Dress for the job you want, not the job you have can be laughably out of step with reality for those who wear a uniform to work. Another old adage that seems eyeroll-worthy is work hard and have a good attitude at whatever job you can get.
If you must work a terrible job that you feel is beneath you, isn’t a heavy chip on your shoulder proof you’re not a failure? Doesn’t commiserating about the misery of your shared hell with co-workers prove it’s only temporary?
We are living in a brave new world when it comes to job availability and opportunities, not only much different than what our parents faced, but even compared to the experience of older siblings.
The work hours aren’t always traditional, the benefits don’t always exist. Tantalizing dreams of a side-hustle taking off, and the promise of virtual workspaces giving us the independence to travel the world are the reward for being unable to afford a mortgage like previous generations.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to teach a woman the first formal English classes she had ever taken. She came to Canada for freedom as a Vietnamese boat refugee, and my classes were her first time to learn after decades of factory work. I was proud to teach her basic grammar skills, and see her writing, reading, and speaking improve so dramatically in a few months, and the pride she took in her hard work.
However, I wasn’t really suited for teaching. I needed a change, and wanted to try something new. I didn’t put any attachments or expectations on outcomes. I told myself that I would immediately move on when the time came.
The job I took was some called brand ambassador or hawker, I prefer newsie. I took a job handing out newspapers in front of the subway. I had had articles published in a paper before, and tried not to think of it as a downward step. One of the first surprises about the job is, that it actually paid the same as my other job teaching English as a Second Language.
I got up before the sun rose, put on my green apron, and did my best. A younger me would have hid behind sunglasses or scowled. I said good morning to every person who passed by, and was determined to hand out my quota of bundles.
On my first morning, I wondered what my co-workers would be like. I worked with a group, I stood in the middle of three fellow newsies. They were approachable and funny. Some were actors who appreciated the flexible schedule. Everyone had multiple creative projects, bands, and auditions.
There were people who walked by or got off the bus that I looked forward to chatting with every morning whether they took a paper or not. I learned I had a nice smile.
I was outside in winter in temperatures so frigid my hair froze, but I also got to marvel at some of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen.
When the job eventually ended, I don’t think the job of handing out a newspaper even exists anymore, I knew more about my preferences. I could be an early riser, and I liked being a teamplayer.
We can embrace the future or fight it. A lifelong career at the same workplace may no longer be possible, but it isn’t necessarily a punishment. It is practical to be open-minded. Instead of justifying all the reasons why something isn’t the right fit for you, or how a job doesn’t match your career plan, just gather experience without judgement, and be open to what can happen.