MAKE THE MOST OUT OF A CRAP JOB
Toiling at a mindless, soul-sucking job? Stop clockwatching and use your time to amass the mad skills and killer contacts you need to say “buh-bye.”
Good on Paper At her consulting job, Lizett, 25, worked with top companies and made serious bank, but she hated the slavish hours and meaningless tasks. “I started daydreaming about breaking my leg so I wouldn’t have to go to work,” she says.
Her exit strategy She got trained in general office skills, like making presentations, which could be applied anywhere, and stockpiled cash by moving to a place with two roommates. The biz smarts and surplus scratch enabled Lizett to create her own fashion brand. “Many of my former colleagues have told me I’m brave to do this,” she says, “But if you’re really unhappy in your job, it’s not going to get better, so don’t be afraid of the possibilities.”
the takeaway Treat your job like business school. Push yourself to take on new roles, and show up for all those company-sponsored seminars on communication, networking, and strategy. Those skills will help prepare you for your next gig.
Abused Assistant Jessi’s boss didn’t wear Prada, but she did make life hellish. “She once told me to take notes at a speaking engagement, but said I wasn’t allowed to talk, that I should be ‘the peon in the back of the room.’”
Her exit strategy Jessi, 24, let her boss’ insults roll off her back as she did her work— and looked for a new job. When her current employer asked if she could handle different personalities, Jessi assured him it was no problem. “When you can say ‘I have worked at a high-pressure organization, that’s marketable,” says Michelle Goodman, author of Crap Job: How to Make the Most of the Job You Hate.
the takeaway Nightmare bosses teach you how not to manage people. The gofer years are the time when you learn to manage bloated egos, dispel drama, and just get stuff done. Underlings also become very good at reading rooms and knowing when to assert themselves—and when to keep their mouths shut.
The Dead End Emmelie, 24, was a social media copywriter, working in her field but not loving it. “Every day was the same, and I knew I didn’t want my boss’ job,” she says.
Her exit strategy She ramped up her tech and graphicdesign skills and started schmoozing at industry events, where she landed gigs and clients—one of whom later offered Emmelie her dream job. To maximize networking events, set up coffee dates with power players before you get there. “At the event, people will be rushing around and they’ll be harder to pin down,” says Goodman.
the takeaway If you’re stuck in a rut, you’ve probably got some free time on your hands. Use it to have fun and explore new possibilities. Clock out at five and take a salsa class. Mix business with pleasure by meeting peers and power players in your industry over mojitos. Mine your new friends for information—where do they think your industry is going? What opportunities are they stoked about? Make the most of this “down time” to meet, greet, and get newly inspired.
Call Center Slave Josefina, 30, was trapped in a cube farm, answering calls and online chats. Then she realized she had the perfect get-out-of-jail card: the company directory.
Her exit strategy Josefina studied her marketing colleagues’ work and then invited them to lunch. Later, she asked to shadow them, and started helping out during her breaks. “That made them realize they needed a junior person in the department,” said Josefina. She got the job. Goodman says that reaching out to colleagues who are slightly higher on the totem pole than you is a great escape plan, but it’s important to do your homework. “Don’t ask them things you could have Googled,” says Goodman.
the takeaway When you’re jockeying the phones, you’re at the front lines of the company—in some ways you know more about what’s going on than the CEO. The helpline is also a great place to hone your salesmanship and develop one of life’s most useful skills: the ability to converse and make people happy, even when you can’t give them exactly what they asked for.
Are you thisclose
to giving up?