Feeling underemployed? Hovering, really anxious to move forward? It is a side effect of recessions. You do what needs to be done, not what you’d like to be doing. It is especially hard for young adults, early careerists, who are looking for advancement, opportunity, and more money. It’s also hard on managers and supervisors of young employees because there’s not a lot to work with, e.g., salary increases, promotions, etc., in a recession.
There is one opportunity you can capture at a time like this—develop a sense of gratitude. It will help you build optimism. Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress. Gratitude can replace the negative self-talk and eliminate the water cooler complaining.
What I tell my kids …
My first job out of college was as a meeting planner for a large trade association in Washington, D.C. I would set up meetings in hotels across the country. My big boss, who I often had to travel with, had several idiosyncratic behaviors. One, that had direct impact on me, was his obsession with ringing a cowbell to end coffee breaks. He insisted that I walk around the break area ringing a cowbell. I was mortified.
Now remember, this is waaaay before Christopher Walken’s “more cowbell” mega hit on Saturday Night Live.
Using a cowbell to end coffee breaks now would be considered funny. I was humiliated. I tried so many times to lose that cowbell but it had nine lives.
At the time, that cowbell only brought me anxiety and anger. Now, whenever I think of that cowbell, I can laugh. I wish I had had a better sense of gratitude back then. I wouldn’t have gotten so anxious and angry.
I had a lot to be grateful for. That company paid for my MBA degree, where I met my career mentor. My boss, who drove me crazy, gave me opportunities far beyond what a twenty-three-year-old woman with an attitude should have gotten.
I have since learned that a sense of gratitude is very important to being successful at work. Find your own cowbell story to remind yourself to be grateful in these hard economic times, if only because you are working.