Life & Work Skills

How Your Past Jobs Can Make You More Confident in Your Career


Whether you find yourself flipping burgers at the local diner, driving strangers to the grocery store, or drafting proposals for a Fortune 500 company, every chance we get to embrace a particular field broadens our horizons and instills good practices for the future. I’ve found it’s easy to discredit the boring 9-to-5 jobs from my past, but it’s in those moments that I grew so much and discovered who I was as a professional. Maybe you’re in the middle of a job that doesn’t align with your dream job goals. Or maybe you’re applying for new career opportunities and wondering how to make a former title sound resume-sexy. Wherever you find yourself, here are a few good reasons to show some love to your past jobs.


1. They teach us to value things like customer service and timeliness.

From retail to restaurant services, one of the first core values that I learned from many executive leaders is the value of serving others. Even though we may sometimes disagree with the terribly cliche “customer is always right,” there is power in the lessons we learn and in the (sometimes teeth-gritting) patience we gain through prioritizing people as an employee. Take a moment and think of someone you admire… could be your barista, your 3rd grade teacher, your nail consultant, or that lady who let you cut in front of her in the car line picking your kid up from school… literally anyone. Have them in mind? Good! Now answer this: What makes this person likable? It may have to do with their positive attitude. Personally, the leaders I admire most are people who go out of their way to value others before themselves. A good employee or business professional will gain influence and the trust of their clients by the way they treat others. This idea of customer service is culturally relevant in every working stage of life, and it transcends all forms of leadership roles. Things like being on time, treating others courteously, and staying sharp can set you up for success during your next gig. Good management will appreciate and esteem these resounding qualities.


2. They show off both our weaknesses and our strengths — what we did right and even what we did wrong.

Let’s point out the big, shiny elephant in the room. No one is perfect. Nope, not even one of us. Many times, we can allow our mistakes to regulate our future performances as an employee or entrepreneur. However, if we simply take our failures as lessons and opportunities for redirection, we are able to mature in a way that will make us even more valuable in our next season in life. Leadership strategist John C. Maxwell writes, “Embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.” Don’t hold on to past career mistakes; take them for what they are worth at face value. If you let your mistakes became catalysts for positive change, you’ll come into your new season better and stronger than before.


3. They give us direction for our career goals. 

Just like starting a new Netflix series all your friends have been raving about… you’ll truly never know until you give it your best shot. So the jobs we would think are dreamy end up reflecting a distasteful, stressful, and unwelcoming environment. The grass is rarely greener on the other side, they say. Take notice in the qualities you enjoyed about your former jobs. As you move into new stages in your professional career, pursue those same qualities. We all love to feel welcome and part of something bigger than ourselves. From the team building to positive vibes, place an expectancy for those affirmations within the context of your next season. Along with the qualities you loved about your last job, leave behind the negative qualities. The same way employers require certain traits out of an employee prospect is the same way we should look for traits in our potential employers. It’s a lot like the fluctuating world of dating — we learn both what we like and what we don’t like, so we know what to look for when the next time comes back around.


4. They build our professional and social network.

In a world that revolves around the establishment of connections, relationships will always be viewed as a gain. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been with a company for three weeks or two years; everyone you come into contact with grants us the opportunity to grow deeper roots of community. To this day, I still keep up communication with former clients and work colleagues. Because somewhere along the road, you never know what more could be accomplished together. Just as you are pursuing new adventures in life, so are other people. Whether texting, tweeting, messaging, or emailing, people everywhere, at every second, are networking and gaining a connection through a conversation. You never know where a simple connection may lead to next; and more importantly, you may gain a friend or two along the way.


Career paths are all about consistency and determination. Work hard in all you do, and don’t give up on your “inner-girl-boss” dream. Over time, we are ever-growing into new people and experiencing learning curves through healthy challenges. Your yesterday and today may not be what you pictured life to look like, but tomorrow is an even better reason to try again.


What lessons have your past jobs taught you?