At some point in our lives, we’ve all dreaded going to work.
Well, our consultants certainly have. Luke spent a painful summer picking courgettes in Brisbane (‘it’s a very prickly plant’). Emily once had a stapler thrown at her head while temping at an events company. Even our director JD has never quite managed to forget the smell of his time at a fishmongers.
The nice thing about these experiences is that they’re universal. The list of celebrities who worked terrible jobs is long and reassuring (remember: Brad Pitt once danced around in a chicken suit for a fast food chain).
Everyone starts somewhere. What else can be learned from our traumatic work experiences? Were they really just a means to an end?
The value of repetition
There seems to be one common theme among all bad jobs: doing the same thing, again and again and again. Whether you’re polishing glasses or typing spreadsheets, it’s the repetition that really grates.
But what about the repetitive actions and habits that are essential in high-level careers? The routines of famous CEOs are a source of public fascination for good reason. Growing a successful company requires an understanding of repeatable processes, along with the ability to scale and communicate them. You might not need to harvest courgettes to discover this, but there’s certainly an advantage in learning about repetitive actions the hard way.
People are like snowflakes
Another fact of terrible jobs: people rarely value your work. While this can often feel disheartening, the advantages in later life are many. Being able to take criticism, assert yourself and keep calm are all life skills which can be acquired while working at your local fast food outlet.
Operations Manager Matt recalls starting a disastrous sales job in Hong Kong after learning his two would-be bosses had fled on a plane: ‘I arrived at the company with no instructions and zero support. All I had was a tiny desk and a phonebook. But the experience toughened me up. I was a very different person when I left.’
We’re all in this together
Besides war and train delays, few things encourage strangers to bond faster than a bad job. The common enemy (your boss) is an endless source of discussion, along with the long hours, low wages and odd customers. These topics might seem trivial, but they could be the start of something huge. The allies you make on a 13 hour shift could be invaluable contacts in the future.
The sheer variety of people you encounter in these roles inevitably means that you will have disagreements with co-workers, but it’s something to be celebrated. Where else will you work and bicker alongside struggling artists and future CEOs? The importance of working and arguing with people of all kinds of backgrounds cannot be overstated at a time when our views and discussions are increasingly dictated by our tastes and online friends.
Not just great anecdotes then; our terrible jobs are life-changing. They provide the soft skills and experience which traditional education often fails to provide.