If you want to be the best, do you really have to outwork the rest?
When you're a fresh-faced university graduate, brand new to the world of work, there is sometimes an unspoken expectation that you are going to have to work your educated little butt off in order to succeed. And this doesn't just mean working super hard from 9-5; no, if you want to really prove yourself as top of the pack, and the best damn graduate your employer has ever seen, then you have to be willing to work every hour of the day to prove it. It's just the done thing right? Well, unfortunately it is in a lot of cases, but what if you don't want to work 60+ hour weeks? What if, God forbid, you actually wanted some time to yourself, to indulge in hobbies, or other crazy things such as sleeping? It's not possible though, of course; if you want to be the best, you're got to outwork the rest. Good plan to start with; if you've found a job your really enjoy (thanks to your Happy Work profile – you're welcome) then you might even truly not mind at first working every hour of the day – you're jazzed up with energy and enthusiasm for your new role, and nothing seems as important as getting that latest project done. Only trouble is that eventually you're going to hit a wall. Working like this is essentially an endurance sport, and there's only so long you can keep at it until you burn-out. By this point you are probably mega stressed, trying to balance work with everything else going on in your life (you know those friend and family people) that when you do reach burn-out, you're going to go down in spectacular flames. Cue the crying fits, bouts of rage, uncontrollable urge to keep going even though you can barely string a sentence together.
Now, in an ideal world your boss wouldn't even allow you to get to this point, because obviously they are there to look out for your well-being and make sure you're not taking on too much. But the truth of it is that businesses are under immense pressure to perform, your boss is feeling that pressure, and along comes you – a bright, energetic graduate who seems to be up to the task and willing to go above and beyond to get things done. From an outside perspective it looks like you love it; your boss is giving you tons of praise (hopefully) or putting you under pressure to keep it up, and what else can you do, but just that? Again – cue break down.
The simple solution to this is of course not get sucked into this circle in the first place – if you haven't yet been sucked in, then stand your ground! If your contracted hours are 9-5, then make staying past 5pm the exception not the rule – do not give in to pressure to stay late, because you are NOT, and we repeat NOT, obligated to do this. Sure stay and extra half hour every so often to finish something off, but if you are regularly staying beyond your contracted hours then either you are being given too large a workload, or you don't have the skills to do your job efficiently. Either way your manager needs to give you some support.
If your are already embroiled in the circle of eat-sleep-work-repeat, then take small steps to regain your power. Start by reducing the amount of time you work late slowly – make those 9pm finishes, 8.30pm finishes. Take back your lunch break. Only work late once a week instead of every day. Small victories, sure, but victories nonetheless. Now for the biggie – talk to your manager; as mentioned above, if you regularly have to work beyond your contracted hours, there is something massively wrong, and you need to do something about it, so speak up. And if your manager turns into a massive douchebag about it, then it might be time to rethink your role there. No one should be expected to work more then what they are paid for, so forget that bonkers notion, and if your friends want to waste their lives at work, never getting the chance to spend all that cash they're collecting, leave them to it. If you'd rather not be part of it all, then do something about it.