WORKPLACE SUCCESS / 30 July 2019How to Deal with a Toxic Work Environment
Working at a company that hires less than 1% of its applicants (getting into Harvard/Yale by comparison is 7-times easier) and was named the first place to work for 10-years in a row, I’ll tell you that no first job after college is perfect.
I envy my entrepreneur friends who get to set their own schedules and vacation days. They envy that I get to solve problems for billion dollar companies while they’re still figuring out how to make rent for next month. We both envy our friend who is working at the Gap getting out at 4 pm every day and not having to worry about work over the weekend.
Your first job will not be the highest paid, sexiest, or most fulfilling job you’ll ever work, but choosing a bad first job will set you back from ever getting that high paying, sexy, and fulfilling job. How do you know that the first job you’re considering is terrible?
1. You’re only attracted to the pay.
I live in the most expensive city in the US and work to support my mom and brother, so you bet I wouldn’t be working at my current role if I couldn’t afford to support myself and my family. Money is important but when it is your only motivator, you’re going to hate coming to work every day and doing the work. If the pay is good, but everything else is bad, you’ll begin to hate your life.
2. The work isn’t challenging to you.
When you don’t learn, your growth stales and it becomes harder and harder to get the jobs you want or to make the impact you want to make. The ideal job challenges you enough to engage you without overwhelming you. If you can achieve this balance, you hit flow, which psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls the highest form of happiness. You have had this feeling if you were doing something and the time just seemed to fly, that is flow.
3. You aren’t being challenged to produce quality work.
It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them later. Your first job creates and enforces your first set of habits. Make sure they are the habits you want.
4. The people there hate their job.
One of my mentors told me that when you see people who suck your energy, run, don’t walk away. He called these people energy vampires. The most common energy vampires are people who hate their jobs. They complain, find ways to get out of doing work, and leave negative energy wherever they go. You’re going to be stuck with the people at your job for hours a day. If they are energy drainers, your day is going to feel longer than it actually is (see opposite of flow).
5. You don’t want to be like the people who are 2-3 years older than you.
Look closely at the people who have been working there 2-3 years more than you. This is where you are headed. Do you want to be like these people?
6. You don’t want to hang out with the people there after work.
People make all the difference. A company’s culture starts with its people; if you don’t like the people, you won’t like the culture. I’ve worked on terrible/uninteresting projects but because I enjoyed the people I was working with, I was more motivated to show up every day and do whatever it took to make sure my team succeeded. In the process, I learned and grew. I’ve also worked with teams that didn’t get along as well. While the project was more interesting, I didn’t have as much fun.
7. You aren’t receiving mentorship/feedback.
Mentors tell you what is ahead when you can’t see where you are. As Newton said of scientists before him, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The most successful people all had mentors early in their careers. Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs had Andy Grove. Andy Groves had Dennis Carter. Mentorship is a crucial part of any company and if mentorship is not part of the DNA of the company and you aren’t working there for someone in particular to mentor you, you miss an opportunity to acquire mentors early on.
Your first job title is not the last you’ll have. Look at your first job as an opportunity to develop yourself. Prioritize working with great people, learning as much as you can, and growing yourself personally and professionally.
Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.