Career Lessons You Learned From Your Worst Job

Imagine a world where we all only ever had to work jobs that made our hearts sing. A world where all of us absolutely loved our work, and we practically skipped into the office day in and day out eager to get a jumpstart on our to-do lists. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

But, unfortunately, it’s not reality. In fact, most of us have to put up with less-than-deluxe jobs every now and then—especially when we’re just getting started. And, I’m willing to bet that everyone has that one particular job that tops their list as the absolute worst gig in their career history—whether it was that cringe-worthy part-time high school gig or a professional office position that made you want to tear your hair out.

Mine? I worked at a concession stand in a professional sports stadium. I know, it sounds fun in theory. But, most of the job entailed cleaning a greasy grill, calling security on drunk patrons, and wiping up vomit (my absolute favorite).

There’s no denying that it can be tough to keep your chin up through those experiences. But, I’ve got good news for you! Those positions weren’t completely useless. In fact, you likely learned a lot of valuable career lessons from them. Don’t believe me? Here are four great lessons you picked up from your very worst job.

1. How to Tolerate Something You Don’t Like

I don’t want to be the one to dash your hopes. But, even once you do eventually find that job of your wildest dreams, chances are you won’t love absolutely everything about it. Whether it’s those pesky monthly expense reports or an annoying co-worker, you’re going to have to deal with at least one thing that makes you let out an exasperated sigh.

Luckily, you’ll be well practiced in putting up with something that grates on you. And, knowing how to push through that negativity and ignore those nasty thoughts while still being a productive and valuable team member? Well, that’s a quality that any employer would find desirable.

2. How to Stay Committed and Motivated

Chances are, if you’re still currently stuck in that dreadful job, you’re aiming to get out someday (and hopefully soon!). But, while you’re still there, I know you’re toughing it out and putting your all into it—even though you may be doing it through gritted teeth.

Commitment and motivation in the workplace aren’t nearly as common as you’d like to think. So, refining your skills in sticking with something (even if you don’t like it) never hurts. Managing to head into the office day after day—when you know you’re in for a eight hours full of misery—shows a huge level of dedication. And, if nothing else, it’s an impressive anecdote you can share with hiring managers in future interviews!

3. How to Take the High Road

There’s likely one thing that all hated jobs have in common: the people. Now, before you roll your eyes, hear me out. The people you work with have a huge impact on how you feel about your job and the company as a whole. And, even the most miserable of jobs don’t seem half that bad if you really enjoy your co-workers.

So, as you reflect on your worst job ever, I bet you’ll come back to one person or a particular group of people that made you want to scream. Perhaps it was a condescending and overly demanding boss. Or, maybe it was a clique of gossipy and rude co-workers.

What lesson did you learn from having to work with these people? Quite simply, how to take the high road and move forward. Feeding into that negativity and tense dynamic would only serve to make your job seem even worse. So, you often needed to brush those feelings aside, keep your head down, and avoid letting those snide remarks get under your skin. That’s definitely a lesson and a skill that will benefit you in every single future job. Because, I hate to say it, but you’ll never be totally done dealing with obnoxious people and workplace conflicts—regardless of where you work.

4. What You Don’t Want

Maybe you didn’t like anything about that terrible, no good job. But, guess what? That information is still valuable! Now you know what exactly you want to avoid in all future positions and workplaces.

Whether it was that rigid hierarchy, the wrong career path, or a boss who was a total clockwatcher, you undoubtedly gathered a lot of information about what elements and criteria you want to stay far, far away from in your next position. Make sure you keep all of that in mind when job hunting—it’ll help you avoid making the same mistakes twice!

Nobody likes feeling stuck in a job they hate. But, that doesn’t mean you need to chalk the entire experience up as a waste. In fact, there are still plenty of valuable lessons you can learn from your absolute worst jobs. Even better? Those lessons are sure to come in handy throughout the rest of your career. So, keep your chin up and remember that even your most horrible job is just one piece of a much bigger (and better) puzzle!

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