Not Being Where You Think You Should Be In Your Career Can Be A Learning Experience


Leadership Lesson: When feeling as if you’ve wasted too much time before finally landing your desired job, there’s power in reassessment — looking back at all your experiences and realizing they’ve all served a purpose.

I was speaking to someone recently who had finally landed the job they wanted. After years of working other less-satisfying jobs here and there, while applying and interviewing for other, more-desired jobs, they were able to finally get a job they felt would provide them true satisfaction.

They finally felt as if they’d reached the first steps of their own personal success.

They felt like their true career could finally begin.

During that conversation, though, they lamented that they felt they had wasted so much time in their journey. That, unfortunately, it took so long to finally land a career position – and not just a job, like all their previous work.

Although I’m sure we can all possibly relate to how that regret feels, to one extent or another, I asked them if they could consider what they’d gained in the meantime. I asked them if they could take a look back and at least consider what they took away from, and how they developed in each of, those jobs to date.

Whether it’s the good in the job or the bad, there’s always something to take away. Everything goes toward our development and sharpens us, whether it’s a positive or negative experience and whether we see it or not in the moment.

Here are just some of the takeaways those past experiences can provide.

They Expose You To Different People

Everything leading up to your ideal job exposes you to different people. Different personalities, temperaments, skills, and backgrounds. It’s all exposure which helps you refine yourself, if you’re open to it. The more you can be curious about and understand the various types of people you come across, the more you learn how to both work with and provide for them as you go.

They Expose You To Different Environments

The various environments you work in provide you with a variety of experiences, demonstrating to you what’s out there, leading you to improve how you read environments. Much like the exposure to the numerous types of people, the exposure to different environments teaches you what to anticipate and how to interact with what’s around you. You learn to navigate and assess subsequent environments with a more critical eye.

They Show You What You Don’t Want

Moving toward your ideal lifestyle or work is a matter of refining what you have, and that can include experiencing — and hopefully leaving behind — what you realize you don’t want. Very rarely can someone reach their goals without shedding the unneeded factors in their life and work. Working toward a goal encompasses both building and taking on positive traits and resources while shaking off and letting go of the negative or those things which provide no value and can actually weigh us down and hold us back.

They Help You Refine What It Is You Do Want

Piggybacking off of showing you what you don’t want, not being in your ideal situation sharpens your appreciation for your developing goal. As you work forward in an unideal environment, you learn more about what you want. This works simultaneously with the previous bullet. You learn what you want both less of and more of. Your goal is the pinnacle, but you begin shaping what the strong foundation for what it will look like, even if subconsciously, by reinforcing it with the positive and removing the negative. And you also learn to have high expectations of what you’re going to commit yourself to. So, those experiences…

Related: How Do You Refocus, Recharge, And Get Going When You’re Stuck?

…Show You How To Treat Yourself

In this process, you (should) become a bit selfish. You learn and understand what you want and what you deserve. And this is not an unreasonable expectation, because you also need to create value for others in that process. You need to get what you want, so that you can provide what others need.

(And, keep in mind, if you’re in that less-than-desirable situation or experience right now, while you’re in that environment where you aren’t completely happy, seek out other avenues that fulfill you and keep you “full” until you get to that career that you want. In seeking and feeling that fulfillment, no matter where you find it, you actually grow to respect yourself, your abilities, and worth even more.)

Build You Up To Who You Are Today

All those steps yesterday built you up to who you are today. It was all meant for something. There’s a rhyme and reason for everything. It builds your character, integrity, fortitude, and desire. Your experiences provide the foundation for your endeavors forward. The good, the bad – it all becomes worth it.


If you begin with these points above, for starters, you’ll realize that what you experience in the past can prepare you for the future. Such reflection refines for you how to read and utilize everything around you.

So we should always maintain our curiosity and learn about the world around us today, because it provides so much of a foundation for our work, path, and goals tomorrow.

As for my conversation, I asked the person to, as they move forward, try and keep in mind the things they do best and recognize how secure they feel in their abilities. I asked them to then consider in those moments whether or not they could trace that feeling of strength and confidence to something they experienced in all those other jobs, whether in the positive, less-than-positive, or negative experiences.

Related: Yes, Don’t Dwell On The Past. But Do You Get What You Didn’t Get?

Again, we can’t and shouldn’t just look to our past to see where we developed, grew, and succeeded. We need to also look to the past to gain from the moments we felt unhappy, less-than, bored, or possibly defeated.

Those moments can show us what we’re made of, show us what we want and don’t want, and open our eyes to what we’re ready for.

The journey itself is worth the wait.


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