The Surprising Secret to Launching Your Career: A Terrible Job

You graduate college, then reality hits.

As a graduate with no experience, you are going to have to take a lame job. Or an “entry level” job. Or whatever they call jobs that pay nothing and let you do nothing.

Is this the culmination of your 17 years of education?

No, it’s not. This is your gauntlet. You need to run it. And there is a smart way to do it.

How to pick your first terrible job:

Hard work and tenacity will get you far in life but they won’t get a dream job when you lack experience. It is an unfortunate fact that hiring managers don’t overlook a lack of background and offer jobs from the goodness of their hearts.

I’m here to help you avoid the feeling of despair when reality hits. The bitterness that comes when you take a terrible job and know you are capable of something greater. The good news is that with planning, a terrible job can lead to excellent opportunity.

When I graduated college I had two offers from two reputable companies. The first — working in a call center. The second — a manager trainee program. The trainee program offered a higher starting salary and a potential assistant manager 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:

  • Which company culture seems like the best fit for me?
  • Which company offers more opportunity for growth in the long term?
  • Which company do I have more to offer?

The employees of the company with the call center reported a high level of satisfaction. The company emphasis on work-life balance and health also interested me. The company with the management trainee program also had a high level of satisfaction. The problem was people tended to stay in a position until they retired. That translates to not a lot of opportunity to grow. The experience I had accrued during college better prepared me for the call center’s core business. I had more to offer this company, which meant more opportunity for advancement.

Working at a call center was hard. It often sucked. I experienced the soul-crushing agony of answering an endless stream of phone calls. The aggravation of having every minute of my time accounted for (including bathroom breaks). There is a special kind of humiliation that comes with asking permission to use the bathroom as an adult. I thought about quitting almost every day.

I used my time there to learn as much as possible about the company and make connections. My best network was made with my coworkers at the call center. Working in that environment fosters a unique bond akin to soldiers in war. We still keep in touch and let each other know when there is a new opportunity within the company.

I stuck it out and it paid off. I landed a job in a fantastic department that invested in me. As a result, I received four promotions in four years and doubled my starting salary.

We all have to start somewhere. Don’t feel like you aren’t a success if your first job out of college stinks. Concern yourself more with finding that perfect company rather than perfect job. Then make your battle plan and win.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.