A Little Bit of Everything
Many successful people, when they look backward at their career and reflect on some of their first jobs, mention that they ended up doing something they never expected and ended up doing a lot of dirty work, a bit of everything, and learning pieces of things they didn't expect.
Diane Von Furstenberg, the designer known for her eponymous wrap dress, has explained that she worked in a factory, which isn't where she wanted to be or where she saw herself, but she learned so much about fabrics in her time there that it helped make her successful when she started making those dresses later. She also learned so much just from being there, seeing how business worked in the production side, that it was invaluable down the line.
Anna Wintour, the long-time editress of Vogue and the chairwoman of the Annual Met Costume Gala, has expressed how important her first job doing a bit of everything for a magazine was -- editing, being on the photo shoots, balancing all kinds of deadlines.
Both of these women are incredibly successful powerful business women, and they both point to the importance of those first jobs, where they were doing things that they didn't necessarily see themselves doing for their entire career, balancing a lot of deadlines and expectations, learning on the job, learning sides of the jobs that they didn't know they needed to know. Those experiences, down the line, for both of them were essential in helping them make decisions down the line and essential in understanding not only process but the people involved in those processes. It was invaluable trial by fire.
So what can we learn from that reflection from both of these women?
1. Many of the pieces of things you need to be successful as a manager or leader in your industry, you probably learned years ago. Don't be afraid to tap into that knowledge from long ago.
2. Make sure that you take time in any job to look around, take on responsibility that you don't necessarily know is exactly in-line with where you want to end up, that you get to know what the people around you do and how they work, and that you learn as much as you can. All of that knowledge can be incredibly important down the line, but it really can also help you in the "now," too, by being an engaged worker.
3. If you are looking for a job, don't be afraid to take something that isn't exactly your dream job right now and use the opportunity to learn a lot. I personally can attest to the value of the dirty work inherent in some non-dream jobs and how much you can learn from those opportunities.
4. Know that wherever you are now, you can be at the top of your dream field someday. Keep growing and learning and leading.
What about you? What jobs have you learned the most from that surprised you?