Why Everyone Should Have at Least One Terrible Job

By Julieanna O’Hara

I’m starting my post with a disclaimer, I think I currently have the best job I love it, I enjoy 90% of the tasks I complete, every day I work with inspiring people, and I’m lucky to be in a role where I believe in the work we do.  But that hasn’t always been the case… in fact I’ve had some shocking experiences, but they have all played an important role in helping me grow in my career:

 Lesson #1 – Don’t assume anything

My first job was dodgy, not a little bit dodgy completely dodgy; a cash in hand retail role when I was 15.  I turned up super excited and ready to conquer the retail industry. When I arrived, I quickly learnt that I wasn’t expected to have breaks and the role was 100% commission.  I removed myself from the situation and learned the importance employment contracts and asking questions before accepting a role, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel.

 Lesson #2 – Reflection

Early in my career, I worked in debt collection; at the time I was young and thought ‘it’s just a job’.  The reality was every day my values were questioned, and I was unhappy.  Don’t get me wrong; people should pay back debts, but I wasn’t utilising my strengths, I wasn’t authentic and I didn’t feel a sense of purpose. I stuck with the job for a year, I learnt so much about myself, whilst it wasn’t a career highlight, the role did help me identify what was important to me in a job. I moved onto a fantastic job that I loved.

 Lesson #3 – Don’t underestimate the importance of cultural fit

I have had a lot of jobs but not many employers.  I have been lucky to move around organisations, this has helped me understand that within one organisation there can be many sub-cultures.  Find out what internal opportunities there are before resigning from an organisation.  At interview stage ask questions about the team; why people like working at the organisation; what’s the leadership style; what’s a typical day? The answers will give you an insight to whether you will be happy in the organisation.

 Lesson #4 – Look forward not backwards

Being a student is a wonderful time in your life; you can experiment with different work environments, wear a few different hats and discover what makes you tick.  We often accept jobs based on some facts, some expectations and lots of unknowns, accept that you made the best decision based on the information you had at the time, learn from the experience and move forward.

Currently in a terrible job?

If you are in a terrible job right now, here’s my advice:

  • Are you being exploited? If so it’s not ok; it’s NEVER ok! Check your rights https://www.fairwork.gov.au and plan a professional exit.
  • Maintain a healthy work/life balance; make sure you are seeing your friends and doing whatever fun things you enjoy. A terrible job can be all consuming, so it’s important to have other things in your life to focus on.
  • Remember nothing is forever; the best is yet to come! Set yourself goals of key things you want to achieve from the experience and look for opportunities in the current role that will help you in your next role.
  • Remain professional; don’t gossip! Raise concerns with your manager (if you can). Don’t let the (insert reason why you hate your job here) impact others opinion of you. Your professional brand (i.e. what people say about you when you aren’t in the room) takes time to build and can be easily damaged by mismanaging a tricky situation.
  • Plan a professional exit; if you decide to resign, remember the world is small, don’t burn bridges, meet with your direct supervisor to advise them and thank them for the opportunity. Negative last impressions can undo great achievements; think about what you want to be remembered for. Complete outstanding tasks, prepare detailed handover materials and move on gracefully.

If your job is impacting your well-being, take action! Your health should always be your number one priority. Remember, you are never on your own; we sometimes feel alone in tricky work situations or hear ourselves complaining all the time to loved ones which can become tiresome.  UTS has experts to help you navigate the workplace; the UTS:Careers Drop-in is open every day 10am-4pm.

Julieanne O’Hara  leads the fantastic UTS:Careers team, who through a range of programs and services, help UTS students and alumni achieve their definition of success.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

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