Many of us can look back at our lives and remember our first job. For me, that’s the job I hated. But here’s why I’m thankful for it.
I sat in the crowd at my college graduation, head on a swivel, staring in awe at the sea of people surrounding me. I surveyed the audience to find my family, whose support served as a lifeline on many occasions. Their smiling faces sent flashbacks in waves through my mind like a sea brushing against a sandy shore. Growing up with parents whom I so fervently looked up to as role models created a deep-rooted desire to avoid disappointment at all costs. My only goal was to make them proud. I’d always understood the sacrifices they made for me, and wanted to proceed down a path that not only of which they approved, but with which were overjoyed.
I graduated from college in May of 2014. I’d begun searching for a needle in a haystack, I mean, a job, in January of 2014.
I was a Business Development intern at EXOS in Pensacola, Florida. I had it set in my mind that I was going to move to Carlsbad, California and work for this company that I’d fallen in love with.
One phone interview and about five follow-up emails later, I finally received a big, fat, resounding, no.
“This isn’t going to be as easy as I thought”.
Thus, the search began. Spending my nights sifting through LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster… Five months of job pursuit with nothing to show for it. And I was surrounded by classmates whose internships had seamlessly rolled into jobs. They were walking across that stage in the O’Dome with their futures set.
Meanwhile, my feet were milliseconds away from slipping out of my Jessica Simpson patent leather pumps as I walked across that graduation stage. I had not a clue what the future held for me. I felt directionless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And believe it or not, it’s incredibly hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I have my B.S. in Sport Management and a minor in Business Administration. Throughout my entire college career I’d envisioned myself working for the Miami Heat. That is, until I realized that for a job that would undoubtedly consume my life (sports business is no joke… your life = work), the passion that I would need to survive was running on “E”.
And there I went… floating into a cloud of question. What the hell am I going to do?
By now, it’s July. Let me refresh your memory: I had been looking for a job since January. SEVEN MONTHS. Needless to say, the pressure to find something and start making money was at an all-time high, and the confidence I had in my future was at an all-time low.
Then, I received an email from the University of Florida career resource center. These were a regular occurrence, but I’d never found anything that interested me. But this time, something caught my eye. Something familiar. So, I clicked on it, read through the responsibilities and qualifications and with the shrug of a shoulder I thought “I can do that…”
Immediately upon expressing interest in this position, I realized that a close family friend of ours worked for this company. Now, I’m not going to disclose what company, but it’s important to know that this particular company is ginormo, and worth probably $35 billion.
It was a field sales job. (SALES. ME. I can’t sell water to a camel… or tell jokes). The company promised quick promotions (~4-6 months), insurance benefits, 401k, the whole nine. “Lezz do this”, I didn’t say to myself. I don’t actually speak that way to myself, just here.
I landed the job. I was so excited. I was so relieved to have found something. Somebody wanted me to work for them. Finally, I was starting my trek into the real world.
But something loomed over me. I was grateful to have found a job, and excited that the search was over, but I was not excited for this job. It was for a brand I didn’t care for, in fact it was something I didn’t really support in my everyday life. It wasn’t a position related to anything I was passionate about. But it was a job. And that’s all I needed.
Upon my first day on the job (which happened to be a ten-hour day), the ever so dreadful phrase “what have I done?” was blinking in my head like a clock after the electricity shuts down.
To make a long story short, I lasted seven months.
Seven months of being at work by 5 or 6AM in a sketchy part of town. Of being yelled at by grumpy customers. Of doing physical labor for hours everyday. Enough complaining, you get the picture. It wasn’t for me. It was back-breaking work. And as I’ve said before, I am all for working your butt off and working your way up. But the thing was, I had absolutely no desire to move up in this company, or in this industry for that matter. So I felt like I was dealing with all of this bullshit for something I didn’t even want.
But, with all of that said, I’m thankful it happened. Because…
That job I hated allowed me to make (and save) some money out of college.
I got to experience what adulthood is like… Making an actual salary for the first time, understanding the logistics of insurance benefits and 401k and budgeting. This job got me off my feet.
That job I hated showed me what I don’t want.
And for someone who didn’t know what she wanted, this was pretty important. When you feel lost, it’s better to experience something that allows you to check it off the to-don’t list, than to wait and wait and wait for the perfect option (because that may never happen).
That job I hated helped me turn a negative into positive.
I was depressed. I was not only depressed because I hated the job, but I was depressed because of how lost I was. I’d just spent years in school, busting my ass, for what? I felt useless and had absolutely no confidence. I was so down, that I would go to bed at night not wanting to wake up in the morning. I would drive from customer to customer (again, field sales), not caring if a car slammed into me on the way. I’d never, ever felt that in my life. And at the same time, I felt guilty for feeling this way. Because I had a job that paid me a salary, gave me insurance benefits, you know the deal. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, water to drink. But all I kept repeating to myself through the whole experience was that this was put in my path for a reason. And looking back, I know this was put in my path to show me that we go through rough times, and we come out stronger. We are never given more than we can handle.
That job I hated made me seek happiness.
This job gave me the cojones to find something I knew I would enjoy with passion. I had been at the lowest point, and I was ready for the highest. I was not going to settle. I knew there was more out there for me, and that job lead me to seek out light in the darkness. I so strongly hated what I was doing for 40+ hours a week, that finding something at the opposite side of the spectrum was a necessity. At this point, I felt unstoppable. Because I was not about to go through that again.
I began this job in Gainesville, the city of my alma mater. Months had gone by, and my hatred for this job grew and grew. I requested transfer to go home to be with my family, thinking maybe that would help. Plus, my home city being a bigger market, I thought I could get a better experience (since I was doing a job that was not in the job description). It wasn’t until I moved back home that my family really saw how this was affecting me. They saw the depression and the anxiety. They felt it.
Even after moving, there were many sleepless nights, tossing and turning, frequent panic attacks, the thought of quitting loitering in my mind. And finally, I’d had enough. I realized that if there were any time in my life to choose passion and happiness, it was now. So, I quit.
And I am so glad I did. Now, I work full-time for a startup company (I went from a company with thousands of employees to one with 15) which has been a colossal learning experience. I own my own business (this blog right hurr), and have begun a new venture with my best friend. And had I not had that first job, I might still be lost.
The point is not to say that I was searching for a job that was blissful every hour of every day that bared no stress and existed without an issue arising. That’s impossible, and I know that. Everything you do will inevitably be accompanied by some type of stress or pressure. But I had experienced my bottom of the barrel, and I used it to fuel my fire to seek something more. And after having experienced such a low-point, I now look at every negative experience differently. Now, having the understanding of why that situation was put in my path and what I took from it, whenever I am in a situation that might be discouraging or frustrating or painful, I think: something better is on the other side.
Join the conversation:
Have you ever had a job that you absolutely hated?
Did you know what you wanted to do from the beginning, or did you ever feel lost?