It can be hard to take an entry-level job seriously. When, for example, you’re standing at the register of a burger counter, wearing a ketchup costume and repeating the words your manager requires you to repeat, the easiest thing is to tell yourself you can’t wait to get out of there.
Everyone can cop this kind of attitude sometimes. But you could also look at a job you don’t like in another way. You could look at it as training for your dream job.
So many people with jobs we might call dream jobs – CEOs, creative directors, law firm partners – are hobbled by a lack of skills they should have learned when they were at a front desk or cash register.
Don’t let hating your job set you up for bad habits later on. It’s easy when you feel dispassionate to not bother to be on time, miss deadlines, or not give people the best service you have in you. But consider the job you don’t want as training for the job you do want. You can grab hold of it and turn it into an opportunity.
You’re going to be at any given job at least one or two years, most likely. You can either see that as time to become the best candidate for your next job, or time to hate your boss and do the minimum until a co-worker leaves you a passive-aggressive note to do more.
So let’s get started. First, make a list: Skills Involved in Current Job. For example, let’s say you’re working the snack bar at a skating rink, but your dream is to be a photographer. Skills for the snack bar include customer service, math, sweeping, stocking shelves, following procedures for credit cards, and answering questions. Second, Google “skills needed for [dream job].” For a photographer, along with the job-specific education/training, you’ll need attention to detail, communication, coordination, and interpersonal skills.
Match the skills you’ll need with the skills you use in your job now, and hone in on slaying in those areas. At the snack bar, you might have a rule that it’s unacceptable to be late, because when you’re holding a photo session, you won’t be late either. You might start a habit of using check lists to make sure you get everything right, down to the smallest detail, because even though it doesn’t matter now that the Lay’s potato chips are in the right place, it will matter if the your photo subject is out of the frame. You might read a few books on communication, even though your boss now micromanages you and pays you minimum wage, the person you want to impress will be the mentor you’ve always wanted.
Today, in your current position, you have the opportunity to develop the soft skills you’ll need in the future. These are those invisible yet transferable skills that don’t get enough attention, but make the difference between someone being a joy to work with or a nightmare. Some CEOs can’t seem to get anywhere on time, still lose papers in their disheveled office, or alienate their employees by interrupting, patronizing, or bullying them.
Soft skills either make or break leaders, and chances are you’ll want to be a leader later in your career. Take some free online classes about effective listening, time management, teamwork, productivity, and problem solving.
Setting yourself up with this mindset will improve your chances of getting that dream job, get you noticed by your current supervisors, and make the best out of a situation you’d rather not be in for long. You can either hobble your career by ignoring the opportunity that is your not so great job, or boost it by leveraging this time to gain the skills that will make you the best choice for the job you want the most later down the line.
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