When you’re in high school, you may take any number of odd jobs. You might be a waitress, busboy, dishwasher, cashier, etc. It’s a line between needing gas money and wanting to be able to buy a few nice things, right? Well, sometimes it’s a line between wanting to save money for college and needing to make payments on your car insurance on time.
The first job I ever took consisted of me changing diapers, running after screaming kids and dealing with more bodily fluids from toddlers than I ever cared to see. My parents told me if I wanted to drive a car, go to college or go out with friends, I had to work for all those things, so that’s what I did.
The second job I ever took was at a restaurant my senior year of high school. I cleaned tables off, did dishes and eventually was promoted to a cook on the weeknights. I learned a really harsh lesson with this job, though. I learned that I couldn’t work 20+ hours a week and concentrate on my schoolwork. I eventually had to quit the job because, in six months, I’d lost two scholarships. It wasn’t exactly something I was proud of.
Throughout the years, I’ve had third, fourth, fifth jobs. The list goes on. I’ve been unemployed. I’ve worked for almost no money. I’ve had jobs I couldn’t stand and jobs it was hard to leave because I loved them. I had coworkers I meshed with and other coworkers I couldn’t handle.
However, the most important thing I’ve learned in my years of going from one odd job to the next odd job is this: A job isn’t just a job. A job is, seemingly, much more than that. A job is what teaches you life lessons even if you don’t immediately see those life lessons. Sometimes it can take years for you to put the pieces of that puzzle together. Sometimes it takes seconds after you’ve quit a job to realize what the lesson was.
This is something I had to learn the hard way: I always looked at jobs I took as just another job, and I never looked at them as a learning experience. They were simply a means to an end, which is probably why I was rarely happy in any job I took. Not only was that job not exactly what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t looking at it in a positive way. I wasn’t looking at those jobs as something that was bettering me as an individual.
I babysat for years. I bussed tables at a restaurant. I washed dishes and cooked at that same restaurant. I’ve worked at grain elevators, a pharmacy, libraries and a livestock feed store, not to mention all the odd jobs I’ve had on the side throughout the last five or six years, like helping truck drivers with paperwork to helping power-wash buildings.
Even if you don’t want to do what you went to college for, there are jobs out there you can aim for. I went to school for English. All I’ve ever wanted to do was write. However, with that being said, I’m great with people! I’m a people person with extensive skills in communications. I’m great with customers, so that’s what I do. I work primarily with people while trying to maintain my identity as a writer. Someday, my writing will lead to the career that I believe I want.
I’d like to think of jobs before our careers as stepping stones, metaphorically speaking, at least. Jobs we take before we land on the path we feel we’re truly meant to be on are building blocks for our future. You might be cooking at a fast food restaurant, but in a year you might be a manager at that same restaurant. It’s going to give you experience.
I know how hard it is to think that a job isn’t shameful. I know how hard it can be to be proud of the work you do, especially when those jobs are so frowned upon by society. Trust me: No one is above any job regardless of their education, financial background or own thought process. Someone has to work at the gas stations, fast food joints and in janitorial positions. Those jobs matter too.
No matter what, though, a job is a great experience. We should look at it that way rather than being unhappy in the work we’re doing. If you’re going to flip burgers, make them the best burgers you’ve ever flipped. If you’re going to clean toilets at a school or Fortune 500 company, make sure those toilets sparkle when you’re done with them.
No matter what you do, make sure you do it with pride.