The other day, I was flying to Chicago for a business trip. Since I had a window seat on the airplane, I noticed a specific building while we were descending into O’Hare International Airport. It was the place where I had my first full-time job after graduating from college.
The funny thing about that first job was that — although I absolutely hated it and wanted to quit every day — I learned so much about marketing, leadership, management, and finance that I would carry on with me for years to come.
The founder of the company was a legend in the direct-response marketing world, and as an employee, we were able to read all of his books, listen to all of his talks, and go to his events for free. We also got to sit in on meetings and learn from him first hand when he came into the office. It felt like a Master’s degree in marketing that I was getting paid for.
On the flip side, my boss was a micromanager that wouldn’t stop breathing down my neck. Everything had to be done exactly his way, and if something wasn’t, he had this strange way of confronting you about it that made you want to pull your hair out. (I also had a 60+ minute commute one way, which was miserable. This showed me how inefficient and time-wasting commuting is, and how much more productive you can be when you work remotely.)
Both the positive and negative experiences of my first job caused me to learn and grow. And while I could have paid $90,000 for a MBA degree, I’m convinced that my experience at this job helped me grow my skills and character traits more than a classroom ever could have. (Plus, I essentially got paid to learn.)
I’ve talked to many people who are impatient and have inaccurate expectations of what their life should look like right after college. They expect to be making $80,000 after graduating and so they turn down jobs that pay less.
Don’t expect your first or second job to be your dream job. Expect your first and second jobs to be educational stepping stones that help you develop the skills and character traits you need to get to the next level. No job is perfect — especially not your first job. But if you can put it into perspective, and see it as part of your learning journey preparing you for your dream job, you’ll have the perspective and patience you need to intentionally grow.
What can you learn from where you are now? Write it down on paper so that it becomes clear in your mind. Leave a comment below and let us know. And if you know someone who needs to read this, please share it with them.
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