If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then that first step better be in the right direction.
This same principle should apply to our careers too, but we are often given the advice that for a first job, one cannot be so fussy. We are told that after getting some job experience, you will be in a better position to get a job that you really want.
Unfortunately, this cannot be further from the truth. There is such a thing as a bad first job. One that hampers your chances of advancing in your career and slows down your self-development.
Of course, we’re not saying that we should have unrealistic expectations or bum around waiting for the “perfect” job to fall into our laps. We would just like to offer some examples that illustrate why a (bad) job might make you worse off than having no job at all.
Less Time To Find The Job You Really Want
When you’re already working, whether its part-time or full-time, the time you have available to hunt for a job is drastically reduced. You are only left with a few hours after work or on the weekends. Any serious job hunter knows that it is a colossal task to scour job portals and the careers pages of prospective companies, examine the job description and requirements, prepare a tailored resume and cover letter, and in some cases, having to submit essays and complete detailed questionnaires as part of the hiring process.
If the job that you currently hold requires you to work overtime or attend to work matters outside of office hours, then your ability to devote additional mental bandwidth to serious job hunting will be greatly diminished. This problem is aggravated if you work shifts and will be resting during times when prospective employers need to contact you.
When you hold a job, you will need to take time off to attend interviews. Depending on how upfront you are with your employer, this might be awkward. Taking leave every week or so will undoubtedly be frowned upon. In certain jobs, you need to apply for leave in advance, which is not exactly possible if you are suddenly called up for an interview. The company you work for could reasonably refuse to grant you time off work if there are manpower constrains. All these factors reduce your ability to seek out your ideal employment opportunity.
Inertia To Leave
If you are already have a stable (but perhaps less than ideal) job, there will be inertia to leave, unless the job you are currently is a total torture.
In addition to the herculean effort needed to sustain a job hunt while already in a job, there is less incentive to leave a place that is comfortable and familiar for the unknown. Perhaps there could be the effects of Stockholm Syndrome, where you feel indebted or even affection for your current company and abandon your initial thoughts of finding another job.
A Bad Job As A Bad Influence
When you are a fresh graduate, you are rightfully full of idealism and dreams. You think of applying everything you learned in school and cannot wait to learn on the job.
However, in a bad job with negative role models and toxic company culture, you could be negatively impacted. When your initiative is met with mockery or your desire to follow protocol is overruled, this could have a strong influence on how you work and your perspective on things. It could even be a source of disillusionment.
Still think that any work experience is better than none?
Also, in a job that does not give you the opportunity to give full play to your abilities, it is hard to give your best and learn a lot. This could slowly contribute to you giving up trying to so hard and just go with the flow – something that young fresh graduates should not do.
If you worked in a company or department that is notorious for a bad work culture, future employers may wonder if you will be bringing the bad habits or culture into their company. We can dub this as a “CV Effect”. Potential hiring managers may also wonder if you being willing to take on these bad jobs indicated that you are not very capable or talented.
Damage To Health And Well-Being
In its rawest form, a job is a relationship in which an employee receives economic benefits (the bulk of which is in the form of money) from a company in return for their labour to produce economically valuable outputs.
At times, this labour may come at the expense of an employee’s health. Long hours, irregular hours, frenetic job pace or strained workplace relationships can take a toll on one’s physical and mental well-being. This is especially so if the employee is a fresh graduate and hasn’t learned to adapt and manage the demands of the workplace.
In such situations, even though one was working for a short period, it might take a long time to truly recover from the damage done.
These perspectives that challenge the assumption that any job is better than no job should be taken as food for thought for fresh graduates and job seekers as they consider whether to take up a temporary job or not. Ultimately, whether a job is good or not also depends on the employee.
With the right effort and attitude, even “negatives” can be transformed into positives. A lack of resources at the company could be the perfect opportunity to come up with creative solutions to problems. A demanding boss can mean having high benchmarks to aspire towards. Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and walk the path you choose with confidence and conviction!
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