Prior to entering the Navy and long before venturing into entrepreneurship, the first job I ever had was working in roofing factory. Actually, it was scraping up asphalt attached to the factory floor, loading roofing membranes (that’s roofing speak for the dark rolls of disgusting black material that gets laid down over the roof while inconveniently sticking to every far flung corner of the human body). The days were long, the workers were, well, let’s just say they weren’t “elite,” and there was only one temperature in the factory: hot.
The point is, what you did yesterday and what you do today shape who you will be tomorrow. The lessons I gleaned from sludging along that factory floor while my friends served ice cream (not really) certainly propelled me into the next stage of my life -- college -- because the alternative to not going to college was to continue slinging asphalt.
While odd jobs can seem worthless at the time, there are always lessons to reflect upon; judgments to remember (or forget completely) and decisions to never repeat. Here are four lessons from some of the most outlandish odd jobs out there:
1. Crush it with consistency.
Deep Patel, author of The Paperboy, shares 11 principles of entrepreneurial success in this fable. The story highlights a protagonist who is --yup, you guessed it, a paperboy -- and how the lessons garnered from even the simplest job easily scale to large businesses.
One morning, the paperboy realizes he’s short six papers for his delivery. He can either wait for more papers to be delivered or buy papers from the closest vendor to keep his customers happy. The lesson here is that being consistent with your schedule builds greater flexibility later in the day. If, for instance, the paperboy was to procrastinate the paper delivery until later then he would’ve had less freedom to focus on other projects because he'd be playing catch up. Consistency pays off.
2. Some people see garbage where others see gold.
If you consider the job of a birthday clown or a singing telegram messenger, chances are you don’t feel compelled to leave your day job to pursue a career tying balloons. Don’t get me wrong, morphing a balloon into a squirrel or tiger while wearing a big red nose is handy as you certainly learn to manage stress (just think of a birthday party with 20 kindergarteners), but it’s just not something I want to do, And therein lies the lesson.
What I consider worthwhile is completely different from what others deem worthy. The next time you’re in a meeting and tensions are rising, step back and ask yourself how each person defines "success." The greatest source of contention is oftentimes a failure to take the time to understand each other’s point of view.
3. Depart on a positive note.
The first and last thing people remember after meeting with you is how you make them feel. Sales people are notorious for this, as their entire livelihood rests upon the intangible quality of their relationships with customers. Even if you hate -- and I mean detest -- your current employer, keep in mind that it’s a small world and you never know when the past will resurface to bite you in the behind.
4. Do it right or do it again.
There are two ways to do things: the right way, and again.
Working as a zamboni driver (those big machines on ice rinks) is a thankless job. Hockey players expect the entire rink to be clean, smooth and fast. However, it takes time to get the ice this way. That means the zamboni driver must be acutely aware of the smallest imperfections everywhere throughout the “competitive environment” known as the rink so he (or she) can smooth them over and make the rink “ready.” If the zamboni driver were to haphazardly circle around the ice rink so as not to produce an entirely clean, smooth surface, then there would be intermittent rough patches that would destabilize the “competitive environment.”
The takeaway here is this: take your time to not only do things right but also do the right things. No matter what “odd” job you've held, chances are you learned something. The opportunity to learn is always there, you just have to find it.