When I talk to someone who is unemployed and I bring up a ten dollar an hour opportunity it’s really hard for me to not get upset when it is dismissed as “not worth someone’s time” because I know from experience how much trouble that attitude has cost me.
When I finished college I was so excited. I had a couple of shiny new degrees and I couldn’t wait for someone to hand me a job where I was going to be making a ton of money. Since the age of sixteen I had been working a series of jobs that could best be described as low paying and not fulfilling. I was a waiter, a high ropes course technician, a short order cook, a rock climbing instructor, an outdoor trek leader, and a bartender all in the span of about six years. I didn’t necessarily hate any of these jobs, but I certainly didn’t look forward to going to work every day. I would come to work, punch a clock, do my job adequately, and go home. I was never someone that would stay late or come in early but I also wasn’t the sort of person who ever did a bad job. I was an o.k. employee in every sense of the word.
Long story short, I ended up going to college and getting two degrees that I thought entitled me to make tons of money at a job that I loved. It turned out that a bachelor’s in art and a bachelor’s in psychology were two of the most useless degrees in the world when it came to entering the work force. I had student loan debt like crazy and I was two payments behind on every single bill I had. It wasn’t that I didn’t have job opportunities, I just felt like they were beneath me. I couldn’t reconcile going back to these jobs where I was just punching a clock. After an entire summer of basically languishing and feeling sorry for myself I had a realization that ended up being one of the defining points of my life.
Maybe it wasn’t the jobs I had been working at in the past that were the problem. Maybe the real problem was that I had never approached a job as an opportunity. Having a job was always just a chore to me.
I also realized how incredibly conceited of me it was to be refusing to apply for eight dollar an hour jobs. I was making absolutely no money and yet I was convinced that it wasn’t worth my time to get out of bed for less than $50,000 a year. In actuality, eight dollars an hour was eight dollars an hour more than what I was making right then sitting at home. So I blasted my resume to everyone that was advertising for a job (which is a horrible idea but that’s a story for another day).
I got a call for an interview here doing office support stuff. This was not my area of expertise but I could type fast and I am friendly so I figured I would take to it pretty quickly. I didn’t. It was really easy for me to fall back into old patterns of just punching a clock. I was bored and I wasn’t challenged, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I struggled here for a while until I woke up one day and realized that I have the crappiest attitude ever. Although the job I was doing here wasn’t one I wanted to be doing, I did what I could to turn it into a job I could feel fulfilled with. Sure, it was tough working for a little bit more than minimum wage but when I started coming here with the intention of advancing rather than just sort of languishing things changed quickly. I had never understood why someone would *ever* take on more responsibilities at work, and in failing to understand that I was sabotaging myself from ever discovering my strengths. As I volunteered to take on more tasks and responsibilities, I found that I was far better at some things than others, and I was able to work with my strengths once I discovered them.
I started sticking around after 5 if my task list wasn’t finished for the day. I started coming in a little earlier if I was running behind on stuff. I made it a point to do something I didn’t want to do at least once a day. That’s how I turned a job that paid next to nothing into a career that I love. I look forward to coming to work every single day and I get to go to a job that I am passionate about and the fact that it pays the bills is secondary at this point. I am never counting the minutes to 5:00 pm like I used to at every other job I have ever had. As a matter of fact, it is a rare day that I leave at 5:00, but that’s also not something I think about ever because I truly like being here. I have all of this because I realized that my attitude sucked and I fixed it.
Maybe I would have found a career that I love a lot sooner if I would have been willing to put the forth the effort a lot sooner.