How to Try to Get Value at Work
May 3, 2016 9:15 AM   Subscribe

For a number of reasons, I don't feel valued at my current workplace. I know what I ultimately need to do, but what do I do about my feeling useless and lack of hopelessness in the meantime?

It's a long, complicated situation. But basically, the people above me are possessive of their jobs and unlikely to leave so I'm not able to learn anything or advance in any way while here. My job has essentially become dead-end. I've spoken to management about ways to make myself more useful but to no avail.

I know that the one true solution here would be to just find a new job. I've been applying to things but nothing has materialized yet. I'm also going through some medical issues and am also starting to rethink career paths, and both are complicating things. I plan on taking some online courses that I hope will advance my career, but that won't happen for a couple of months because of financial reasons.

I am also in therapy.

Is there anything I can do, anything I can tell myself, to make myself not dread coming to work every morning? Any way at all I can feel less useless? Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I struggle with this too. Sometimes I have to excuse myself to go have a pep-talk in the mirror.

(me, points to self in mirror): "You are NOT your job. You are NOT your job."

You can be whoever you want to be.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is always value to be found in the job you currently have. You don't say what, exactly, that job is or why you're miserable or don't feel valued. Which I think would be helpful context to have. But my advice is, I feel, pretty universal.

What are new responsibilities you'd like to take on? New challenges? Define them. Rise to them. Proactively take on new things. Seek out new skills and opportunities to learn. Ask questions of your superiors. You say people are possessive over their jobs and won't leave? Maybe that's because they enjoy their jobs and are happy in them. Learn from them.

Prove your value and you will be valued. It's as simple as that. If you're not being promoted, it's because you're not showing you deserve it (doesn't mean you don't deserve it - but they're not seeing it).

What are you looking to get out of a new role elsewhere? See if you can define those things for yourself and work toward getting them in the meantime, in some measure, in your current position.
posted by chestnut-haired-sunfish at 9:26 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

There will be times in your life when you will just be working for the paycheck, or coasting through a slow season before high season comes. Learn to be in that moment and save your strength.

If you can't take on anything else at work without causing a ruckus, pick something you can learn on your own without them. If you don't have YouTube access (where you could be learning to be an Excel rockstar, or teaching yourself the principles of accounting, or some other skill that you see coming up in those job listings you're reading all the time), get one of those "learn X in 21 days" or even dummies books and do it that way.

Nobody's obligated to value you, or tell you about it even if you are, so you need to find ways to help yourself here. In the meantime, at least try to keep your mind busy enough on useful things that you're not making yourself even more unhappy.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:33 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm in a similar situation re: job going nowhere in any direction.

So, I've made myself useful outside of my job. I vice chair a parent council in my school district. I manage the facebook page for it. I've organized events for it, etc. It's more personally fulfilling than my job. And the job I have lets me do this in terms of time, dedication, and energy I have to spend on both. I am also fortunate that I have really excellent and understanding colleagues, so it's in part because of how well we all work together that this situation is not unbearable. It's actually quite pleasant, and it works for me for now.

Look for something outside of work to give you the feeling of personal fulfillment you wish your job could give you. It has the added benefit of not making your job feel as dead end, too.
posted by zizzle at 9:47 AM on May 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have had some shitty jobs. But I always prided myself on doing them really, really well. At the phone company one of the things we used to do was volunteer at a hot dog stand at the coliseum during basketball games. A lot of folks just did what needed to be done and tried to be above the work they were doing. Me, I owned it.

I was the bubbliest, goofiest, most fun hot dog lady. People responded, I'd upsell stuff, they'd buy it. The money we made went to a domestic abuse shelter so I was into it pretty hard.

At the end of the night, I was excited if we topped our previous game's take. Then I went home.

I am sure that there are some nice things about your job. Enjoy what you can. Leave on time. Don't invest too much into it. Keep looking for a new one.

It's not forever, you have a plan. But nothing says you have to hate it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:11 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will echo what others have said: find something outside of work to fulfill yourself, and make your work environment as pleasant as possible.

You can't be miserable all the time. It's just not good for you. So if you are miserable some of the time, it's even more important that the rest of the time you are not miserable. This could mean volunteering or helping, or it could be more banal. For example, I made it through a lousy job a few years ago by playing bar trivia with my friends three nights a week. You might also pick up a hobby - learn to cook or whatever. Take short vacations/road trips, if you can. Just whatever it is, make sure you have something to look forward to after work. The worst thing is to sit on your couch and mope about how much your job sucks.

While you're at work, do what you can to make it more tolerable. Decorate your office or cubicle. You spend more time there than you do at home, but nobody ever thinks to make their desk livable. Bring in some plants, get some framed artwork or nice photos (I once framed some leaves on a blank sheet of paper and hung those), buy a more comfortable chair. You're limited by the crappy office furniture your employer provides, but try to make your space at work look as much like something you'd be happy to see in your own home. If you're going to be unhappy, at least have your surroundings look nice. Pay attention to your other senses, as well. If it smells, get an air freshener. Listen to the radio or Spotify.

The good thing about a company that doesn't give a crap about you is that, well, they don't give a crap about you. Take advantage of that. You can do kind of a lot of non-work-related stuff while you're there, in between actual work tasks. At one old job, I read all of Anna Karenina. I still spend a lot of my time reading, mostly longform articles online. I once calculated how many words I read in a week on my work computer, and it came to 224,690. (That's about the length of Crime and Punishment, or half of War and Peace.) I also do a lot of Duolingo to learn German, and I've done some programming practice as I learn to code. One of my co-worker has Twitch up on his second monitor from the minute he turns on his computer until the minute he shuts it down. And it's not like we're total slackers; we're two of our company's better employees. There are lots of little spaces in the day, after you finish one task and before you begin another, where you can do a little something for yourself. By definition, they're small and pretty worthless, but add them up over a week or two, you get some real time.

In general, I would recommend The Artist in The Office as good reading for people who don't want to hate work.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:15 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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