and we're not speaking of coffee here.
With the economy being what it is, just having a job should make you feel grateful. But what if you know you should be a TV announcer and you're working as a receptionist? Or you have always wanted to be a scuba diving instructor, and here you are working in the basement of a twenty-storey building sorting letters?
Here's how to survive in the job that you have without losing your mind.
Focus on what the job does for you. It provides you with money to pay the rent, the electricity, the school fees and the grocery bill. It also buys movie tickets and a new pair of jeans – in a good month. With a bit of luck it also gives you medical aid and a pension fund. If you work for a big company, you might even get life insurance and a disability cover – not things to be sniffed at.
Find a friend/mentor. It doesn't have to be someone who works in the same field as you. Find someone you admire and learn as much from them as you possibly can. Moral support and encouragement from someone at work can also go a long way to making you working situation more pleasant.
Take advantage of training opportunities. Does the company you work for pay for further training? If so, make use of it. Further qualifications or diplomas could also make it easier for you to move onwards or upwards.
Focus on how you are doing, not what you are doing. If you concentrate on doing your particular job as well as you can, you will stop yourself from falling into a negative spiral of thinking about what you really would like to be doing.
Make preparations to move on. So many people are stuck in jobs they don't enjoy, they moan constantly about it, year in and year out, but they make no effort to move. Keep your CV updated, let people know you are available, watch the newspapers and above all, don't be out when opportunity comes knocking. But do learn to be patient and start taking action to make your dreams a reality. These things can sometimes take a while.
Feel solidarity with others like you. Think of it, out there are thousands of people who would rather be doing something else, but without whose valuable contributions society wouldn't function. Someone has to pick up litter, change nappies in a daycare facility, apprehend armed robbers and type letters for real dragons in managerial positions. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!
Match your skills with the company's needs. If you know the company is shortly going to be branching out into a new direction, get yourself acquainted with that particular field. In this way you could get promotion you might otherwise have waited for for years.
Don't fall into a spiral of negativity. Moaning and complaining constantly about your job, boss, duties, working hours can cause you to become inefficient and negative. A lot of energy could be drained from you while you are complaining. Remain pleasant and positive and do your job as well as possible – positive enthusiasm is catching and could also lead to other opportunities.
Get involved in energising activities. Hobbies, exercise, socialising with friends or going to the movies are all things that will give you energy and the strength to carry on. Lying around moping is not going to get you anywhere.
Your job is not a life sentence. In a depressed job market, moving on is not always a possibility, but keep your options open. Your boss and the company do not own you and if you find things really intolerable, there is always the possibility of resigning. Loyalty is all very fine and well, but ask yourself how much loyalty your company would feel towards you if they had to retrench half their staff. If your job is having an impact on your mental or physical health, consider other possibilities.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated February 2012)