The Important Lesson Taught By The Wrong Job
It is almost inevitable that, at some point in your career, you will find yourself in the wrong job. One that is unequivocally not right for you. When you don’t have a lot of experience, either of yourself or of the labour market, it is really easy to make career decisions that are entirely wrong (to avoid that you can of course also study the career knowledge on this site). Whether or not it’s going into a sector that doesn’t capture your interest, or ending up in workplace that stifles your potential, most of us will come across dead ends in our careers once or twice.
These dead ends can be immensely frustrating and depressing, and so it’s tempting to view them as a complete waste of time and energy, to be avoided at all possible. And naturally, we shouldn’t make the wrong move in our careers on purpose. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing good that can come of finding yourself in the wrong job.
A couple of years ago, I was working in a job that I absolutely loathed. It was repetitive mindless work, and I was going out of my mind with boredom. I had applied for it on the basis that it was loosely relevant to my degree, and a growing industry, and I knew I stood a good chance of doing well within it. But once I’d started work, I soon realised that neither the work, nor the sector was suited to me.
Discussing this with my parents over dinner, my mum said something that stuck with me:
“Finding out what won’t do, is every bit as important as finding out what will.”
We live in a society that teaches us to reject negative emotions entirely, rather than seeing them as an important, and inevitable part of life, with lessons to teach. A career path is not just about discovering and pursuing ambitions and dreams, but about working out what you can’t put up with, and doing what you can to avoid those things in future. Fixating solely on how much you dislike a given job, or trying to kid yourself that you don’t dislike it at all, is not going to help you work out what to do next.
This is important, because no job is perfect – every kind of career has good parts, and bad parts. But the point is what these parts are differs from job to job. The downsides of one job will be entirely absent from other professions, which will have totally different downsides. The trick is to identify a career whose good aspects are appealing enough to outweigh the bad.
Although we tend to think a lot about our passions – the appetite we have for the enjoyable aspects of a given job – it’s easy to forget about our aversions – the annoying things that we just aren’t prepared to put up with. But both are equally important. Even if you’re fascinated by logic puzzles and are excellent at debating, there’s no point becoming a lawyer if you can’t handle being cooped up in an office all day.
The process of doing the wrong job that you hate is invaluable, if you use it as an opportunity to work out what these career red lines are. What is it about the job that makes you hate it so much? What careers can you rule out based on this? What careers are left when this is done?
These questions can be incredibly helpful in guiding us when making career decisions in future. Surrounded by the wide range of options available today, we should take advantage of anything that can help us sift out the opportunities that really suit us from the rest – including our negative experience. If you are in the wrong job, turn it to your advantage.