My first job was at a salad dressing bottling plant. I worked on the shop floor, in 100 degree-plus temperatures, doing heavy manual labor.
(Not incidentally, I learned a lesson I've never forgotten about treating every employee with respect and dignity. Every job -- even the worst job -- matters. As does every employee.)
Next, I interned at Digital Equipment Corporation. Besides confirming that I prefer air conditioning, I learned to be creative. I learned a little about leadership. I was introduced to using technology to better communicate, better manage information, to constantly seek ways to use existing technology in entirely different ways. And to solve existing problems in entirely different ways.
Neither job was a great job. But both jobs helped set me up for later success.
I started LogoMix from my dining room table, working nights and weekends to build a viable company. I didn't mind the hard work; nothing I did at that table was as hard as sweating my butt off in a factory. In fact, I relished the hard work, because I knew that nothing worthwhile is ever easy to accomplish.
I also drew on some of the skills I first started to develop during my internship. Identifying customer needs. Solving customers problems. Using existing technology in different ways to help customers grow their businesses. And while I didn't have the programming skills to build a minimum viable product, I did have a solid enough grounding in the technology to be able to hire -- and lead -- the engineers who could.
Most importantly, those first jobs helped me realize that I wanted to be my own boss: forging my own path, taking responsibility for my own future, working with the kind of people and building the kind of team necessary to make it succeed. Starting a business is what I really wanted to do.
Becoming an entrepreneur was my true calling.
While we all make long-term plans, it's really hard to connect every dot as you go along. Sometimes you'll have to take a sideways step. Other times, a step back. Once in a while, you'll get to jump two or three steps forward.
Only in hindsight will all the dots connect -- as long as you occasionally take the time to reflect on your journey so far. Think about what your first jobs taught you, what you learned about business and what you learned about yourself.
I learned that I was willing to work hard. I learned that education, whether formal or informal, was the key to not just seizing but also simply recognizing opportunities. I learned the power of teamwork and leadership: When to step in, when to step back, and even when to stop delegating and be a helicopter boss.
Your first jobs taught you different lessons about business, and about yourself. Take a few minutes to think about what you learned from the jobs you liked the least, and how those experiences can help you connect the career dots you want to connect.
Chances are that job taught you a lot more about what you do, and don't want to do, than you might realize-- especially if what you want to do is be an entrepreneur.