Written by Davis Nguyen
At dinner during our senior year of college, a friend and I debated if a perfect post-graduation job existed. We couldn’t name one.
She instead shared a story of how no matter how mundane/uninspiring/replaceable our first job after college would be, that the job description didn’t limit the opportunities we could create from it.
She shared with me a story of how a CEO of a small company hired a part-time janitor to clean their office. This janitor was responsible for cleaning the floors, windows, and restrooms. After sometime, the other employees would notice how this janitor would spend more time than he needed with each task. It was as if he was on a crusade to eliminate every single germ from the office. In particular, he took pride in how well he kept the restrooms clean, claiming someone could drink from the toilet bowl because it was so clean. The other employees saw how clean the restrooms were, but thought the janitor was joking.
One day, the company CEO was using the restroom as the janitor was cleaning it. The CEO commented how clean the restrooms are always, and the janitor mentioned you could drink from the bowl. The CEO knew the janitor worked hard but laughed; the janitor took out a red solo cup, filled his cup with water from the toilet bowl, and drank from it. The CEO was left speechless. Later that week, the CEO hired the janitor as one of his full-time project managers.
We know this story is true because the janitor is my friend’s uncle.
Take ownership of your responsibilities no matter how small
Your first job after college won’t be the sexiest, most fulfilling, or highest paying job you’ll ever have, but every day you wake up you have an opportunity to create opportunities for yourself to get closer to that sexier, more fulfilling, and higher paying job. All you have to do is be willing to do more than what other people expect of you with whatever opportunities you are given, no matter how small, mundane, or uneventful it might be.
You won’t have to drink out of a toilet bowl, but if you take ownership in your responsibilities and demonstrate the ability to handle more, you will be given more. Even if most people don’t care about the results and bypass it, you shouldn’t. Average people take average opportunities and create average results. Great people take average opportunities and turn them into greater opportunities. Don’t’ believe me? Just ask the now-CEOs who started as unpaid interns.
Your first job(s) out of college won’t be glamorous, but if you are willing to take the opportunity you are given—no matter how little, how mundane, or how dirty—and deliver more than what is expected, you can turn that small opportunity into something bigger.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What is one thing you could do today at work to do more than what others expect?
Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.