Back when I was a teenager, I worked for my stepfather’s construction company. As I get further and further from my teenage years, I have had fewer opportunities to use this story in my job interviews. But the lessons learned still apply to me today, and you may find some value in them as well. (However, those with weak stomachs may want to skip down past the bold type.)
The construction company did a number of things – plumbing repairs, building swimming pools, building fences, and so on, but the primary focus of the business was building septic systems. Most of the time, those systems were for new houses whose foundations had not even been poured yet, so we were digging in “clean” dirt, installing a clean tank, laying clean pipes, covering them with clean gravel and sand.
But once in a while, the job was to remove a leaking system and replace it with a new one. Now that was a stinky job. So much so, in fact, that my attitude has been this ever since: once you have been ankle deep in someone else’s feces, no job is too stinky to deal with.
This attitude carried over into my first tech job, working as a phone support technician. Many people saw the work as greuling, with yet another call with yet another problem (often user caused), an unending stream of somebody else’s problems. But since I had my construction job to compare it to, I didn’t see it the same way. And without that initial feeling that this was a hassle, I was able to see the job as what it truly was. Instead of the calls being an unending stream of problems, it was an unending stream of solutions! Every call I finished was another person’s problem resolved! Instead of a grueling, draining downer, the job was energizing, motivating, and satisfying. Which is why I was still there while others burned out, part of why I got promoted while others fled.
So take a moment to assess your own attitude. Where are you seeing negatives when you could be seeing positives? Is your job (or potential job) really stinkier than what I did, or could you see yourself as lucky not to be standing in a septic tank?
Jim Adcock is Vice President of Launch Pad Job Club, an organization in Austin, Texas, whose mission is help people who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need to land their next job, and to help them cope with the interim between jobs. Check out other career-related entries.