5 Ways a Less-Than-Ideal Job Can Help You Advance Your Career

Not in your dream job yet? That's okay.
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Krizia Liquido
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Not in your dream job yet? That's okay.

In an over-saturated job market, more and more people are putting aside chasing their dream job settling for starter jobs to pay the bills. This is clearly a boon for your bank account, but are you setting yourself up for long-term success by taking something that you think is "just for now?"

According to a Deloitte survey, 80 percent of people aren’t satisfied with their jobs. Clearly there can be legitimate reasons, but I would suggest that part of it is that we just have the wrong mindset.

Most successful people have one thing in common: They don’t waste time. They’re able to view all situations as opportunities. To a successful person, having a job is always a good thing. Even if it’s physically taxing, even if it’s not your dream job, and even if it’s not an obvious next step to the career you’ve always wanted. Here are some ways to reframe your experience in your mind, and maybe even help you figure out what you'd like to do next.

01. A starter job provides valuable training. 

Whether you're learning about how to provide great service, quality products, or efficient and effective operations, your job pays you to receive quality training. Write a list of all the tasks you're responsible for at your job. Chances are, each one helps develop a skill that is highly valued in every workplace. Filing papers? Organization. Setting appointments? Communication. Cleaning toilets? Perseverance. These are qualities every good leader exhibits. And they aren't just useful at work. They're necessary for developing  and nurturing relationships in our personal lives too.

02. You learn how to be accountable.

Whether you like it or not, you are responsible for certain projects and accomplishing specific goals at your job. At work you can't escape accountability. And you won't get away with pointing fingers (at least not in the long run). The early period of your career is where you learn how to take challenges head on and face the consequences of your errors. You figure out how to handle mistakes and growing pains (something we all encounter no matter where we work). This is also an opportunity to practice taking ownership over your successes. You may not love every aspect of your job, but it plays a huge role in revealing your strengths and weaknesses. Practice playing to your strengths by taking on more projects that you're good at and enjoy. Find ways to compensate for or cut your weak spots by looking to a mentor, enlisting your colleagues' help, and anticipating potential pitfalls.

03. You gain a sense of hierarchy and teamwork. 

Whether you're working for one or one-hundred, a starter job gives you a clearer understanding of business structure, rank, and teamwork. A good grasp of hierarchy is necessary at all levels of employment. After all, success for any company is all about knowing who handles what, who leads what, and how to work together. Your starter job is an opportunity to learn how to work in a team and work for one manager or more. Your company hired you for a reason. Understanding the significance of your role to the overarching goals of your organization is both humbling and empowering. Your success in future roles depends on you using this time to figure out what you bring to the table and how you are valuable to the team.

04. It's an opportunity to develop good work ethic.

Luck aside, work ethic is the reason why people succeed in achieving their goals. You'd be hard pressed to find someone successful who hasn’t applied themselves at some point. While some of you can coast through your job, consider that you're actually in a position to develop your drive. Adopt a trades-master mindset. Throw out selfish concerns about whether your job is ideal for you. Instead, work towards becoming exceptional at what you do. Working hard is the one competency we should value the rest of our lives. Don't wait until the next opportunity to practice doing your best.

05. Struggle is a key to success. 

If you feel like you settled for mediocrity or that you're failing yourself because you know you could do better in a different profession or pursuing your dream job, remember this: There is no stronger motivator than being in a less-than-ideal situation. Just like any job, working in a role that doesn't fulfill you can be a struggle. But a bit of struggle may just be the push you need to seek and pursue other opportunities.

If you can’t get much out of your starter job other than flexible hours and decent pay, maybe you're just wasting your time. The beginning of your career is a critical period. You may need to reevaluate and look for other options that will give you the personal development you need and deserve. In the end, though, no one owes you a great career—you need to earn it, and the process won't be easy. If you want to appreciate what you do, abandon the question, "What can this job offer me?" and instead think, "What can I offer this job?"