It’s commonly said that in order to get ahead in the workforce, you have to pay your dues and do grunt work to move up the corporate ladder. Is this purely a myth, or is there some truth to this sentiment?
For recent and soon-to-be college grads looking to take the first job they can find amidst a tumultuous job market, it can feel as though you shouldn’t complain when your entry level job is grueling and consuming of all energy. It might seem like you don’t have the authority to speak up, or that you’re simply in a “rite of passage” phase.
Nevertheless, it’s vital to recognize when your hard work is paying off and when it’s costing you your sanity.
1. Your health is negatively impacted
It’s 8 p.m. and you’re still at the office. Your eyes are twitching from constant contact with a computer screen, your energy level is plummeting, and your mind is traveling at a million miles a minute. Don’t let this happen!
Sure, you might have a big presentation the next day or be at the end of a sales quarter and you need to stay late every once in a while, but that shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.
Michaela*, a 2015 graduate working for a performing arts center, reflects on her job affecting her mood, as she says, “It’s so easy to just go into autopilot and work work work without getting the time back, but then as a result you can get extremely overtired. I found on one particular week that I was overly stressed out, very punchy, and got frustrated easily. As a result, my work began to suffer because I was so frustrated and angry.”
She adds, “Honestly, your work will suffer if you continue to work long hours and don’t give yourself proper rest.”
2. Your work never feels complete
Ever feel like you have too much to do, but not enough hours in the day to do it? This may result from perfectionist tendencies, but you could also have a demanding boss and team who constantly send you requests and make it seem as though each of their projects are the most urgent. This can feel frustrating, and also make it difficult to stay organized.
Alyssa*, a 2014 graduate working in financial services, says, “I think the difference between working hard and being overworked lies in time management and the ability to say no. I work with several advisors, and everyone thinks their own projects should be my highest priority. I do my best to work on what’s most urgent first, but once in a while, I need to let an advisor know that I just don’t have the capacity to finish his or her project by the deadline they need.”
3. You’re doing it to yourself
Sometimes when people are overworked, the pressure is not coming solely from their bosses, but primarily from the stress they put on themselves.
Perhaps you struggle to accept feedback from your peers when all that you see are flaws in your work. As a result, you might put too much pressure on yourself to succeed and end up creating a work environment that is more toxic than productive.
Despite this, the act of putting more hours in by your accord is not always a bad thing if it can lead to your growth in a company. Miranda, who graduated in 2015 and works for a marketing firm, says, “[In my first job] I was putting in close to 70 hours a week when I should have been at 40, but I wanted to do good work because I love my career path. I continued to work hard, create excellent work for my clients, didn’t complain, and I ended up getting a salary increase the day I hit six months.”
Regarding any advice she would impart, she suggests to “continue working hard, even if you feel overworked, because once your hard work is noticed, you’ll be rewarded for it.” Keep in mind that it’s important to know your own limits; just because a peer is capable of working 70 hours a week without consequences to his or her health doesn’t mean that you’re able to accomplish the same thing! You shouldn’t feel pressured to do something just because someone else is.
4. You’re afraid to delegate
Were you that person in group projects in college who was hesitant to give up control? Perhaps you feel the same way at work.
Typically, managers want to see that their employees are able to work well as a team. While you may think that taking on tasks on your own displays leadership and independence, it’s really doing you more harm than good in the eyes of your superiors.
Just as importantly, you’ll find that you’re spending too much time on one project, when you could be using your time more effectively by dividing responsibilities and allowing yourself to balance other tasks.