How Not To Suck At Your Job

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Whether you’re a part-time employee, an entrepreneur, a nine-to-fiver, a student with a job or anything in between or beyond these options, work is an integral part of your life.

Unless you have a trust fund (call me), there’s no way around it: You gotta do something to make money.

I respect the notion “do what you love”, sure. But I respect “do what you need to do/suck it up if you have to” even more.

I believe that you can do what you love, and there will STILL be parts of your job and periods in your career where you go “fuck this sucks.” You’re just gonna have to suck it up for those parts.

Work is work. There is something that needs to be done, and someone is paying you to do it.

If you like it all the time, good on you mate. If you don’t, join the club.

But you know what makes your job more fun? Even when it’s not your favorite thing to do? Not sucking at it.

Being good at something makes you enjoy doing it.

(It’s what made me love school. I could have gone pro if I hadn’t blown out my knee.)

Anyway. Here’s a couple of tips on how not to suck at your job.

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WHAT IS YOUR MAIN OBJECTIVE, SOLDIER Do the most important things of your job first. What are your main objectives in your job? What taks need to be your priority to take care of?

What do you absolutely have to do? Essentially, why were you hired? Your key tasks are actually your most important to-do’s.

It sounds very easy, but at any given work day you can get lost in side projects, drinking coffee and ’emergency’ things that come flying at you.

As a barista, you need to take orders, make coffee and fucking smile at me when you speak* (Good job Starbucks). You don’t need to manage the building’s security or do research on the owner of Starbucks.

As a CEO, you need to do whatever it takes to keep a company running. Not look cool in a suit and have a bottle of expensive scotch in your office. You do not need to look huffy and puffy, you need to not go bankrupt.

As a teacher, you need to teach. You don’t need to micromanage your colleagues or re-catalogue the different boxes of tea in the break room. You teach, you take care of your students.

Think of the things you really need to do if you want to do your job well. The essential tasks. As much as possible, keep those front and center.

EXTRA MILE MOVES However, if there is an extra mile you can go, opportunities that present themselves, or extra responsibilities you can and want to take? Go for it.

My student assistent did that: working a little extra when necessary, helping me with mindless tasks, getting coffee and being a general sweetheart. Now he is basically loved by ALL, and he snatched up the next, better and highly coveted assistant position. Good thinking.

The extra mile is very variable per field. In hospitality, it can be the extra smile, the extra set of towels, the extra help in an emergency. In education it’s the extra prep,the interest in a student’s life, an extra example to relate material to the student’s mindset. The list goes on.

If you want to be good at what you do, do what you have to do. If you want to be great, do a little bit more.

PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR Shocking: Being a nice person at work can also make the difference between ‘average’ and ‘noticeable.’

Be considerate. Pay attention to the people around you. Get someone coffee when you’re going to get your own refill anyway. Ask how your coworkers are doing, be nice and friendly. Help your office mates in case of a pressing deadline (especially in the case of personal emergencies) and fill in for them if you can.

On top of being a good person (commendable life goal in itself), this can make your work life easier too. People like people who aren’t fussy and unafraid to help out. And unless your colleagues are total dick weeds (hey, it happens), this could totally save your ass when you’re in a pickle.

CAREER APPROPRIATE ADD ONS If you want, and you have time, you can look for things to do in your job that fit your skill-, ambition- and personality-profile.

All experience is good experience. More responsibilities, volunteering to lend a hand in an area you’re interested in, stuff like that can be very helpful to other people and to your own skill set and career.

If you know the general direction you want to go in career-wise, take on the side projects that help you get there.

If you’re not sure where to go yet, just grab the opportunities that seem interesting and fun to you. That can help you figure it out.

5 MINUTE RULE Can you do it in 5 minutes?



This goes for emails, phone calls, random little tasks and finding relevant info somewhere. DO. IT. NOW. Making this a habit will change your freaking life.

TO DO LISTS I’m never gonna get tired of telling you to use to do lists. Helps with keeping your objectives in mind, and all with the million little other things that happen around your main priorities on a daily basis.

TIME LOGGING Time logging keeps you focused on the objectives, the to-do’s AND helps you see how you spend most of your time. Seeing that you spend most of your social workday on social media is super depressing to both your employer and yourself.

REVIEW AND PREVIEW At the end of the day/week, look back on what you have done and assess what needs to be done tomorrow/next week.

This is good for you for three reasons. One, you’ll stay connected to the general time line of your progress. Two, you remain focused and calm because you know where you’re at with something. Three, doing this makes it easier to relax when you’re at home, because you know what you’ve done and what you’ll be doing tomorrow.

BE FLEXIBLE Things don’t always go exactly the way you want them to. Sometimes the people/resources you need are unavailable. Sometimes you’ll have an off day. Sometimes you’ll be planning to work on thing A all day, but people need you for project X, Y and Z and you won’t get to it.

That’s okay. You can deal. That’s part of life, and part of work too.

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Okay, hope this is enough to get you going on a Monday. Remember, loving or liking your job is great, but if you don’t that’s okay too. Try to like being good at it. That helps.

And like RuPaul says: You better work. Later, dudes.

*If you don’t smile at me, I will a 100% forgive you because I know not everyone you deal with on a daily basis is as adorable as I am. 

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  1. “” … or do research on the owner of Starbucks.””

    oh boy you’re so wrong hahaha. (Dit moeten we soort van wel weten – uitgezonderd lievelingseten etc. etc. etc ;’) )

  2. Totally love this post. It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking lately with going through nursing school and wanting to develop a creative career (author, illustrator, Etsy, blogger, etc.). Nursing school can be *such* a bummer, but knowing what you’re doing, and being good at it, makes it sooo much better, and not knowing makes it suck. And sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and do your creative work on the side until it makes enough money for you to ride it. Also, love how you have so many examples that people can relate to: Barista, student, teacher, assistant. While I’m at my clinical sites, I’m definitely going to go the extra mile in the pro-social world. Danke x a mil.

    – P

  3. What to do when your To Do List is ready (colour coordinated and all…), and all I am doing is readings blogs, taking another coffee, read one more blog, oh now I have to pee, ok one last blog, hmm time for another drink and snack, might as well read some more will consuming and now I have to pee again….

    This has been my morning. Although I am already late on two deadlines for both work and school, I just can’t get started. I am stuck! Ok, this feels so weird writing this done. Let’s hope it is an eye opener..

  4. I like these kind of motivational ‘tips to not suck at things’ blogs. Right now I’m struggling with getting my degree in journalism and it’s fucking hard. Long days, harsh criticisms (this is the hardest part) and on top of that I still have to work in the weekends, clean my house and socialize. Making to-do-lists is definitely a must for me! Oh man, I’m sounding like a true ‘zeikerd’ right now. Sorry for that!

    So keep the inspiring posts coming! You’re awesome!