If your job is all rainbows and butterflies…I want your job. But, more likely than not, it’s not always going to be a day filled with smiles and high fives. Too often, we hear the narrative that we should love what we do and, if that’s the case, then we’ll never work a day in our lives. That sounds great in theory but even in the best work settings, with the best bosses, with the most incredible student population, we’re going to be unhappy sometimes. And guess what? That’s perfectly normal.
I recently had a great chat with one of my graduate assistant colleagues about how our second years in the program were going. To my surprise, she explained that she was miserable and that she had stopped spending any extra time in her office because she couldn’t stand to be there longer than she absolutely needed to be. This took me by surprise because this friend is one of the most positive, encouraging, optimistic people I’ve ever met, and to hear her talk about how unhappy she was made me upset. It did make me feel better, however, about sharing with her the things that I am struggling with in my own journey to becoming a student affairs professional. I could sympathize with the feelings of being nervous to talk to certain people, frustrated about how graduate assistants are seen by some areas of campus, and being just generally tired. This conversation opened my eyes to the fact that we’re all struggling with something and that it’s not out of the ordinary. What matters is how we handle these negative feelings, stress, and exhaustion. We talk a lot about how we can help our students deal with these things, but what about us?!
I recently wrote a blog post in my personal blog about ways to deal with what seemed like “the worst month ever” and I think that the advice is equally as applicable to our bad days or weeks at work. I’ll admit that it’s not very easy sometimes for me to heed my own advice, but I’m definitely trying!
1. Celebrate Small Victories
It’s easy to complain about how tough our day, week, or month has been when we’re focused solely on the hurdles that life has put in our path and maybe there isn’t a whole lot to smile about, but surely there is something! Celebrate even the smallest victories at work that make you laugh or smile – for me these are encouraging emails about an upcoming project or meeting, a cup of pumpkin coffee (or really pumpkin anything), and a staff meeting that ends 25 minutes early. When we’re already in a bad mood, it becomes increasingly hard to find these silver linings but they’re always there somewhere.
2. Celebrate Others’ Victories
Even if it’s not our best week, it’s probably been a great week for someone else – there’s something to celebrate! This can be even more difficult because it requires some selflessness, something that seems to be more elusive when we’re already upset. Allow yourself to take a break from the pity party you’ve thrown long enough to share a friend’s joy and happiness. For me, it has been fun to watch one of my colleagues start a program from the ground up that she is passionate about, and to see my roommate’s hard work and efforts pay off both in her graduate assistantship and in her school work.
3. Spend Time Alone
In my almost-24 years of life, this is something that I’m finally starting to see the value in. Whatever the situation may entail, there always seems to be value in spending some quiet time alone, reflecting about the day or week. Often, we feel more refreshed and renewed after even just a few silent minutes alone. Recently, I’ve been combining my daily quiet time with my daily gym time (yoga and barre for the win) and it’s been phenomenal!
4. Learn How to Address Issues
I’ll admit, this is the one I haven’t quite mastered yet. I am the least confrontational person (maybe ever) and so it’s hard for me to tell someone, especially a supervisor or manager, that I am unhappy. In any field, though, this skill is invaluable to ensure that you are sticking up for yourself even when nobody else is. One of the greatest resources for initiating these tough talks is a program called Crucial Conversations that talks about the tools and skills needed to have a tough, but necessary, conversation with a coworker or colleague about an issue or issues that you are facing. I would recommend it to anyone, in any field!
Now find something to smile about and keep making higher education a better place!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media