Take This Job And Keep It: A Word To The Class Of 2014


Your first real job after graduation is probably going to be a nightmare.

You’ll have crazy hours.

You won’t get the time off that you would like.

You’ll want a raise and a promotion.

You’ll get neither as quickly as you would like.

So you’ll want to quit, thinking that your dream job is out there somewhere. Don’t believe the hype. Not yet at least. You need this job. I know. I know. You’ve got your parents and the government to pay bills for you so you may think that you’re okay without this job. But you really do need it. You need this job because everyone, at some point early in life, needs a job that they hate. It’s what prepares them for their dream job.

My first real job was at a Chick-fil-a in a mall. On one of my first nights on the job, a manager handed me a broom and walked me outside. He told me that all of the stores in the mall were on a rotation and that it was our turn to sweep the parking lot. He wished me luck and walked back inside.

Fifteen minutes later I heard the sound of all of my fellow employees laughing.

I had been tricked.

There was no rotation of parking lot sweepers. Some guy in a weird looking truck with a broom under it took care of that.

I kept that job for another year or so. The Chick-fil-a job, not the parking lot sweeper one. It was tough. There’s a reason why you can eat off of the floor at Chick-fil-a. The people there work hard. My manager used to tell me, “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean.” I hated that.

But looking back, that job was one of the best things that ever happened to me. The people who told me to sweep the parking lot weren’t bullying me. They were teaching me how to laugh at myself. My manager wasn’t overworking me. He was teaching me what it meant to work. It’s hard to learn that at your dream job. These are the lessons that can only be learned at tough jobs.

My next job was at a warehouse where I spent all day in a cold, windowless room wearing a hairnet and wrapping cheese with perverted, chain-smoking women who were old enough to be my grandmother. I can’t really say what I learned at that job other than I knew that I didn’t want to do it anymore. It takes a bad job to give you some direction in where you want to go and what you know you never want to do again.

After I finished college, as I saw it, there were two decisions to make. I could either take the job as a sports anchor for a large television station in Los Angeles or I could be an advertising executive for a nice New York City firm. The decision turned out to be a lot easier than I expected seeing as how neither job offer ever came my way. New graduates don’t get jobs as sports anchors or ad executives. They get jobs in the mailroom or moving cables around.

I didn’t know that. All I knew was my dream job. But here’s the thing about dream jobs. Most people don’t want to do anything other than, well, dream until some rich guy comes along with the perfect job.

But that’s where you’ll be different. You won’t wait for the dream job. You’ll take the first terrible job within reason that comes your way. And, for the time being at least, you’ll make it your dream job. If your real dream job comes along, which it likely will if you’re hustling hard enough, you’ll be ready for it.

Here’s the thing though. Your dream job may not be what you expect. It may end up being the job that you hate right now. That’s because sometimes what needs to be changed isn’t the job. It’s your attitude. Hopefully, if you’re not there already, you’ll quickly get to the point where you see that your true identity isn’t found in a job, no matter how good that job is. You’ll realize that if your job pays the bills and helps you to do what God put you on earth to do, it’s doing its job.

Trust me on this. You don’t want your dream job right now. You’d really screw it up. Take a look at what happens to people who get their dream job at your age. It hardly ever ends well. They usually end up never really appreciating what they have. That’s because they never were laughed at for being gullible enough to sweep a mall parking lot. They never had to spend an entire summer in a warehouse with foul-mouthed grandmothers.

Your first job after graduation will not be your dream job. It might even be a nightmare. But hang in there. Take that job, and for the time being at least, keep it.

Sometimes, before you can really appreciate a dream, you need a good nightmare or two.