Coffee Talk: 4 Top Ways To Manage Corporate Life

They said this to help me feel better, but…
Do your family, friends, and co-workers tell you to just be happy you have a job? And do those words make your blood boil?

They certainly did for me when I worked in the corporate world, though the people who said that probably meant well (at least I hope so!). But their advice wasn’t helpful, because I still got frustrated with the repetitive tasks, the nonsensical policies, the never-ending meetings, and the crazy commutes. There were a few jobs I enjoyed – for a while anyway – but for the most part, I had a difficult time living the life of a corporate employee.

Few people understood this. The rest told me to just smile and get through it. Or shut-up.

Relief from an unexpected source
Since I didn’t have a trust fund or any idea of what else to do, I kept going back to the office – and repeatedly hit my frustration threshold – until my break came 4 years ago. A wellness company in Atlanta hired me to support their clients from home. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to work from home – and get paid! – every day of the week.

I could wear what I wanted (hello yoga pants!). This new position also meant freedom from corporate speak, something I couldn’t do with a straight face. I also could reconnect with parts of myself that were allowed to emerge in small doses, if at all.

I cannot lie – working in this new position had it’s share of frustrations, but overall I had the time and space to reclaim and enjoy the sparkly, quirky free-spirit I am.

So somehow I survived almost 20 years of corporate life. How did I do it?
If you’re anything like me, you tried to shoehorn your personality into a more acceptable one. Maybe you felt flat and uninteresting as a result. You don’t like this feeling, but you’ve got to pay the bills. If a newer, shinier career is not yet on the horizon, the following practices will help you.

  • Take plenty of breaks. Research supports this. Personally, time away from the keyboard and reflect was essential to my mental health. I refused to skip breaks or eat at my desk to prove I was a good employee. I also took advantage of holidays and PTO – and enjoyed them. No guilt!
  • Connect with like-minded people. I always found at least one person with whom I could connect. We’d have lunch or take breaks and chat about life or work stuff. A work companion or three can help lift you up and feel supported when you feel drained by the Matterhorn of tasks or the dull, grey cubes. Meetups and online groups are also great avenues to explore.
  • Remember who you are. No matter what happens on the job, you’re not your job or your paycheck. Reconnect with the parts of your world that light you up instead of corporate politics or that big important spreadsheet. Writing helps, especially when you have no one around with whom you could share your dreams and ideas and feel seen and heard. Even if all you have is a paper napkin, jot down some thoughts or ideas, or just doodle (which I used to do a lot… during meetings).
  • Find information that supports your point of view. I have a collection of books and website links that have helped me maintain some sense of sanity. For example, here’s an article that describes – from an organizational perspective – how damaging that phrase “just be happy you have a job” can be.

What’s missing in your working life?
Some of us have jobs that deeply satisfy us. Some of us have jobs that simply sustain us. Where do you fall on that spectrum? And how does your role support who you are, if it does? If it doesn’t, how do you manage?

And if you have a soul-sucking job – or if there is anything else in your life that’s eating you up inside – and you’re ready to make a change, click here and let’s talk about it. And I won’t say that awful phrase to you. Pinky-swear.

Felicia Baucom
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