What I Learned from My Worst Job Ever

According to a survey done by Monster.Com and market research company GFK, 46% of Americans either dislike or hate their job. It’s a sad state of affairs when the odds are good that many of you are not happy at your job.

While I hope that you soon find something better suited to your happiness, I want you to consider that you will learn something from even the most challenging situation. Consider this story:

My worst job ever

Seven years ago, I was sitting in a chair in a crowded office. Across the desk in front of me was a huge, mafia-type man with brass rings on every other knuckle. He was banging on his desk and yelling profanities, shaking his fist as he leaned in my direction, enraged at me. Two other, very large men stood arms-crossed behind him, Sopranos-style, as if we were all going to brawl.

I was an Account Executive selling advertising for AutoTrader Magazines. My accounts were huge franchise auto dealerships, like Ford and Honda, and I was paid handsomely for every ad they ran.

That day, his ads were messed up (at the fault of mismanagement in the copywriting department) and I was taking some serious heat! He kicked me off the account and told me I was never allowed back on his property, along with several other grossly inappropriate statements.

I’ve been in some pretty sticky situations, but I never thought I could pee my pants as an adult. That day, at a Toyota dealership in San Diego, I almost did.

I quit my job a month later.

So what did I learn from the worst job I ever had?

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Lesson 1: Humility

Humility was never a strong suite of mine growing up, but this job taught me that we are all equal. As I stood on the pavement at dealer lots taking photos of used cars, I cultivated relationships with lot attendants who I would never have known otherwise.

These men were some of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve met and they worked hard. I learned that I’m not above anyone or any type of work .

Lesson 2: What I didn’t want to do

I learned that I did not want to be strictly a sales woman. I wanted to do more than push my company’s agenda around.

I also learned that I hated driving all of the time and that I wasn’t good at selling – I was good at relationships.

Lesson 3: I’m a people person – not a salesperson

Being good with people meant that I could still do sales, but in a different way and for the right company or product. This helped to guide my job search strategy when I moved to Portland in 2009.

Back then I was working with Campus Point as a recruiter and they scored me an interview for a sales job at a software company. During the interview, the owner asked me if I was “hungry for the sale?”

I knew immediately it wasn’t the job for me. I told him that I was a relationship person, not a sales person, and that if he wanted a shark then I wasn’t the gal for this job.

Lesson 4: I deserve respect

Knowing your bottom line is important. I know that I will NEVER let someone talk to me the way that Toyota dealer did again. I will walk out of a job immediately if it is a toxic environment. I deserve respect and I deserve to feel safe in my job.

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Lesson 5: A new skill

Ultimately my job at AutoTrader Magazines taught me many new skills about marketing, advertising and sales. I learned a ton through the comprehensive training I received and I use it every day in my current line of work.

Lesson 6: Mentors are awesome

When I left the company in 2007, I was close with my supervisor and we kept in touch. In 2012, he agreed to mentor me while I re-launched Mac’s List.

We’ve since then stopped our calls, but I’m grateful for the time he spent mentoring me, giving me recommendations for graduate school and checking in on a regular basis.