How to Survive the Day Job

Since I graduated from university, I’ve had many day jobs. I’ve worked in science, I’ve worked for a governmental agency, I’ve worked in a museum. I’ve worked in retail, I’ve worked in a festival, I’ve worked in a bar and I’ve worked in several theatres. Some of these jobs were great and some were awful. I could fit my writing around some of them, and not at all around others. I’ve met some great people and some pretty horrible ones.

Surviving the day job is a skill that is important for an artist, because you might be stuck with it for several months – or years! So today, let’s talk about survival skills.

Survival Skill #1: Find Your Tribe

I can’t count the number of jobs that were made 100% better because I had fantastic colleagues. The job might not have been fun, I might have had to deal with grumpy customers or demanding managers, but if I could vent or make a joke with a colleague, it was all good.

Finding great colleagues that help you through the rough times is very important. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the same creative interests as you, as long at you support each other during the hours that you are at work. It only takes one person to make the daily grind easier.

Survival Skill #2: Find the Silver Lining

I strongly believe that there’s a silver lining to most jobs, even if you don’t appreciate it at the time. Sometimes it’s a new skills that might help you in the future. Sometimes it’s the contacts that the job brings you. Sometimes it’s the money that can allow you to do something you wouldn’t be able otherwise. Sometimes it’s just the confirmation that you are not made for this type of jobs in particular.

Try to find one thing that this job brings you that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Concentrate on that when things get tough or when you get bored. Finding the positive side will help you surviving the day job.

Survival Skill #3: Challenge Yourself

This comes from my many years of working in customer service. These jobs can be SO boring! If I just did the job as requested, I’m sure I would have died of boredom. I’m serious!

Sometimes, you need a little bit of competition, even if it’s just with yourself, to make the time go faster. Can you finish this complex assignment within an hour? Can you learn this new skill, even if you don’t have to? Can you and your colleagues beat yesterday’s time for a given task? This can also mean applying for new responsibilities if the opportunity comes.

Survival Skill #4: Leave Work at Work

It’s easy to take the frustrations, problems and drama back home. After hours in one place with the same people, doing a job that can be stressful, boring or difficult, the last thing you need is to ruminate it when you get home.

There needs to be a clear line between your work life and your artistic life (or your home life, for that matter). You can use your commute home to change your mind, or to do some breathing exercises. You can change clothes when you get home. You can vent to your family for a given time.

Try to build a ritual, to get yourself in a different mindset, because work thoughts only belong to work time, not home time!

What are your tips for surviving the day job? Share your experience in the comments below!