At Work

Three Ways to Succeed at Your First Job (and Your Last)

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The summer before my senior year of college I was in Nashville for a week-long “mini-internship” with Fair Trade Services, a local record label. (Instead of one, traditional internship that summer I completed a series of eight “mini-internships”).

At the end of the week, I sat down with Jeff Moseley, the founder and CEO of the label to review what I had learned and ask him some questions about his business experience.

In hindsight, one of the best questions I asked was, “In one year I will start my first full-time job out of college and I have no idea what I’ll be doing. What advice would you give me to succeed at that job no matter what it is?”

What advice did he give me?

Austin, success in your first job is really simple. No matter what the company or job title, they’ve essentially hired you to do three things: Show up early, stay late, and take out the trash.

Jeff unpacked it like this:

  • Show Up Early. This one is really simple. Don’t be a sloth in the morning. Your most productive and creative time is likely in the early morning so wake up and use it! Get ready for the day so you can show up to work 30 min early and already bring your “A Game” while everyone else is still waking up.
  • Stay Late. People who love what they do don’t drop everything and walk out because the clock says 5:00 pm. They finish a task, come to a stopping point, and then go home to be “all in” with their family. Don’t stay late just to look busy or productive but realize that your new employer hired you to accomplish objectives, not just throw away 2,080 hours a year.
  • Take Out The Trash. This doesn’t mean just physically emptying trash around the office (although that’s not a bad idea). It’s a reminder not to develop a sense of ego or entitlement around your job description. If there’s something that needs doing around the office, do it! Jumping in and serving is one of the quickest ways to earn the loyalty and respect of your coworkers.

Was he suggesting I become a workaholic to get ahead? I don’t think so. He was saying that discipline, commitment, and enthusiasm are contagious. Not only will they spread to your coworkers, they’ll spread to other parts of your own life as well.

These three principles are even more critical to a Christian’s view of work because we represent Christ to the world around us.

In Jesus we see an example of how we should work. A God who actually showed up and did plenty unglamorous, messy, trash-like work in his life. Peter says it well in I Peter 2:12:

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The “good deeds” Peter talks about can be as simple as this:

Show up early.

Stay late.

Take out the trash.

Though these acts may seem small, Christians can use them to participate in God’s restoration and help reweave shalom in our world.

It’s not magic. It’s not glamorous. It’s not easy. But it is how we, as Christians, are called to be an example in this world.

To call myself a Christian and then to not strive to be the best I can be and do the most I can with what has been given to me would be the height of hypocrisy. Being a Christian is no excuse for mediocrity or passive acceptance of defeat. If anything, Christianity demands a higher standard, even more devotion to the task.

– Orel Hershiser, Observer-Reporter, April 1, 1989

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