Paying your dues...or not
by Douglas E. Welch
July 30, 1999
© 1999, Douglas E. Welch
Paying your dues. If you havent done it yet, you will. In most
companies this consists of shuffling paper, fetching coffee or
answering the help desk hotline. These entry-level jobs can make
a new college graduate feel a bit depressed. After all the work
of college you suddenly start all over again
at the bottom. While
this may seem unfair, there are good reasons why we all need to
pay our dues. Good reasons for both you and your employer.
As stupid as the tasks may seem, entry-level work helps you establish
your maturity as a professional employee. Too many college graduates
seem to think that their diploma qualifies them for a $100K/year
job and all the perks of upper-management. In truth, it is a rare
person who matches that description. In fact, most new employees
take a little while to shake off the fantasy of college and face
the reality of the work place.
Entry-level jobs allow you to prove your professional maturity
and allow your employer to see that, yes, you can show up on time,
dress appropriately and not take two hour lunches. It sounds basic
but there are some people who have not yet figured this out. Placing
anyone is a position of any power before you know these basics
could lead to major problems.
Moving up and out
After establishing your basic professional maturity, your next
goal should be to move up and out of the entry-level work as quickly
as possible. Show your employer that not only do you do your work
well, you do it quickly
and ask for more. Your job becomes and
relentless cycle of doing more and more, better and better. If
you do this you will quickly start to rise out of the mass of
newly hired employees and establish your own career. To me, this
is a true sign of a good employee.
Those who tend to complain the most about entry-level "scut" work
are usually those doing the least to escape it. This work is not
your destiny, it is a test. Just as in school, passing this test
allows you to move to the next level.
New programs, old headaches
Employers have their own troubles when it comes to entry level
employees. In an effort to reduce the amount of entry-level drudgery
many major corporations are developing new programs that elevate
certain employees to a special level. By allowing these employees
to jump above the entry-level work they are trying to attract
the best and brightest. The employees are given special privileges,
assigned to mentors, and allowed to work in many different areas
of the company so that they can find their niche. While the goals
of these programs are admirable they can lead to larger problems.
Giving some employees special status helps to create an "us versus
them" mentality in the work force. New hires that arent in the
program can feel resentment and be even more unhappy in their
entry-level work than they might be normally. Special status can
also lead to a certain amount of arrogance in the "gifted" employees.
I see a problem when arrogance about lower-level work is instituted
so early in a persons career. It seems that some companies are
breeding extreme arrogance into employees that might eventually
become executives. If these people cant relate to lower-level
employees when they start, how do they hope to relate to employees
when they are in management?
The aim of these programs is good but I would like to see them
applied to all new hires, not just a select few. Give every employee
the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merits. I would
ask companies to not pre-judge their new employees based solely
on test scores or the colleges they attended. If they give everyone
an equal chance they just might be surprised.
Entry-level work doesnt have to be forever. In fact, if you arent
progressing out of an entry-level position you might have to do
some hard self-analysis. Does the problem exist with the company,
the job or with you. There is no shame in realizing that you dont
fit a particular job. The goal is to make this realization clearly
and quickly so that you can move on to a career that is more suited
to you and your desires.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at email@example.com
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