The Value of a Really Crappy Job — and How It Can Be a Badge of Honor

As some of you may have realized from recent posts (DESPERATELY WANTED! Job Applicants Who Aren’t Stupid), I’ve been interviewing candidates for the position of Technical Recruiter working for my company, HRU.

I love interviewing because each time I interview I think I’ve discovered a better way to do it, or something new I should be looking for, and this most recent round of interviews is no different.

Like most HR/Talent Pros, I’m always interested in quality work/co-op/internship experience. Let’s face it, it’s been drilled into us that past performance/actions will predict future performance/actions. So, we tend to get excited over seeing a candidate who has experience with a great company or competitor. We’re intrigued to know how the other side lives, and our inquisitive nature begs us to dig in and find out more.

You don’t learn as much working in “Utopia”

What I’ve found over the past 20 years of interviewing is that while I love talking to people who worked at really great companies, I hire more people that have worked at really bad companies. You see, while you learn some really good stuff working for great companies, I think people actually learn more working for really crappy companies!

Working at a really great companies gives you an opportunity to work in “Utopia” – you get to see how things are suppose to work, how people are suppose to work, how in a perfect world it all fits together.

The reality is, we don’t work in “Utopia” (at least the majority of us don’t ). We work in organizations that are less than perfect, and some of us actually work in down right horrible companies. Those who work in horrible companies and survive tend to be better hires – they have battle scars and street smarts.

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5 things you learn from really bad companies

So, why everyone wants to get out of really bad companies (and I don’t blame them), there is actually a few things you learn from those experiences:

  1. Leadership isn’t a necessity to run a profitable company. I’ve seen some very profitable companies that had some really bad leadership. People always think they’ll leave those companies and that they’ll fail – but they don’t. Conversely, I’ve worked for some companies that had great leaders and people that failed.
  2. Great people sometimes work at really crappy companies. Don’t equate crappy company with crappy talent. Sometimes, you can find some real gems in the dump.
  3. Hard work is relative. I find people who work at really bad companies tend to appreciate hard work better than those who work at really great companies with great balance. If all you’ve ever known is long hours and management that doesn’t care that you have a family, well, seeing the other side gives you an appreciation that is immeasurable.
  4. Not having the resources to do the job doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. Working for a crappy company in a crappy job tends to make you more creative, because you probably won’t have what you need to do the job properly, so you find ways.
  5. Long lasting peer relationships come through adversity. You can make life-long work friends at a crappy job – people you’ll keep in contact with and who you will be able to leverage as you move on in your career. And here’s what each of you will think about the other: “That person can work in the shit!” “That person is tough and gets things done!”That person is someone I want on my team, when I get to build a team!”

We all know the bad companies in our industries and markets. Don’t discount candidates who have spent time with those companies, because at some point, we were all needing a job – a first experience, a shot at a promotion or more money, etc., and we took a shot at a company we thought we could change or make a difference at.

I love people who worked for bad companies, in bad jobs, with bad management – because they wear it like a badge of honor!

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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