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Ready for the Real World: What if I Don’t Like My First Job?

I worked so hard for this. This is what I got my degree in. What if I don't actually like my job?

I recently had a conversation with a 20-something who, six months into his first professional position, figured the fact that he only liked about half of what he was doing meant that he should look for something else.

Which raises the question: How much disappointment and frustration should I tolerate before deciding a particular job or career is not for me? Could dissatisfaction have any other function other than telling me it’s time to get out?

Guess what.

You’re not going to like everything about your first job. You’re just not.

By all means, look for a different job that doesn’t involve a cubicle. Or data entry. Or being on a very short leash with your boss. Or too little vacation time. Or whatever. Just remember that you will always be trading that inconvenience for a different inconvenience.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting many happy people who would consider their current job their “dream job.” Even these folks would say there are things about that job they don’t enjoy.

So what might God be doing through the dissatisfying aspects of our jobs?

Working Out Your Gifting

I am convinced that God uses our frustrations to help us discern what He has gifted us for. No matter how many assessments your university’s career development office offers, you won’t have a clear picture of where your talents lie until you start working them out in the real world. At that point, you’ll have many experiences of “I hate this. It makes me want to poke my eyes out,” and hopefully an equal number of experiences of, “I love this. I would do it even if no one paid me to do it.” The latter is more powerful when experienced in contrast with the former.

Once you start to notice patterns in what’s satisfying and what’s dissatisfying to you, it will equip you to be more strategic about the next job opportunity you want to pursue.

Skill Building

It’s possible you’re going to hate an aspect of your first job simply because you’re not good at it. It makes you feel dumb. It takes too long to accomplish a small amount of work. In some cases, all you need is practice and repetition, and you’ll get good at it. And then you won’t hate it.

Even though I now make my living as a writer and editor, I used to hate writing. The English major I chose was an education degree with an emphasis on literature. I took as few writing courses as possible. That was because I simply wasn’t good at getting the ideas in my brain to come out effectively in writing. I’m so thankful now for one particular professor who made me practice and repeat writing exercises until I could successfully express what I was thinking. Now I love writing and can’t imagine my life without it.

If you didn’t have this kind of skill-building experience in college, be prepared to have it in your early career days. You’ll be so glad to be able to say you stuck it out and gained a new and profitable skill.

Teamwork and Efficiency

In some jobs, you have the freedom to work with teammates and creatively distribute tasks to get the job done. You might be surprised that someone with a different skill set is excited to tackle a responsibility you hate. Or maybe your company has a volunteer program and you can request a volunteer to handle some of the things that feel like time-wasters to you. Making a practice of collaboration helps you develop an eye for who is gifted at what, which is an excellent skill to have when you begin to take on more of a leadership role.

When you don’t have the freedom to trade tasks with co-workers or get assistance from volunteers, you can at least work at being efficient and accurate so that you spend as little time as possible on the stuff you don’t like. There are a million practical tips for doing just that in career-building books and on blogs. Find some that work for you so that the dissatisfying parts of your job don’t hog more of your attention than they need to.

Don’t Jump Ship Yet

My biggest encouragement to new professionals is to think twice before deciding to bail because you’re dissatisfied with your job. Our greatest growth almost always comes through doing hard things, and you might be surprised at what God is developing in you and preparing you for.

Got stories? What’s the most frustrating thing about your current job? How have you seen God grow you in your career and calling through a difficult aspect of your job?

Copyright 2014 Lindy Keffer. All rights reserved. 

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About the Author

Lindy Keffer

Lindy Keffer is very fond of her preschool daughter and toddler son, who are worth every ounce of energy it takes to keep up with them. Her husband makes videos for a living and helps with the dishes, which makes her smile. Her favorite thing about living in Colorado is 300-plus days of sunshine per year.


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