Finding Opportunity, Even In the Face of Frustration

Finding Opportunity, Even In the Face of Frustration

Abby Myette

Abby Myette, Associate Director, Office of Student Activities, Boston University

Frustration. Anger. Defeat. Lost.

These are all emotions I’ve felt from my job. These are the days I come home and pour a little extra in the wine glass. Because, I admit it.

I don’t love my job every day.

This is not easy to admit. How many times have you heard; “I work in higher education because I love it, we all know it’s not for the salary”? Well, frankly, I don’t love it every day.

When I started at Boston University over five years ago I did love my job. Every day. Even when I hit road bumps, had to have a conversation with a difficult student, or was told ‘no’ to an idea, I still loved my job. I could brush these negative experiences off and move on with a sense of ease.

Now, it’s a lot harder.

I’m cresting the same road bump I’ve gone over a dozen times before. That difficult student is from the same student group I’ve had a difficult conversation with three times before. When will they learn?!

And another great idea can’t be funded or has to be put on the back burner for more pressing initiatives. I’m being honest here, I don’t love my job every day. That’s a scary thing to admit. But I know beneath all those negatives feelings is the passion I have for this work, for students, for this university.

What’s important is that I am learning how to manage the negative feelings and how to channel them back into positives. And without being honest, I’d be in denial. Being in denial probably would not make me a very good professional.

I believe we need to honestly embrace where we are with our jobs in order to be the best we can. So, what do I do with that anger and frustration?

I can walk into my boss’s office, close the door and vent. I’m lucky we have a relationship where I can be honest. Even if he is the one frustrating me, I can share. We can talk about the challenges and what about the situation we can address and what we cannot.

This is key. Remember your circle of influence.

In challenging situations there is opportunity. What can change? What can’t change? And in some cases, I can’t change a thing but my boss might be able to. When I walk back out the door I do so with a renewed sense of purpose. Often, it is to go tackle those problems I can change. I also appreciate that my boss challenges my perspective. Often the reason I am frustrated is because of how I’m viewing the situation.

By shifting my perspective, which I will admit is not always easy, I can find the opportunity or the positive in the situation.

As supportive as my boss is, I know I have to be the same way for the staff I supervise. They get frustrated, too.

I’m fortunate to work with two very talented and committed professionals. But they too have the days like I do, full of frustration, anger and defeat. When they walk in to my office, I want to provide a space where they feel comfortable sharing honestly. My role is to be a sounding board. Even when I want to vent alongside them, I can’t.

I can acknowledge and even agree with where they are coming from, but as soon as we both sit there venting, it becomes a toxic environment.

Just like with my supervisor, I have to help the staff I supervise, see the opportunity and positive. And if it’s not there, if we can’t find it, then we have to determine how to move forward. Maybe this means asking someone else to work on a project instead, or it means I meet with the student instead. We have to be able to say “I can’t” every now and again. We all have limits and when we hit those limits, it’s important to have co-workers who can help carry the load.


The next appointment on my calendar is to meet with the latest leadership of that problem student group. Before the student even arrives, I’m frustrated. I don’t want to have the same conversation I’ve had a dozen times before. I know they had attendance at our annual training. They should have at least a basic knowledge of our policies and procedures. Maybe they’ve been rude to our student staff. Maybe they wrote an angry email to my boss.

I have to remind myself this meeting can be a fresh start.
It all depends on how I start it off, what tone I present.

Just like the meeting with an eager and excited student, I start these meetings connecting and chatting. Who is this student? What is their story? How is their day going? I want to establish a positive rapport with the student before we dig in to the purpose of our meeting. Maybe this is the student who will lead the change that needs to occur in this student group.

There is always opportunity in a situation; sometimes it can be clouded over by frustration. The challenge we face is to find your way through the clouds and embrace the potential, the positive, the great students, engaging events. If we can do this, then even when we’re having a bad day or a bad week, we’ll continue to love the work we do.

About the Author: Abby Myette has been with Boston University, Student Activities for over five years and currently works as an Associate Director. She supports over 450 student groups do what they love hosting creative, engaging, and fun events across campus and the city. Abby is an active volunteer with Delta Gamma Fraternity. In both her work and free time Abby enjoys mentoring students and helping them find their path and their passion. Her own passions include running, reading, being mom to her 3 year old mutt Quincy, and volunteering with several organizations. Abby is a graduate of Suffolk University with a M.Ed. in Administration of Higher Education and Denison University, with a BA in Art History. Connect with Abby @anchoredAbby.

Abby Myette

Abby Myette, Associate Director, Office of Student Activities, Boston University