Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
– Thomas Edison
A part of me wanted to blame myself. Another part wanted to blame employers for not recognizing talent. And yet another part wanted to blame God.
I was working a job I didn’t care for after years of studying and preparing for an occupation in my field. Sound familiar at all?
By my final semester of college, I’d heard the gamut of wisdom and statistics shared by leadership figures and polls alike: “Most employers don’t even care about college degrees.” “Only about 27% of graduates work a job in their field.”
I blew it off at the time, believing that I would be the successful exception to those naysayers. I graduated with a B.A. in English Language and Literature/Letters with good grades and a thorough enjoyment for the education I received. Not only did my courses give me a better understanding of the field, but more importantly, they opened my mind to higher education. I gained respect and garnered interest for many different subjects across a bunch of different studies.
I always loved writing and believed that one day I could make a living off of it. After graduating, I was excited to get out there and demonstrate my skills to the world.
You can imagine my disappointment when I failed to do that.
I applied to several local newspapers, journals, and digital media outlets, citing my prior experience writing feature articles in my alma mater’s publications as a hard sell. I never heard back from most applications. Some rejected me. My own college even turned me down for a course editing position. Everywhere I looked, I ran into brick walls. My degree wasn’t earning me the career I felt entitled to claim.
But life doesn’t slow down when you can’t find work. So what did I do?
I did what many people have to do. I found work wherever I could, simply to survive. I got married after graduation. I needed to provide.
Through my last two college semesters, I worked part-time as a sales associate for a battery and light bulb store. I kept telling myself it was just a temporary position to get me through college and financially stable. It had nothing to do with what I studied in college. I wasn’t passionate about household appliances or electrical engineering.
But when career plans fell through, I started selling batteries and repairing smart phones full time. I did that for a little over a year.
Eventually, I looked elsewhere and found work at an ophthalmic clinic as a technician. Like my last job, I held little interest in healthcare and even less in eye care. But appearing like a more promising career path to me, I took the dive into a field I knew nothing about.
If, only a year prior, someone told me I’d be managing ophthalmic equipment and scribing for ophthalmologists, I’d call them crazy. But that’s exactly what I did.
Fast-forward a little over two years, to the present. I’m currently a freelance writer in the healthcare and medical devices field. Full time. How did I get here?
Through my rocky career path, I learned something: rather than complaining about my circumstances and blindly waiting for change, I decided to change my perspective a bit. Eventually, I discovered that every job is an opportunity for growth if I’d only recognize it.
Here are 5 reasons why every job you have is an opportunity, no matter how uninspired you are about it.
1. Every Job is an Opportunity to Learn
This was a huge one for me. Twice I was thrown into a field that held little English or writing significance. How would I be of any use? I couldn’t tell a battery blueprint from an OCT scan.
The answer: with an open mind and dedication, you can become good at just about anything. Degree or no degree, experience or no experience. And that knowledge can be a powerful asset applied to nearly every corner of your professional and personal life. Its value translates to more than just dollars.
For example, I knew absolutely nothing about ophthalmology, optometry, or eye care when I began at the clinic. But I was eager to learn—not just for the sake of the job, but for the sake of learning. So I spent two years navigating through the nuances of eye health.
Ultimately, it was only because of my exposure to the healthcare realm that I am now able to offer freelance writing services in the profitable healthcare industry. An industry I understand thanks to that job.
It’s vital to remain humble wherever you end up, and never stop learning new things. One of the challenges of achieving your career dreams is to remain highly adaptable to your situation, ever willing to master something new. As the saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Every job involves a skillset with universal application to some extent. Recognize your abilities and how they can transfer to other job options.
2. Every Job is an Opportunity to Improve
Let’s face it: we all have weaknesses. Whether it’s a mindset issue, a bad habit, lacking a certain skill, or even a physical limitation, every one of us has an Achilles’ heel in our work lives. Many jobs—especially jobs outside of your passion—force you to patch these chips in your armor, strengthening your skill set and value as a professional.
I was never an outgoing kid. I avoided confrontation like the plague and preferred not to speak with strangers. I was comfortable keeping my head down, doing what I was told, and not asking any questions. I never pressed a matter and hardly ever offered creative suggestions.
Do you think that handled well when I was a sales associate? Absolutely not! Part of my paycheck depended on customer service and sales.
Instead, I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone and sharpen my weaknesses. I became familiar with customers. I accepted responsibilities. I stood up for store policy and confronted all the strange happenings that can only be found in customer service. As a result, I became bold and confident—skills that are highly attractive in the business realm.
Improving your weaknesses can provide you with more opportunities throughout your life, and each job you take acts as an arena to test your abilities. Fight to become better every day!
3. Every Job is an Opportunity to Excel
Through the various jobs I held over the years, I noticed something somewhat surprising, particularly in lower-wage jobs (but nevertheless prevalent across many occupations): the bar for work excellence is much too low.
Workers are late to their shifts, achieve the bare minimum in their work performance, call out on a consistent basis, and complain behind their superiors’ backs. They look forward to going home as soon as they begin working. This negative attitude can be understandable in context, but should never be permissible.
While the widespread adoption of the “live for the weekend” mindset is unfortunate—and can seem tempting when you aren’t passionate about your job—it does provide one enormous benefit for the career enthusiast who takes pride in their work: it offers a huge platform to demonstrate work ethic and excellence. When competition for enthusiastic performance is low, gaining recognition for quality work is easier than ever.
What are some extra duties you could do to impress your boss? Chances are, even the smallest demonstration of going the extra mile could do wonders for promotion and future opportunities within and without the company. Accountability is also a major asset to employers.
Standing out from the crowd and moving forward is what sets apart successful careers from stagnating jobs. Don’t just talk up a big game within the circles of your work—show your commitment to excellence, and do every task with an optimistic attitude.
And the extra benefit of pursuing excellence in the workplace? That attitude will likely cross over into your personal life and radically shape how you handle any complication which flies in your face.
4. Every Job is an Opportunity to Meet New People
In my own freelancing pursuits, I’ve come to realize the importance of networking and developing professional relationships with those around you. Especially in the field I wish to work in.
Even though the bulk of my previous jobs were not the ideal way I wanted to spend my time, getting to know the various coworkers I encountered proved incredibly useful for climbing the ladder to my dream job. Referrals are out there; sometimes they pop up from the most unlikely of people.
And when that coworker one day becomes a CEO in search of new, dependable talent? If you made a positive, memorable impression, that could be your ticket to moving up—a ticket you wouldn’t have in the first place if you hadn’t given that boring job your 110%.
I’m continually surprised by the connections I have to big name figures and marketers simply through the people I’ve met. Platforms like LinkedIn are fantastic for networking in this way.
And aside from professional networking opportunities, representing your best self to those around you can foster long-term relationships which last a lifetime. Get to really know your coworkers and appreciate their stories. More often than not, they have dreams they’re pursuing just like you. Encourage each other to take action to achieve those dreams.
5. Every Job is an Opportunity to be Grateful
Each of the previous four points relies on this final mindset: be grateful for every position you find yourself working.
No matter how bleak, dull, or uninteresting the job may be to you, it acts as an influential experience in your life just like any other impactful life event. You should treat it with humility and respect. If you can’t find value in your work and you truly live for the weekend, you’ll find an enormous chunk of your life has been wasted.
But you can always choose to be grateful. And once you are grateful for that nine-to-five job, you’ll be acutely aware of all the opportunities it grants you in your pursuit of that dream career.
Think of it this way: some people don’t have jobs. Other people can’t afford their living expenses with their low income. You could always be doing more work for less money instead. I know. I’ve been there.
Count your blessings no matter where you end up. Because at the end of the day, your work life is an important part of your personal life. Your future career success is molded by the lessons you learn along the way. I sincerely doubt many people turn out successful right off the bat—something I wish I could tell myself a couple of years ago.
And those are five reasons every job is an opportunity. I’m sure there are plenty more. It was only because of the growth I experienced in my past jobs and the expertise I learned from them that I finally springboarded into a sustainable career in writing. I leveraged my journey into my dream, and I still climb the ladder in pursuit of that dream.
In the end, I suppose it’s a matter of perspective—a claim I’m sure many readers have heard countless times. You can choose to focus on the worst aspects of your job, cast the blame on forces outside of your control, and let life happen to you without a plan to move forward. Conversely, you can assess the opportunities right in front of you and tap into their potential. Gain control of your career path. Take steps to get moving.
And always, always view a sunrise as a gift.
What opportunities do you see in your current occupation?