Like a lot of people, I still work a 9 to 5 job. The key to not growing frustrated and depressed about a classic office job is to find some sort of fulfilment in it. When even the tiniest flame of fulfilment and/or interest dies, the job becomes a ride headed downhill. The problem is that the ride never stops for a lot of people.
Because work plays such a big part in our life, it is so important to feel good doing it. We live in a time where everything is going faster and faster, and few people now stay at the same company, doing the same job, for their whole life. But the framework is always the same, and the rules don’t change. You’re always playing the 9 to 5 game, moving your piece on the board, or up the ladder.
With that in mind, here are 5 facts about the corporate world I have come to realise. Hopefully they can help you understand the game better, and maybe reconsider a few things about your job.
1. If it’s not your thing, you shouldn’t do it for too long
There can be many reasons why you don’t like your 9 to 5. The people, the place, the work you have to do, the schedule, the routine… Depending on the problem, it will be more or less manageable. You might be able to find fulfilment and satisfaction in another 9 to 5, just not in the on you currently have.
But if you don’t like the 9 to 5 grind as a whole, and you know you’ll never really fit in, then it’s important to take action, to not get stuck for too long. There are some things we don’t like too much but we can put up with in life. Rainy days, social events, doing groceries… The 9 to 5 is NOT one of those. The space it takes in our lives is simply too important to be regarded as a mild annoyance. You need to find fulfilment in it or you need to find something else.
Very few people ever take action and go for something better. That’s because it’s extremely hard to do so. We are sold the 9 to 5 framework for most of our life. It’s the expected path, so much so that we don’t see any alternative to it, it seems too natural. But the truth is, if you can’t stand it, you need to ditch it.
That being said, do NOT ditch it right away. Quitting a job takes time and preparation. There’s a lot to figure out.
- The biggest question of all: what to do you want to replace your office job with?
- The financials (ideally save 6 months worth of salary).
- Giving notice to your boss.
- Finding a cheaper place to rent.
- Managing the handover process at work.
Take your time, but be true to yourself. Don’t wait forever.
2. If it’s your thing, keep doing it
Just like a lot of people dislike the 9 to 5, a lot of people will be ok with it. The problem is when people lie to themselves. When they know they dislike something but don’t do anything about it. Overtime, they let the resentment build up, and they end up being mostly negative individuals.
But if it’s your thing and you know it, then keep doing it, and keep growing doing what you love. There’s nothing wrong with that. The 9 to 5 is still, to this day, the safest, often insured, and almost guaranteed way to succeed in life, on many levels.
The main drive is usually financial success, and as long as you work your butt off, you can most likely get there. But you can also find great friends, build a great life for your family, help other people in need, develop a healthy routine, have beautiful holidays…
When you love your office job, it’s a lot easier to strive to be the best at it. You just have to put in the work. All the framework, the connections, the business, are already set up for you. It’s a lot easier than hustling on your own. Get to work, don’t lose momentum, and you’ll be most likely to succeed.
3. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from a ton of mistakes
Whether you like it or not, your job is an amazing learning opportunity, everyday. Everybody make mistakes, on many levels. The dynamics in place in the corporate world require people to work together. Nobody works on their own in the 9 to 5 world, everybody is always interacting. This makes the whole thing an amazing playground for experiments, mistakes, and learnings.
You can of course take some (or a lot) of these learnings with you the day you decide it’s time for you to quit and go do your own thing.
One thing I do love about my job is how I get to experience big blunders from the front line. I’ve seen big misunderstandings, wrong budget allocations, major tech mess-ups… The mistakes that cost the most though, are the ones involving human resources. Let me explain.
One of the biggest mistakes my company ever made was a wrong hire for a managing position. The person created a very bad synergy in the whole department. Within one year, this person was responsible for at least 10 people deciding to leave the company. The department was left in shambles, and it took upper management a long time to realise what was wrong. After a little over a year, the manager was let go, and it took 6 more months to rebuild a department and get it up to speed. I wrote about this here.
This mistake taught me the absolute importance of working with the right people. Relationships are the heaviest component of our lives. It’s about more than not wasting our time. The wrong people can have a huge negative impact in your life and/or your business. It always takes time to rebuild everything once you finally decide to remove them from the equation.
4. You most likely won’t be able to choose your own schedule
Remote work is becoming more and more popular for companies like Zapier, Basecamp… But most companies still haven’t made the transition, and more often than not, you won’t be able to choose your own schedule.
I’m a big advocate of remote work. I couldn’t care less how much time you spend in the office per day, as long as the work gets done. It’s the output that matters. But not everyone in the corporate world gets that.
Depending on the culture of the company you work for, coming in late and/or leaving early can range anywhere from tolerable to prohibited. It’s a shame, but that’s how it is, and as a result most people who work in an office can’t choose their schedule.
One striking thing about the schedule issue is how much it is seen negatively, even if you negotiate a deal that makes sense. You could talk it out with your boss and agree that if you work 2 extra hours 4 days per week, you can have the Friday off. Or you could have one day removed from your paycheck, every week or every month.
But even if you have all the best intentions in the world and you’re just trying to create a more balanced life while still performing at work, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of climbing the corporate ladder. Your boss and your peers will perceive your initiative negatively. This is partly due to the fact that a lot of people are frustrated by their job. They release their anger and resentment on other people, while never taking action for themselves.
Regardless, the synergy in place at the office doesn’t make it easy to take days off. You need to be at meetings, to attend events… The 9 to 5 is simply not designed for flexible schedules.
5. There’s no such thing as a free meal
Nothing ever comes for free in the corporate world. Money rules everything.
- If you get a gift from another company, you either did them a favour or have been a customer for a long time (or both).
- A 10-minute break costs your employer a sixth of your hourly wage.
- There’s always somebody out there who paid the price of your free meal.
- A 1-hour, 10-people meeting costs 10 hourly wages.
- Printing, calling, browsing, chatting, eating… it all costs money
Money is everywhere in the corporate world, and it can weigh on you over time. When you’re doing your own thing, you’re in control of your finances, and you decide where the money goes. If you want to go have coffee with a friend in the middle of the day, you don’t have to think about the money it’s costing you per hour. Maybe you already made your big gig this week, or the week before. The whole concept of money is different when you’re hustling/freelancing.
In the corporate world, money is cold money, and the 3 main goals are:
- Spend as little of it as possible,
- make as much of it as possible,
- in as little time as possible.
So you can chat, you can eat, and you can have 10-people meetings, without necessarily having your boss reminding you about the price of everything. But money is the underlying reason that everything at your office sometimes feels like crap.
People want more money. They grow frustrated of not getting a raise. Or the company hits a rough month, and everybody is on the edge. Or everything needs to go faster, because the investors are not happy, and so you can’t take your day off.
You don’t decide how the money is spent at your job, and everything is about money. The company exists because of money. When it becomes too much for you, it’s probably time to rethink your options.
If you love your office job, by all means keep doing it. But if you don’t find fulfilment in it, you need a medium to long-term plan to get out of it. It should be as simple as that, but it obviously isn’t. It’s so hard to take the leap, or to even envision something better. But it is possible.
All it takes is facing your fears, and knowing what you want out of life.
Because that is all what life is about.
Seeking more fulfilment.