How Your Worst Job Can Become Your Most Pivotal Moment

Posted by in Career Success | 10 comments

This is a guest post by Alex Barker, author of The Leadership Dojo, where you and he learn to lead and master life. He has an upcoming podcast to be launched late fall of 2013 which will contain interviews from national to small-time leaders discussing their secret sensei wisdom.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison


We find opportunity when others don’t see it, or are too busy complaining about everything else.

I went to college to become a pharmacist.

Not the most glamorous job, but it definitely pays well, and provides “security”.

Souvenir Foto School: Day 22 - L for Lemons to Lemonade Creature Comforts via Compfight

I didn’t choose pharmacy because I love pills, or because I love consulting on medication therapy, or because I wanted the money.

I pursued it because I couldn’t get out of the program.

Yep, I tried quitting “Pre-Pharmacy” undergrad nearly 8 times.

But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t switch programs.

Something always stopped me.

So, I was accepted into a pharmacy program.

For the next 4 years, I passionlessly went through the motions.

Studied, regurgitated answers, repeat.

The fourth year came quickly. And I didn’t know what I was doing.

I knew that I was good at teaching, so I pursued residency.

A residency for pharmacists (not medical students) is a concentrated year of training.

It’s a relatively randomized process and I was placed at a college.

Once I started, I quickly found poor leadership and lack of organization.

This institution, I later discovered, has a less than desirable reputation.

My heart sank after a discussion with my wife as to how this residency could affect the rest of my career.

During this time, I discovered the power of podcasts.

I recently wrote a post about the podcasts I listened to that changed my life.

These podcasts helped turn around my perspective and changed my “awful” job into great opportunities.

What follows are the lessons I learned from my Automobile University.

Search For Opportunities

You may not realize the bountiful chances that await you if you’re stuck in a rut.

Every business is looking to improve something.

Cost efficiency, timing, morale.

Areas of improvement are the areas where you can add value.

Listen to your manager’s problems.

What is she/he worried about?

How can you help with that?

Can you start a creative solution?

Here is a creative solution I did to boost student morale.

Make Great Connections Quickly

You could have an idea that will save your company $10,000 in a year.

But if you don’t have any relationships with coworkers, you will have no support.

Be friendly and genuinely interested in everyone at your company.

If you have no idea how to make friends (which I’m sure you do) I refer to Dale Carnegie’s way to make friends and influence people:

1. Become genuinely interested in others

2. Smile

3. Remember a person’s name is the most important sound to that person

4. Be a good listener

5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest

6. Make the other person feel important

Volunteer for Everything

This was my pivotal moment.

By volunteering for the unwanted jobs, I was able to become a co-manager of a wellness program for an entire county (+900 people).

A golden egg dropped in my lap.

This opportunity became my shining moment.

When I interviewed for in December for other positions, this accomplishment came up every time.

Give More Than Expected

Jeff Goins recently inspired me to write down my worldview.

“Give more than expected”

When you begrudgingly perform your next duty, you’re likely giving less than 50% effort.

That means it’ll take you twice as long to achieve the same result.

From a manager’s point of view, who wants to hire that guy?

Give more than expected to impress not only your current boss, but your future boss for your next job.

Guide Someone Else

If it weren’t for podcasts, I may have wasted a whole year.

The hosts I listened to delivered amazing content that changed my life.

They guided me in my darkest hour.

They taught me the power of “pay it forward”.

Be gracious to others who hate their job.

They may not want to listen to your positive attitude, life-changing suggestions, and all around go-getter-ness.

Offer to help them along the way.

Get to know them, find out what their passions are.

Who knows, you may inspire the next Thomas Edison.


Question: How can you change your “awful” job into an amazing opportunity? What are some ways you can give more than expected in your work day?

  • I have recently encountered many people that have made their worst job their “pivotal moment”. It’s interesting to see that the difference between them and the people who haven’t had that pivotal moment after their worst job is that they chose to do something about it. They chose to take advantage of the opportunities.

    Funny how sometimes the door to making a change requires that you see there’s a door at the other end of the room. This is course simple, but required for you to be able to walk through it…

    Thanks for writing Alex!

    • Great perspective, Scott & Alex. When you going gets tough, keep going! Those who continue on the road will be able to change. Those who are overcome by the frustration and quit have done just that.

      Thanks for posting, Alex!

      • Thanks Nick! Keep going towards your goal of career coaching full time! 😀

    • Great point Scott. People won’t change unless it’s internal. The average man can become the best at what he does if he takes the first step towards greatness. I’m reminded of the book Fred Factor. If you haven’t read it, Fred is a simple postal worker who did his job with excellence.

  • All of these are great points. I subscribe to the “Guide someone else” approach to leadership (mentorship). When we help others succeed, without regard to who gets the credit, doors are opened that may never have even been unlocked.

    • Yes Charles! I completely agree and experienced that this year. Have you experienced a door opening that changed your career?

      • My career has been about relationships. I find that great career relationships foster opportunity. We have been lead to believe that we are working for a “company” when the truth is we are working for people.

        • That’s a great way to reframe the idea of “workin’ for the man” Charles.

        • Amen Charles. No such college course exists on “how to build relationships”. It’s probably THE most important thing for any career