Are you waiting to start work until you find your dream job? Or working in a job that you can’t stand? Then this article is for you. While there might be a few of us that land straight into our ideal job, the unfortunate reality is that most of us will suffer through some jobs which we know (or come to realise) just aren’t for us, before finally getting into something that we like. What I’m here to tell you is, that while they may not have been my ‘dream job’, working whilst being at school and uni has actually been the best way to develop skills and knowledge that I can take on to any job I get in the future.
I was someone who started work as soon as I possibly could, and after counting down the days until I was 14 and 9 months, I was itching at the possibility of the independence and financial freedom that a casual job in a local clothing shop could provide. I will never forget my first pay (it was $60…), because I was absolutely over the moon. Fast forward a few years and I have worked in retail, bar work, a café and even on the snowfields. In these jobs there have been plenty of good times, but there have also been plenty of days where I wanted to throw the towel in and tell the customer who was clicking in the air for my attention “I don’t work here”. Despite hating some of the work at the time, these jobs have all been a great thing, because they have taught me exactly what I do and don’t want from a future workplace, as well as some valuable skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
So, what were the best things that I learnt from working in jobs that just ‘pay the bills’?
1. The Skills
As someone who was shy growing up the best possible thing for me was tarting a job in retail. The communication skills I learnt from being in contact with sometimes hundreds of people each day, are something I will take to any job that I work in the future. Even the simple ability to confidently make a phone call to someone I don’t know, which is something that some of my friends (in their twenties) still find extremely daunting. You also gain a whole new insight into people once you have worked in service jobs and let me tell you it’s not all good. The phrase ‘the customer is always right’ has never been more wrong. Yet you learn that being at work means dealing with people you don’t always agree with and probably… definitely, wouldn’t spend time with outside of work. These difficult experiences are the times where you grow the most and become far more resilient as a result.
2. My Interests
You gain a great deal of understanding about your own interests when you try something out. The best thing I learnt from serving other people is my fascination with what makes them tick. At work I’ve been yelled at by customers for the price of items (which I didn’t set), the wording of promotional signs (which I didn’t write) and even the faulty stitching on clothing (which I didn’t sew), you see the pattern. For me this led to a burning curiosity of why people behave the way they do. On the opposite end of the spectrum I realised the best days at work were the ones where I found even one customer who I really connected with, I loved when someone would walk out happy because I had helped them find something which made them feel good about themselves. Whilst at the time I didn’t realise the significance of these experiences, when it came time to choose what to do after high school I was naturally drawn to a university degree that helped me both understand and help people, psychology. This doesn’t mean that everyone should go out and take on a psychology degree, just that by taking note of what you like and don’t like about any work that you’re in, you will learn more about the direction you want to go with your career. Even bad experiences can teach you what you want to avoid in the future and end up having a positive outcome.
It is unlikely that you will wake up one day and just know what you want to do. It takes a series of little pieces that eventually come together. For me, starting work young helped me discover my passion for understanding people and for helping them, which led me to pursue a degree in psychology. However, this definitely took time to realise. So, if you’re currently working a less than ideal job, take note of what you enjoy and what you don’t and if you aren’t currently working I encourage you to start trying things out!
Photo by Ivo Silva on Unsplash