Career Life

3 Things to Remember While Working an Entry-Level Job

Dream jobs are rarely entry-level ones. We all have some vision of success in our minds, but no matter what your vision looks like, you’ll always have to start at a lower level than you want.

Of course, those entry-level positions help get your foot in the door and are necessary steps to move up in your career. But I think these jobs might do more than simply push someone closer to their real career goals. Entry-level jobs remind workers of three important realities that can help them get through the early stages of their careers.   

You Might Not Be as Great as You Think You Are

When I first graduated with my English degree, I was ready to impress the professional world with my skills and ambition. In school, I had such great success as a writer, so how different could doing it professionally be?

Incredibly different, and I had to find out the hard way.

I got a big assignment pretty quickly, and I confidently whipped up a first draft. Honestly, I rarely worked on drafts in my classes and part of me was sure the editor would take my first submission without any edits. I was wrong.

They sent the document back with marks as red as a lobster dipped in tomato juice and my face soon reflected the color. I felt like I had failed. Was I even a good writer? Did I actually do well in school? Would I ever get another chance? These questions flew through my mind for a few days, keeping me up and making my heart beat too fast. But then I began to see the truth.

The reality was that I wasn’t talentless or doomed to fail; I was just inexperienced. Getting my diploma did not make me an expert, it made me a novice. I had so much left to learn, and the more I began to understand that, the more I could enjoy learning. I stopped expecting myself to be the best, and I allowed myself to work towards smaller, realistic goals.

You Might be Able to Learn From the People in Charge

It’s easy to think you can run things better, especially for high-performing, ambitious self-starters. In most cases, however, the people in charge got their jobs because they’re good at what they do. They’ve put in the work and instead of criticizing them, less experienced workers should try to learn from them.

In my career, this meant asking questions that I knew I would not like the answers to. Of course, I hoped for a pat on the back and a “good job,” but I often got honest feedback that was hard to hear. In the moment, the comments hurt my ego. They made me ask the same kinds of questions I asked when I got the edits back, but I needed those dents in my ego. We all do.

The hurt that comes from this type of feedback is like muscle soreness after a workout. It hurts, but it’s necessary. The more we can set down our pride and trust the people who do what we want to, the more we will learn and grow and become better.

You Have Plenty of Time

In an age when twenty-somethings start companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, young people can start to feel like they’re behind the curve if they haven’t made their first million before they hit 25. At the very least, they better be close!

This, of course, is not a realistic standard, but as much as we may know that in our heads, we often hold ourselves to these types of ridiculous standards based on comparison. If it’s not Zuckerberg, maybe it’s a former classmate who got a promotion before you did, or maybe that quiet kid from high school just signed a record deal while you can’t get a show opening for local bands. Whatever comparison you put here, it isn’t helpful.

When you’re young and starting out, it feels like you have to hurry up and get there, wherever “there” is for you. The constant drive becomes exhausting, and everything but the best begins to feel like failure. In these moments, we must remember that we have time. Ambition and drive are great things, but we’ve got to stop and enjoy the process. Whenever the “dream job” does finally come, you will look back on the early days of your career and say, “look how far I’ve come.” Don’t rush to get there.

The tough reality is that we’ve all got to put in the work before we succeed, but we don’t have to drag our feet to work every morning until we get the “dream” job. The early stages of a career are there to help you get to where you want to be. Don’t try to get there before you’re ready.