Generally students are eager to get to work and hit the workforce. That’s a good thing because, from an employer’s point of view, there is probably nothing worse than a reluctant employee. But this eagerness to work may actually play against you in the long run.

Let me explain…

You want to become a sound professional and quit your job at the grocery store∗ but you’ve got bills to pay, so you accept anything, or almost anything, you want to have something to include on your résumé. You’re probably focusing and cringing at the low wages you have to accept.

What you may not realize is that the task you are asked to accomplish may be more determining for your career than you think and how much you are paid should not be your only concern. So you don’t plan on rolling cables all your life, but at least it’s a job in the industry and not at a call-center anymore∗. You could be pickier, but this job guarantees you some work hours.

You’re straight out of school, happy to have a job in the industry, things are going good, and what you don’t realize is, the routine has set in. The problem arises when your boss associates you with that particular task you are doing and it may be difficult to convince your employer to let you perform other, more specialized tasks afterwards. That means finding someone else to do what you were already doing well. Your boss becomes reluctant to change a stable team.

Bosses don’t want problems to solve, it gives them more work to do. If the team in place is stable, why change it? This becomes especially true if you don’t show your intention on trying out different tasks. You’re kind of grateful to not be working selling shoes anymore∗ and like a boss of mine told me once “I get CVs like yours every week”, so you know you are replaceable.

A colleague of mine (who also studied at Musitechnic) told me “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”. If you don’t complain (maybe replace complain by say what you want, express your desire to move forward in your career), your boss will think you are happy and everything is fine. So it is up to you to find the middle ground between a modest or whiny employee. The company culture will help you determine how far you can go. See what more experienced colleagues are doing and set yourself within those bounds.

Remember that your complaining to your boss can only be taken seriously if you deliver the goods in the first place. If you’re doing things wrong and still learning, stay modest. Once you get a grasp of what could be improved, or what you can do better than someone else, only then can you start lobbying for your cause!

Luck plays a big role in your career because it depends on the openings that are available when you look for a job. Sometimes, with the same employer, I’ve had better opportunities than colleagues hired a year before me. Other times I’ve had less opportunities than those hired a year after me. But attitude goes a long way. I’ve also had good opportunities because my colleague was tired and starting to have attitude problems. A boss always welcomes a new willing, smiling employee.

∗ I have nothing against grocery stores, call centers or selling shoes by the way.

Questions? comments?

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