Ambition, not position, defines your worth
I’ve had a lot of shit jobs over the years that included a number of undesirable tasks. I have loaded trucks, moved furniture, mopped up warehouse floors, dried up wet tennis courts, delivered pizza, cooked in the warmest of kitchens, waited tables, washed dishes and laid sod.
Up until January of last year, one valuable and rewarding internship aside, my resume was lacking and my job prospects minimal. However, since then, I have been an instructional assistant, ran in two elections, organized two more and held several jobs in student media. It’s been a trying year but a good one with growth both personal and professional to a degree which I only realized upon writing this piece.
To those with ambitious goals and subpar resumes, opportunities will come your way and growth will happen quickly.
In times of stress of overwhelming growth, think back to the time where you wished for such opportunities that are causing you to be over-worked or under rested. I haven’t “made it” yet, not nearly, but I am confident for the first time in a while that everything will turn out fine and that I have options.
I rarely give out advice because I don’t see myself as worthy of giving it, but I will provide these small tips in case you find some value in them.
Never aim to meet people, aim to get to know people. People don’t remember people they meet in passing and certainly are not going out of their way to help them out.
Don’t compromise your principles or value system for a small or immediate gain. Keep thinking of the big picture (think royalties instead of a small up front pay off). Most of all, be sure to enjoy what you are doing and be doing it for the right reasons, whatever your reasoning might be.
Oh, and tip well. There is no reason to be ashamed of the work you’ve done — the work we perceive as meaningless — and less reason to shame those still doing it.
When overseas for my internship, I approached an extraordinarily accomplished professional in my field of interest for a conversation. After exchanging greetings and expressing my admiration for his work, I asked for advice on achieving career goals. His response caught me by surprise.
He noted that while in conversation with him, I had kept eye contact, expressing an unwavering interest in our conversation. I was not looking around distracted by whose hand I should shake next, he pointed out, but was completely engaged with him. That, he said, would take me far.
In my long series of jobs that helped put me through school, I picked up skills that helped me succeed in my more glamorous positions of the last year.
Just like the money from those years of part time work help paid for tuition, rent and groceries, all I learned during that time contributed to my ability to function in more recent opportunities.
I learned how to manage my time, deal with diverse and difficult personalities and handle varying degrees of responsibility and control. I learned how to get yelled at, pick my battles, and gain an understanding of the things that were important to me.
While future employers may hire me for the experience and practical skills highlighted on my resume, it is the character development and intangible skills I picked up in seemingly meaningless work that got me hired, even if employers have no interest in hearing about those experiences.
I’d much rather run an election than run a kitchen and having the experience and perspective to understand that is more significant than any skill I have acquired in the last year.