Taking a Crappy Entry-Level Job May Boost Your Career

I occasionally see articles that promise the young and naive a roadmap to landing that “dream job” straight out of college. This annoys me.

It ain’t gonna happen.

If your expectation is that fresh out of college hiring managers are going to overlook your complete lack of skill and experience required and offer you that perfect position from the goodness of their hearts — you are about to be seriously disappointed.

Sure, there are plenty of articles to be found offering platitudes that your dream job is possible if only you network, have tenacity and believe in the power of your dreams. However, I have yet to see this happen.

I’m here to help you avoid falling into the pit of despair and bitterness that comes when you take that crappy entry level job when you expected something better. It can be a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you were seeking validation post graduation that all your hard work has paid off. The good news is that with careful planning, a crappy entry-level job can present amazing opportunities.

When I graduated college, I had two job offers at two different reputable companies. One was a management trainee program and the other was working as a grunt in a call center. The management trainee program offered a slightly higher wage and the potential to secure an assistant manger position. The call center offered misery and anguish. I chose the call center.

I don’t hate myself, nor do I have a passion for talking to disgruntled strangers on the phone. Although it may seem crazy — I made a strategic decision. I evaluated the two companies and asked myself the following:

What company culture seemed like the best fit for me?

2. Which company offers more opportunity for growth in the long term?

3. Which company do I have more to offer?

Asking myself these questions led me to the call center job. Employees had a high rate of satisfaction working at this particular company and it had a focus on work-life balance. After talking to employees at the company that offered the management trainee program I found that it didn’t have a lot of upward mobility. Basically people tended to stay in their given position until retirement. Finally, my experience I had accumulated during college better prepared me for the core business of the company with the call center job. Since I had more to offer this company, I knew that meant more potential opportunity for advancement.

Working at the call center was hard. It sucked. As I answered phone call after phone call, I experienced the soul-crushing agony of feeling like a cog in a machine. Everything had to be clocked in and accounted for — including bathroom breaks. There is a special kind of humiliation in having to ask permission to go to the bathroom when you are adult — especially when you have to ask a machine. I thought about quiting on a near daily basis.

I used my year there to learn as much as possible about the company and network. My best connections were made with my coworkers at the call center. We had a special bond similar to that of soldiers during wartime. It paid off, eventually I landed a job in a fantastic department that invested in me. I was promoted four times within four years and doubled my starting salary at the company.

I guess ultimately what I am trying to say is — we all have to pay our dues and start somewhere. Don’t feel like you aren’t a success if your first job out of college is crap. Worry more about getting in to that perfect company rather than that perfect job. It will happen eventually.

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