You’re your best representation of yourself, over anyone and anything else in the world.
Almost everybody has worked at a job they hated. I’m sure you have, no? You had that job for a few months, maybe a year or two, and you absolutely hated it.
Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. You may not have hated it, but you definitely weren’t happy with it. It didn’t fall in line with your true passions; it was just a job that helped you pay for life’s bills.
You wanted to be an artist, and you worked at a coffee shop. You wanted to be an entertainer, and you were a server at a restaurant. You dreamed of owning a business, but you were unpacking boxes in a warehouse. While your job at the time wasn’t where you wanted to be in life, and it was just a temporary paycheck until you finished your degree, or that unpaid internship ended and you could finally get a “real job”, it was still that: a job.
At that job, you had something to uphold. You had a policy to follow, you had standards to meet, and expectations to overcome. And I’m not talking about the standards and expectations of that specific job; while those are important, the most important thing you can uphold and follow wherever you are, no matter your job and position, is your own personal upstanding.
I’m currently working two jobs. One is with Best Buy, as a sales associate. That’s where I get my paycheck. The other is here, with MakesSense, as the Creative Director. This is where my future, in my eyes, lies. My boss at Best Buy knows that, and he told me that while I’m still at Best Buy, this is an opportunity for me to develop my abilities as a leader to my peers. This is an opportunity for me to learn more about what it takes to be a leader, to be responsible, and to build value within myself as an employee in a workplace.
The advice couldn’t have been more sound, and it’s true. No matter where you work, no matter what you’re doing, how you hold yourself and what you expect of yourself should always be consistent. The only way to build upon yourself and mature as a person is to hold yourself to high standards, no matter if you’re unloading a truck in a warehouse or the CEO of a company.
Five, ten, maybe twenty years from now, somebody who I worked with at Best Buy, who may remember me as a reliable employee, may be able to help me out. They may reach out to me and ask for my help on a job, or they could come to me looking to help me. They may be a future business contact to start up a promising business venture. They may have an opportunity for me that could completely save my life. How you uphold yourself today, can rebound tenfold down the line.
Not only are those connections so important, but the experience of being reliable, building up the habit of coming to work on time, giving it an honest effort, even when deep down you really didn’t care about your current job, can go a long way for personal growth, as well. Learning how to work with a team, how to solve problems, how to act in on-the-spot situations; these are all skills that apply to almost every job, that you can learn even at a store-level retail job.
When I write my cover letter for different positions, I still talk about my experiences at Target. I even may bring up the summer I volunteered at a local zoo, working with some friends to help build exhibits. Even though the assigned tasks are vastly different, the experiences and the skills acquired from them are always relatable. There’s always something you can take from every experience.
There’s no wasted job that “doesn’t matter”. It always matters. You’re still representing yourself, you’re building up a reputation for yourself and you’re developing skills that can be applied in many different ways. So the next time you look back on your job as a barista or a warehouse worker, don’t focus so much on the arbitrary tasks; remember the team building, remember the strategizing, and remember the times where someone patted you on the back and said you did a really good job. You represented yourself, and you made it matter.