Tuesday, 27 December 2011

How to Stay Motivated When You Aren't In Your Dream Job

Image thanks to antara

This is a guest-post from my gorgeous gal-pal, Ellen. If you haven't checked out her blog yet I absolutely demand that you do. If you would like to guest-post on Charade, it would make my day to hear from you! Drop me a line: megan[at]charadestyle[dot]com

After job hunting for six months I have found a job in a welcoming, friendly café and feel very fortunate - given the current employment crisis - that I have been given the opportunity, finally, to get out of the house, work hard and earn some much needed money. It is true that I don’t necessarily see myself working in the catering industry forever and would personally feel unfulfilled if I didn’t manage to find a job working with books, doing something that really challenged me and also fulfilling my desire to help others in the work I do (for example in a literacy charity). That said, I do gain satisfaction from doing my job well and completing tasks I am given in my café job to a high standard.

I’ve noticed that customers, clients and fellow colleagues always ask me what field I’d like to eventually work in when I’m doing stints in cafés or shops. This isn’t because they know I have aspirations to get into publishing but, I think, they assume one wouldn’t aspire to make a career working in these types of establishment. I find myself wondering what it must feel like for people who are happy in the good job they are doing making coffee, serving food and drinks and selling on shop floors when they get asked the same question. I think it would begin to feel as if people would respect you more as a person if you had a ‘proper job’.

Success is drummed into us our whole lives.Making something of yourself’ and ‘reaching your potential’ are stock phrases at school where you are constantly judged on your academic prowess and ability to perform well in tests. My decision to go to university seemed to me at the time an inevitable one. I know full well how lucky I am to have been able to go at all and did enjoy my learning experience but, at the age of nineteen, I felt I was expected to go to university and, if I didn’t, that would reflect badly on me. I don’t deny my own drive to achieve, to educate myself and have a good career but, if I felt no expectation from society, my fellow peers, colleagues and family I may well feel happier than I currently do at having a job in a café. However, it is the case that I see this job as a (hopefully happy) stop gap before finding a job in publishing. Motivation to do a really good job and find the best in everyday, sometimes repetitive or unglamorous tasks, is going to be really important for me to be happy for the time I am in the job.

Here are a few things which I find help to motivate me daily to do a good job and stay confident and upbeat:

Whatever the job, do it with style.
I find that tasks such as making coffee on a proper coffee machine can be really satisfying if you have already had some experience in it so that you can feel confident doing at least one thing in a new job really well and be known for making great coffee by customers and your colleagues. As a way of keeping the task interesting I also like trying to perfect my style, memorising regular customers’ orders and learning about the type of coffee we use and where it’s from, the machine and how it works and different coffee styles.

Note your progress.
I sometimes worry that I am doing a similar job to when I was sixteen, even though I have come a long way since then academically and professionally, but it is actually quite an interesting process to be going through as I see the difference in myself from when I was younger to now. It is really important to be confident when working in retail and catering. Coffee shop managers overuse the phrase ‘use your common sense’ but often destroy their employees’ confidence by watching them like a hawk for mistakes. I feel lucky that in my current job the people I work with are all laidback enough to let me get on with any task on my own and only help if I ask for it. I remember being younger and asking for help ever other minute because I wasn’t confident to go ahead and do something alone. Now I use my instinct and judgement and it usually works out well, and if it doesn’t I learn from it! I have also noticed that I am much less sensitive to criticism than I was when I was younger and don’t see every piece of feedback about my performance as a negative slight!

Use your imagination.
I have always made up stories in my head and I’ve noticed that in the first few days of working in the café I was imagining my colleagues reporting back to our boss about how well I had been doing. This probably sounds rather strange, or at least a bit arrogant, but I’ve found it a really helpful way of maintaining confidence in myself in unfamiliar situations. If you imagine others thinking that you’re doing a brilliant job, you will probably do one!

Make an impression.
The other way that I motivate myself, and I think all of the other staff at the café do the same, is by trying to impress the boss who is away most of the time. When he is due back everyone makes twice the effort to do everything by the book. Although he is not very vocal with praise and his approval is not actually very important to me in the wider scheme of things, it feels good to work towards a set goal with the rest of the team.

Make it about more than just money.
Pay and holiday are classic incentives to get employees working at their best and it is always nice to receive a tip for the effort you are putting in to provide a good service. Strangely, after getting paid for the first time in three years this week, the bonus of making money now has not really registered with me yet. I am more intent at the moment on making new friends at work and becoming a part of the family atmosphere of the café. Making a good impression, chatting to really friendly customers, doing a brilliant job (even if the task is making coffees, stacking dishwashers and clearing tables) is what really motivates me and, as long as I am doing that and am happy working with a supportive team of people I am going to view my job for what it is- a much needed, much sought after, much appreciated, much tiring job!

What is your strategy for staying motivated at work? Does it work!?


wobblygoggy said...

I will be trying to apply this advice to my job in the new year!
Good post!

Nicola said...

Good advice!

Molly said...

Great post. I worked as a sales assistant for several years and I loved it. Yes it wasn't my dream job but I was at university, and then after university studying for an MA so everyone I worked with knew that I wouldn't be there forever but if that had been the case, it would have been fine. I loved the people I worked with and I loved my job. It's all about your attitude!

miss congeniality said...

What a great post! I love how positive you are! And it comes at such good timing for me right now since I'm so unsure about what I want to do, whether I'd like to keep studying what I started this year and how I want to live my life. I hope some day I will find my dream job and can apply your tips here (also, you make me want to work in a cute café with bookshelves and friendly people)

Claire said...

Love this!
PS: Megan, I mentioned your wonderful blog on a recent post of mine about my top favourite blogs for 2011 :) x

Annie said...

What you wrote really touched me. I felt the same way during my last job. I felt humiliated because I didn't came up to mine and to the society expectations. It hurts when you see in your "friends" eyes that they feel sorry for you but when they walk away they make fun of you. It's hard to be motivated at work, so thank you for the post - it was helpful. :)

Kimberley said...

I was talking to my therapist about this. About how people feel "money" jobs are generally better and more important than "people" jobs and the pressure you feel in lesser employment. Great post!

Gwen said...

What an interesting post and pertinent also for those of us who are in "proper" jobs to which others might aspire. Even having found a job which meets all your aspirations, there are always tasks or days which seem less worthwhile or fun so the tips to remaining motivated are useful.

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