We all, at one point or another, take on a job that is downright horrible. Just a miserable experience from start to finish. We utter things like “stepping stone” and “gotta start somewhere” under our breath, but that only keeps madness at bay for so long. And yet, these types of gigs can bestow lessons, skills and perspective that serve us well later in life. Or so we keep telling ourselves—and our kids—anyway. Read on for some of the classics!
1. Bus Boy: One of the least gratifying jobs in existence, bussing tables is many a dude’s foray into the working world. You’re easily the place’s no. 1 whipping boy, sometimes moving at a pace so frantic that a glass or plate breaking is inevitable, and you’re told you’ll get a cut of what the wait staff brings in but never do. Do it anyway. Because just about every other job will seem better by comparison.
2. Gas Station Attendant: I pumped gas for a couple of years in my late teens and, to be honest, kinda loved it. Maybe it was the crackpot owner of the station, who was capable of bizarre spontaneous generosity—or just the time in my life that I worked there. But running out to cars to get a twenty-dollar bill thrown at me like I was a miscreant, and then lectured about how I cleaned the windows poorly, only to return to the warmth of the cubby to do it all again, wasn’t necessarily stressful. Still, the repetition and the crash course in “the customer is not always right” earn this job a spot on this list.
3. Telemarketer: No, it will not help you to be more patient when one calls your house at 8 on a Saturday morning, but it will thicken your skin. Because the gig is basically, “You can’t say anything back.” From kids prodded by their parents to be loud and stupid to the parents themselves asking you—rhetorically, one must assume—if you know what time it is, the telemarketing chapter of your life will (hopefully) be brief yet stay with you forever.
4. Cashier: There is no job that will teach one how to perform under pressure more than this one. Doing a price check or making a complicated change with a line deeper than your pockets ever will be is the epitome of stressful. What’s worse, your bagger—should you be lucky enough to have one—gets to just stand idly by while you’re in the line of fire.
5. Painting for the Summer: Hey, I know guys who’ve got enviable painting businesses, generating serious dollars while beautifying homes. They’ve got a roster of guys who work for them and are darn happy doing so. They add to that roster every summer. And these temp guys… yeah, not so happy. That’s you. Climb that rickety ladder when it’s 88 degrees out, holding a half gallon of paint with three fingers on one hand, then slap on said paint with a brush in the other. After a week, the paint starts to feel like blood that will just never wash off.
6. Mowing Lawns: Much like the painter, the guy with a landscaping business can make big bucks, build a hell of a reputation, and in many cases grow the business to the size he’d like. Five trucks out or just one. This isn’t about him. This is about you and a lawn mower—and we’re not talking a comfy John Deere you can sit atop with a cold beer in hand. We’re talking you pushing a mower on a sweltering day, drinking out of a garden hose, swatting bugs you’re unable to identify. It’ll do wonders for your stamina and your fortitude.
7. Fast Food Restaurant: This is rite of passage shit, dude. But, no, they’re not the greatest of jobs. Especially if you get put on French fry detail, the oil splattering, taking some in the eye, knowing full well this ain’t the gig coming with the benefits that are gonna chip away at the hospital bills that result. Now you’ve got a patch over one eye, everyone’s making pirate jokes, and your dream of ultimately becoming an architect is in danger. But you know what else you got? A higher threshold for pain, and a whopper of a tale.
8. Retail: Whether the crackling voice coming out of the speakers is asking for a clean-up in aisle 8 or customer assistance on 4, the PTSD that comes with a stint in retail is just something you cannot put a price tag on. The irony, of course, is that some days that is all you do: put price tags on items for sale. Manning the dressing room is the cake walk assignment, if we’re talking the likes of GAP or Old Navy, but guys rarely score it. Instead we’re left stuffing cheap kicks back into the correct boxes, straightening up displays and hanging up clothes—all the stuff your mother could never get you to do at home.