Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning from a job that you hate

One of my very first jobs after college was working for a travel company.  On paper, it seemed pretty good.  Great work experience, decent vacation time, free lunches, and travel discounts.  The pay wasn't great, but I needed the experience and I figured better money would come later.

I had my doubts on day one.  There was all this talk about weekend work.  I was confused, no one had mentioned working on weekends?  It also seemed really strict, for example somebody apologized profusely for being 10 minutes late, there wasn't a lot of chit chat going on, and I actually shared a desk with two other people, there barely enough room to breathe.

The work itself wasn't bad, but I had tried to make suggestions and asked questions on why certain things were done in a particular way and could tell no one was interested in making improvements.  Then I was scolded for sending too many external emails (I assumed they were reading every word as well) and for not apologizing for being 20 minutes late one morning when being caught in the rain.

After five months, I just couldn't take it anymore.  I was miserable and handed in my notice.  Thinking back on this period, although I didn't realize it at the time,  I did learn a tremendous amount about the workplace and would have never gotten my subsequent job if it weren't for this experience.  Here is what I really learned.

  1. Get all the facts.  This job required working half a day on a Saturday once per month and I didn't discover this until after I had started.  I could blame the company, saying that no one ever told me, but I never asked either.  This was my job and my life, the responsibility is all on me.
  2. Know the rules.  My boss had a thing for always being on time and not sending personal emails at work.  However, some people would often take 15 minutes twice a day to go for a coffee, which never seemed to bother her.  I continued to do the things that annoyed her rather than adjusting to the work environment.  Until you are in a position to set your own rules, you need to avoid doing the things that give your boss heartburn.
  3. Never burn your bridges.  Even when I handed in my notice, I thanked everyone for their help and said I was grateful for the opportunity. I wasn't lying, I was truly grateful, this job just wasn't for me.
It's important to remember that even when you are in a position you don't like, that you try and learn what you can (even if it is what not to do!).  Use this experience to land an even better job!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

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