Purpose//

The Biggest Career Mistake You Can Make (and How to Avoid it)

You learn something from every single job experience.

I can proudly say I’ve accomplished many of my dreams — from writing two books to speaking on stage in front of 1,000 people.

To a large degree, I owe the success I’m experiencing right now to a job I had as a manager of a video store making $10/hr.

There was a lot that happened in between, but if I connect the dots backward, that’s where it starts.

Before landing the job as the manager of the video store, I’d been hired and fired from a string of menial jobs (while supplementing my income selling weed). I could never hold a job down for longer than 6 months.

Deep down I knew I was intelligent and capable, but I had issues with authority along with an endless list of other issues that kept me from being a model employee.

The smart and capable person I knew I could be was buried beneath the experiences that shaped me into becoming someone I didn’t enjoy being. I wasn’t completely devoid of hope. I had the feeling that things would turn around someday.

Little did I know my life would change because of a job I took selling DVDs.

At the time, I was just looking for a job because I was broke. I happened to live by the video store so I walked in and applied. I filled out the application in persuasive detail (I was always decent with words), told the manager about myself and seemingly made a good impression.

I interviewed to become a “crew member” but the hiring manager saw something in me. He asked me if I was interested in becoming the manager of the store.

The thought that I was capable enough to manage a store was alien to me prior to him bringing it up. Someone seeing something in me was all it took for me to get motivated.

I accepted the job as the “manager in training.” To prepare for my new position, I started watching interviews of successful people and TED talks about leadership. I invested myself and the process I used to become a better manager led to me becoming a writer and doing what I’d always dreamed of doing.

In the process of learning to become a better leader and learn new skills, I started to share ideas and things I learned on my Facebook page. A friend took notice of my essay-like status updates and asked me to write some articles on his website he was working on.

I’ve been writing non-stop for years ever since. The birth of the career I always dreamed of indirectly came from a career most wouldn’t consider top-tier.

This is a roundabout way of getting to the lesson learned:

There’s something to be gained from every single job experience.

Had I had a different attitude about becoming a store manager of a video store, I could’ve behaved in an entirely different way. Had I looked down on the position instead of looking at it as a learning experience, perhaps I’d still be working there.

No matter where you’re employed, you can use your current experience to guide your future. Of course, if you truly hate your job, find something different.

But if you’re simply being cynical, lazy, ungrateful, or some combination of all three, your career will probably continue to go nowhere.

I read a story on LinkedIn recently about a girl who worked at a Taco Bell. She was extremely polite and courteous. She went above and beyond in an industry that doesn’t really reward that type of behavior.

A man who frequented the Taco Bell often noticed her positive attitude and intangible qualities. He worked at a company that was much more lucrative to work at than T-Bell. He asked her to come in for an interview and now she works at that company.

This is what happens when you adopt a general attitude of trying to benefit from the work you do.

I’ve had lapses in my own employment life — wondering why I should try so hard when this isn’t my dream job — and I always end up reminding myself that nothing is wasted and everything is a learning experience.

I write on the side for right now. My income from my side projects is getting close to the income from my employment. At this critical time, I’m doing what I can to get everything I can from my current work to help me in my future endeavors.

Nothing’s wasted — that’s the lesson.

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