THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Lots to learn: Any job can be a good job
A few months after I graduated from college, I got a job at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. It was the perfect job for me because I was focused on playing professional beach volleyball, and I needed to earn money to get myself to Los Angeles. I couldn't work 9-5 because I wouldn't have enough time on the beach.
My job was 7am to 2pm running orders from guys who took orders on the phone to guys in the trading pit who held stacks of paper orders. They kept track of orders and gave them to traders when the price hit. Then the trader executed the trade.
I was bad at the job. But I was also good. I got a very good job in the trading pit even though most people had to work years before getting a job like that. My job was to keep track of what price people were paying for the British Pound.
The problem is I'm dyslexic. I was supposed to hold a bunch of orders to buy and sell British Pounds and tell a broker when it was time to fill an order. But I could never figure out if the price was moving up or down. The numbers were just a big mess in my head. So I wasn't very good at my job that summer, but you have to do something absolutely terrible to be a young twentysomething girl at the Mercantile Exchange and lose your job.
When things got really bad, I'd go read Jane Eyre in the bathroom. When the markets were slow, I'd read a whole chapter.
But then the Berlin Wall fell. It's an understatement to say that this moment caused complete mayhem in the European currency markets. I don't have a very clear memory of what happened. I remember my pile of orders falling on the floor. I remember the clerk next to me picking the orders off the floor and illegally making trades and no one seemed to care that he was filling orders he did not have the authority to fill. I remember that we had to estimate how many trades we missed, and the trader I worked for started buying and selling generally– hoping he would have the right number of buys and sells at the end of the day to be legal.
I worry a little about writing about how much illegal activity was going on in the British Pound pit that day, but let me tell you something: That was a very tame pit. I'm sure that people trading the German mark had it a lot worse.
A lot of people lost all their money that day. A lot of people made so much that day the never had to work another day in their lives. I made so many errors that I lost my job. Which was everything I had.
But guess what. It was a great job because I learned so much. I learned how sex appeal works at the office, I learned the importance of taking a break at work, and I learned that I was dyslexic. This is not even counting all the stuff I learned about commodities trading: I can use one hand to signal that the day traders will screw you on price if you place an order now.
So here's some advice for recent grads worried about taking a terrible job: in almost any job you'll learn a lot at the beginning if you keep your eyes open. Sometimes what we learn is not what we expect to learn, but all information about the world and ourselves is useful, if you put it to work when you make your next decision.
So go out into the world with your eyes wide open. This applies to everyone. You don't have to be young to demand personal growth from your job every day, and get it.