SURVEY SAYS – Some Lessons Learned

April 27, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Last week I asked readers about their worst job.

Those responses were certainly insightful and entertaining (see  SURVEY SAYS – What Was Your Worst Job? ).   I also asked readers to share what they had learned from that experience.

There were some admonitions one might anticipate; the importance of finishing one’s education, a respect for those who are forced to do manual labor, and the wisdom of listening to your gut instinct(s) sooner than most people are willing to do.    

Voice(s) of Experience(s)

Now, there is no easy way to “tabulate” experience, and as it turned out, while some lessons repeated, most reader contributions were refreshingly random.   Here are some of my favorites:

“No matter how good the money is, when you get sickened by the thought of going to work it’s time to move on.”

“Stacking cheese is hard to do AND stacking cheese is not the career for me.”

“Accept a job for the right reasons. Love what you do and who you do it with and for. If you do not and think you can make it work anyway, it won’t. Life is too short and precious to give anyone else permission to ruin it for you.”

“That the way to supervise people was not to tell them what a lousy job they were doing. Also that the Peter Principle (although I didn’t know what it was at the time) was really out there.”

“Telemarketers hate calling you at inconvenient times just as much as you do.”

“Don’t always do what is expected, and make the most out of every situation.”

“Attorneys have their uses but don’t work for one!”

“Shoveling manure in the figurative sense is much better than in the literal sense.”

But this Bonus Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who cautioned, “Don’t work for any one that looks like a cartoon character – they usually are a character.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our special survey!

I learned that bad managers can ruin a good job as effectively as being a bad employee or co-worker.
Don't work for any one that looks like a cartoon charater - they usually are a character.
If you have a bad feeling about the company or the person during your interview, go with that instinct and don't take the job.
A college degree and just some common sense are necessary in this world. Most of the people I worked with were 20-30 years older than me and acted like teenagers. I knew that the 4 years in college was worth the extra pay I would receive and the advantage I would have in getting a professional job.
I used to be more trusting of others, now I watch my back.
Get on the do not call list & don't give money to for profit fundraisers.
Patience and a love for being healthy.
A supervisor can make or break a place, and it's important to find a job where the morale is good.
I learned a very valuable lesson: how to deal with extreme stress. The first way to deal with it is to avoid it entirely. After that, I have a number of techniques which have stood the test of time for me for those moments when the stress is simply part of life & you have to deal with it.
I wish I had a backbone back then.
To never forget who the customer is.
When a job makes you cry, don't put up with it!
That I didn't want to be blue-collar for the rest of my life. In fact, when I gave my notice that I was quitting to go to college my co-workers were stunned that I would "give-up" this career for school. That sort of mentality certainly helped me pack my bags even faster!
stay out of family companies
That college was more fun that working!
No job is worth my personal safety and sanity.
No matter how good the money is, when you get sickened by the thought of going to work it's time to move on.
I learned that it was really important to finish college (I was going to school after work) so I wasn't destined to code gas tickets for the rest of my life. What a huge motivator! I also learned that I didn't want to work where my mother-in-law worked.
stacking cheese is hard to do AND stacking cheese is not the career for me
That I definitely needed a college education!!
I learned about keeping my commitments. I learned to have an appreciation for farm workers. And I learned to make it fun despite the conditions. We made up silly songs while we worked. I also learned to take pride in my work when one day, we beat the previous record and packed over 500 boxes.
If someone talks that level of junk to you, they should be prepared for physical consequences.
If you have a employee who is fighting you- you may not be able to turn the situation around by being straightfoward, honest, nice and by trying to reach and agreement on how to work together. There may be times when you just have to get very tough, document everything, and push the situation to a resolution- even if that creates significant risk for you.
To stay calm under fire. I learned to be very self sufficient and never ask for help from the manager. I learned being right was the best revenge, because even though she didn't like me, she had no cause to fire me.
Accept a job for the right reasons. Love what you do and who you do it with and for. If you do not and think you can make it work anyway, it won't. Life is too short and precious to give anyone else permission to ruin it for you.
I don't think I will ever allow another person to treat me with such disrespect and distain. I have often wondered what the other learned. If she continues to treat people in that manner, she will be a very lonely person.
that I no longer wanted to be a nurse
Things can always get worse. (At the time, I worked in a pollution control "bag house" filled with red, iron oxide particles that dried everything up - and knew nothing could be worse physically. Then I started law school.) Always wear good shoes.
To always trust my instincts -- when a work environment doesn't feel right, it ISN'T right. Move on.
I learned that everything happens for a reason. My boss insisted on using shorthand, a skill that I had not used for years so had to brush up on it. The fact that I renewed my skills and got to practice it for the six months that I was there, helped me to pass a shorthand test and land my new job. By the way, I was never required to use shorthand at my new position - I just needed to pass the test.
That the way to supervise people was not to tell them what a lousy job they were doing. Also that the Peter Principle (although I didn't know what it was at the time) was really out there.
Two things: 1) Many external investors don't realize that employees are also company stock owners and suffer from their company's bankruptcy just like all its other investors. 2) Sometimes you just can't take things personally.
I learned to stay in school and not make a lifestyle of the party scene. My elders did not have a college degree, and seemed to relish their after-hours "experiences".
That any job done well is worth doing.
Doing a mindless job gives you plenty of time to think. I suppose I learned to tolerate boredom and expand my imagination.
Get your pay check on pay day. Since I had another job during this time I was going to collect all my checks at once but when I started hearing rumors that there were no checks I quit. I would have quit a few weeks earlier.
That one should respect others who work, no matter what they do, be it CEO's, ditch diggers or trash collectors.
You can get through anything!
get a college degree
I learned that I would never work in that industry again! I realized how important it is to have a career that doesn't ruin your home life and destroy your sense of self-worth. I also learned how much I appreciate my Benefits/HR experience and it lead me to persue my current position as a Benefits Analyst.
Attorneys have their uses but don't work for one!
When you discover that the boss has a mean streak, get the heck out of Dodge! Don't wait around for things to get better because they won't.
Be kind to others, especially those shorter than myself. It is a tall man's world out there, not a short person world.
It would have been better to have cut my losses and look for another job. Life is too short to be stuck in such a miserable situation. I'll not make that mistake again.
I wish MP3 players were around back then.
The truth behind the saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."
A lot, oddly enough. I became more confident while learning to manage multiple projects, make revisions quickly (since he never reviewed something until he was ready to leave for an appointment), complete college applications with a spouse watching my every keystoke, babysit, clean up after a dog, research community service for someone else, etc. And I did learn to endure tough times and tough treatment without crying at night...eventually.
No matter how bad a Monday morning feels, at the very least I don't have to work Friday night THEN Saturday morning.
An early appreciation for front line working people. Although not as educated as so-called white collar workers, who tend to denigrate them, most were honest and willing to handle their own affairs given the time and information.
Shoveling manure in the figurative sense is much better than in the literal sense.
Vet your future employer and the position as much as possible before accepting a job.
Not to be a newly wed and work 2nd and 3rd shift, and your wife works first shift
Learn how to do a more skilled job! And work for yourself, so you set the working conditions, hours and safety standards. And never eat canned green beans!
That every job has it's ups and downs! I also learn that $35 a week didn't go as far as I thought it should!
Telemarketers hate calling you at inconvenient times just as much as you do
My mantra since then, and it has served me for the last 30 years in all types of situations, is "Choose to be aware of your surroundings."
Be very careful about those agreements to stay for any length of time or pay a fee.
Not to be afraid to go over my boss' head in extreme circumstances and also to start looking for a job earlier when red flags go off.
It made me even more determined to get my college degree.
Just watching him in action made me a good manger. When faced with a tough decision, I could simply ask myself "What would Jim do?"
The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. And "be careful what you wish for."
How much of my soul I was willing to sell, and how much stress you can carry without even knowing it.
Get an education!
Don't always do what is expected, and make the most out of every situation.
Never to do any kind of manual labor again! Seriously, I had a real appreciation for how hard some people have to work.
Accomplishments may only be rewarded in your heart after a job well done. Don't ever expect acknowledgement, you'll just be setting yourself up for disappointment.

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