A bad job will crush your soul.
It will leave you feeling stressed out, worn down, and ready to throw in the towel. It will make you re-think your career, sabotage your relationships, and generally make you question whether or not being an adult is even worth it.
What if bad jobs aren’t always a bad thing?
Much like a near-death experience, a really bad job can give a needed dose of perspective. It can tamper unrealistic expectations, and set you up to be happier and more successful in the long run. It can even teach you a thing or two about yourself.
A bad job makes you humble.
I worked as a newspaper reporter on my first job straight out of college, where I quickly learned a harsh truth: cub reporters have to pay their dues. We all had to work holidays, and those with the most seniority got to choose which holiday they worked. Because I was the newest, I had to take what was usually left: Thanksgiving.
That first year, I worked Thanksgiving and Black Friday while my co-workers spent those days with their families. I was also the one to fill in for our night cops reporter when he left, so I worked 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. my last few months on the job.
I was miserable, but I soon came to understand why I was in that position. It wasn’t malicious. No one took joy in the fact that I ate McDonald’s on Thanksgiving. In fact, every single person above me on the totem pole had gone through exactly the same situation.
It’s easy to feel like you deserve a better gig, especially if you worked hard in college. I spent most of my time in school working at the daily student newspaper and my summers interning at various media companies. I thought I deserved more after college than covering school board meetings in some Podunk town.
In reality, that was precisely what I deserved. Having a crappy first job experience brought me down a peg, and taught me the dangers of unrealistic expectations. I realized that a comfortable, satisfying job right out of the gate wasn’t just unusual; it was practically unheard of.
A bad job makes you grateful.
Having that job made me more thankful for my next opportunity at a nonprofit, where I didn’t work nights, weekends, or holidays. I was so happy to be somewhere else that I didn’t even care I was still earning less than my friends.
The feeling of gratitude lasted until I left three years later. It sustained me when I did have to work long nights or the occasional weekend. That perspective has stuck with me through every crappy job experience I’ve had in my career. I can be grateful that it will never be as crappy as that first job.
A crappy job teaches you to create your own happiness.
During my newspaper gig, I started a blog chronicling how I was trying to save money and pay off my student loans. My bosses loved the blog, and it was the one thing I really enjoyed writing. Covering car crashes and house fires was not exactly fulfilling.
Six months of blogging about frugal living for the paper led to me starting my own blog. That has now morphed into a freelance writing career covering personal finance, where I make twice as much money with half the stress. But I had to take charge of what really made me happy in order to find that path.
If you’re in a job you hate, take on new opportunities to see what really gets you fired up. It may take some experimenting, but you’ll come out the other side with a clearer view of what truly makes you happy.
And you may never have to take a crappy job again.