Whether you were making lattes, flipping burgers, taking drink orders or trying not to drop trays laden with overpriced, mediocre food, your working life likely started with a job that required you to serve a stream of often-cranky customers. The soul-sucking service job is a rite of passage for most of us, and though you knew that folding sweaters at the local mall or mastering the intricacies of a deep fryer weren't going to be a lifelong career path, it was probably still hard not to feel despondent with the start of every seemingly never-ending shift. It may pay your rent or get you through school, but the soul-sucking service job eventually takes its toll on your sanity. When that happens, and you find yourself hating every customer who walks into the establishment on sight, it's time to move on.
The next job on your path to a happy, rewarding career (once you've decided that you're never making another extra-hot, no-foam latte for anyone ever again) is usually the one that has you doing someone else's grunt work. You make their photocopies, you fetch their lunch, you get their coffee and you basically do everything else they feel they're much too important to do. You don't sleep well from all the stress, you have no time to eat and your social life is non-existent. All you seem to do is run around like a headless chicken in hopes of crossing everything off your to-do list with enough time to head home, fall into bed and do it all again the next day. You do it because it's supposed to lead to bigger and better things, but inevitably the long hours, low pay and poor treatment send you packing, which leads us to our next in our series of jobs-before-The-One.
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Just like the good-on-paper guy usually turns out to be a big disappointment, the good-on-paper job doesn't usually bring you the fulfillment you imagine. Good-on-paper guy seems like he has everything you're looking for – he's smart, kind, has a great sense of humor – but there's no spark. He doesn't excite you and you really can't picture spending a whole evening with him, let alone the rest of your life. Similarly, the good-on-paper job sounds perfect. It's what you went to school for, the job title sounds impressive, there's potential for growth, the money is good and you get more vacation time than any of your friends do. What's not to love? As much as you thought this would be it – the job you've been waiting for – it's actually really boring and you spend most of your day fantasizing about being anywhere but your office. If this sounds familiar, do not settle. If you passed on the good-on-paper guy, eventually you're going to have to move on from the good-on-paper job.
The best thing about the good-on-paper job is that it's usually a good place to make contacts that can ideally help you on your quest to find The One, the job you really want. The job right before you end up where you always hoped you'd be is the stepping-stone job. You like it, you get to use your skills, the people are nice and you're feeling great about your contribution. But there's no room to grow. The stepping-stone job is usually at a small company where all your skills are utilized, but once you get to a point where you're itching for more, there's simply nowhere left for you to go. The only place you can really go is out the door (with great references) to somewhere bigger, better and where you can continue to thrive.
No matter where you are on your path to finding The One, here's to getting the job you've always wanted!
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