Surviving the Entry-Level Slump

You graduated college and got a real job. Now, you’re realizing that you’re pretty tired, quite bored, and severely under-paid. That can be hard on your morale. Unfortunately, unless you’re super brave and are ready to quit your job to work in the circus to keep yourself entertained, your only option is really just to stick with it. It’s hard to work yourself out of that entry-level slump, but follow these pieces of advice to help you keep on chugging.

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Photo courtesy of Aff Photography

Start a side hustle

College was a time of excitement and variety, where your entire daily routine and schedule changed every semester, and the room in which you were sitting changed every hour. Sitting at a desk doing the same work all day, every day for months on end is a totally new (and likely more dull) experience. You have to learn how to deal with the monotony without complaining or showing your boredom in the office.

Doing something outside of the office is a great way to keep things in your life interesting. For me, the smartest thing to do was to get a part-time job that I can do remotely. The work is completely different from what I do at my 9-to-5, and the fact that it’s a paying job helps cushion my low entry-level income. Don’t think a part-time job is your only option, though.

Communicate with your boss

This may be the most difficult thing and it may take you awhile to be able to do this, but it’s worth the effort. As a newbie in the office and the working world in general, it can take a lot of strength and courage to get up the nerve to have a conversation with your bosses about things like responsibilities, worries, and raises.

When something is bothering you, you might think it’s easier to keep it to yourself and hope someone asks your opinion. That probably won’t happen. Instead, think of a way to have a short, private conversation with your boss or coworker and discuss the issue. This can be all you need to do to make the change from feeling ignored and unappreciated to feeling understood and cared for. It’s much healthier to have a conversation with your boss about how difficult it is for you to work when he’s staring over your shoulder at your monitor, than it is to stress yourself out every day wondering if and when his eyeballs will cause your fingers to suddenly forget how to type.

Take your lunch break

In college you would get up and walk around every hour to move between classes. At a job, it’s so easy to just sit in the same chair all day, make excuses about work to do or being tired when it comes to lunch time, then order in instead. Don’t do it.

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Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Even if you don’t want to actually eat out, at least get up from your chair during lunch and take a little walk. The break will be refreshing and give you time to think and unwind, and if you’re in a new city, lunch is a beautiful time of day to explore it.

Make the effort to meet people

I know, I know. It sounds obvious, but for some people this is a big step that takes a lot of effort. In college dorms, your friends are conveniently 50 feet away from you. Working people (or, “adults,” as they are sometimes called) aren’t always lucky enough to begin with such ready-made friends.

If you work in a place with lots of people in a similar position to you, this one isn’t too hard. Simply invite someone out to lunch or even to happy hour, and you’ll have a new circle in no time. If you haven’t already done so, making friends with your coworkers is a great way to experience and discuss new things that you wouldn’t have with your college friends.

For those of you who don’t have tons of conveniently similar friends sitting in cubicles around you, it’s a bit trickier. Try joining a club to bond with people who have similar interests, or attending networking events to meet other aspiring creatives. Leave a message in the comments if you know of a way for shy 20-somethings to meet new people in a new city outside of work.

About the Author

Danielle is currently conquering entry-level life in NYC and has yet to repeat a work outfit. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleEyeRoll.

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