5 Ways to Survive an Entry Level Job

Just because you're on the lower end of the corporate ladder doesn't mean you can't keep looking up.

So here you are. You’ve just walked across the stage, shook the hand of your university’s president, and finally finished the best four years of your life. I bet for most of you, your dream job was waiting. Your perfect employer called a few weeks before you graduated and offered you the opportunity of a lifetime. You’re going to be making a modest $40-50k and you’re pretty much set for the next 30-40 years of your life.

If this is you, congratulations. Let me bake you a cake. For others, we knew that the economy in 2012 wasn’t going to be offering this on a silver platter. We knew that just to hold the title of “employed,” we were going to have to work very hard and be extraordinarily better than our peers.

I recently moved to a new city to pursue a career in an industry that’s pretty tough to break into. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working as a temporary employee with a staffing agency at a variety of different companies. The common nickname for folks like me is “temp.” Temping is a great experience because it provides a paycheck. As we all know, a paycheck is that magical piece of paper that keeps you out of your parent’s basement. Temping is an interesting experience because you get to work with people in all facets of life. It can also be very demanding, arduous, mundane, and to put it simply, boring. Sometimes the tasks that companies hire temps for are not, in any shape or form, glamorous. But the experience can be something that teaches you how to move forward as a more experienced professional, a more cultured person, and even a more faithful follower of Jesus. To achieve this, I’ve come up with 5 Ways to Survive Entry Level Jobs.

1. Understand That Entry Level is Temporary

It does not mean that you’re a failure. It means that you are in transition. You’re doing what you have to do to make ends meet, and for supporters of the American Dream, these actions are admirable. You’re not going to be stuffing envelopes forever. You’re not going to be filing contracts forever. And that 20-line switchboard that you’re in charge of …don’t worry, your days together are numbered. In the grand scope of God’s calling for you, find peace in the fact that you are being prepared for something bigger. This isn’t the climax or maybe not even the rising action of your life. You may not be making a bold impact on God’s kingdom yet, but maybe this brief period of time is needed in your life to achieve something greater in the future. Embrace the fact that there are no facts, and be thankful that there are still opportunities out there to make a few bucks.

find peace in the fact that you are being prepared for something bigger.

2. Enjoy This Bite of Humble Pie

You are not all that. Surprise. Let these humble beginnings of your career motivate you to move forward. If you haven’t ever heard, there are several celebrities and leaders in government/politics/business who started out working at McDonald’s. Seriously, the golden arches have been a breeding ground of successful contributors to society. You may have been a big fish in a small pond growing up, but you’re not anymore. That’s okay. Find comfort in the fact that God’s plans are bigger than our own. Let your time as a temp remind you that you have your whole life and career ahead of you, and this is only the beginning.

3. Get to Know the Characters In Your Office

I can’t help but think of Ryan “The Temp” from NBC’s The Office. Ryan is recent college grad thrust into the office of a paper supply company and forced to work alongside some of the most eccentric characters in television. In my few weeks as a temp, I’ve met some really interesting folks. Take this opportunity to get to know these people. Sure, if you had the choice, you may have never hung out with these people in your spare time. But maybe God has placed them in close proximity to you because you have something to learn from them. So far, I’ve met an African American woman who is married with kids but served overseas with the Army when she was younger. I also met a young guy from Nigeria who has moved to America to pursue his own dream. Get to know these people and listen to their stories.

4. Look For Opportunities for Long Term Value

Even if your tasks are mundane, at least try to let these experiences teach you patience and the value of hard work.

Yes, what you're doing is temporary. But is there a way you can take what you’re doing and apply that knowledge to a career? Even if your tasks are mundane, at least try to let these experiences teach you patience and the value of hard work. If you’re fortunate enough to be temping in an industry that you want to work in, try to meet every person in your department or in your office. Ask people to lunch or coffee. Use this opportunity to network and expand your web of connections.

5. Allow This To Push You Towards Your Dreams

Finally, let your job experience motivate you to pursue your dreams. Most likely, you have a dream and a vision for what you want to do. It’s that special vision of yourself you think about right before you go to bed. Use this period of life to mold you as a professional, shape your character, and propel you forward to that place where you want to be.

As one of the 50+% of recent graduates who are either unemployed or underemployed, I empathize with you that times are tough. It’s the world we live in. But I’ll also say that times have been tougher. At any moment in time, you can rest assured that someone else out there has gone through a little more than you have. And when that vision is hard to embrace, remember God, who does have a perfect vision for your life.

8 Comments

85,160

Anonymous commented…

That was a refreshing punch to the face. Thank you for posting this. It's good to have some encouragement. :)

85,160

Anonymous commented…

$40-50K to start out of college?! Where are those jobs? My first job in 2000 was $16,600 a year! My next two were in the range of $25K a year.

85,160

Anonymous commented…

This is a great piece, and is a definite reflection of my current career state. When I graduated in 2011, I had somehow convinced myself that I was different or special enough to land my dream job out of the gates. Almost eight months of fruitless job searching later, I finally was offered a decent entry-level administrative position at a school in DC. My daily tasks are menial, and not exactly what I thought I'd be doing with my life post-undergrad, but after months of nothing I feel grateful to have a paycheck and a roof over my head. Current and future grads should definitely expect a similar story.

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