It's good to start at the bottom. In fact, it can be a very good place to start when you're building your career.
Whether you're interning or starting your first graduate job, the idea of starting from scratch, just when you've fought so hard to clamber up the academic ladder, can prove somewhat disheartening. Potentially even more so when you enter a workplace and you see things done, well frankly, not very well.
Today we're frequently reminded that 'the world is your oyster.' As such, should we find ourselves undertaking a mundane task or learning the ropes of an office job – even if this is by no means where we want to end up, the fact that we're having to do it at all, means we're somehow lacking in ambition or imagination. Consequently, one finds themselves plunged into something of an existential crisis. And that is never a good place to be. Trust me, I've been there.
In truth however, starting at the bottom or near to it can in fact be an exceptionally good place to start. Because learning from the ground up can teach you a lot. And I am not just saying that. I started at the bottom and while that was quite a few years ago now, I am rather glad I did. Firstly, basic administration is at the heart of all businesses and whether you like it or not, no matter where your career takes you, you'll always have an element of admin as part of your role.
You'll also always have a fair amount of admin to sort in your general life – and so acquiring the organisation skills to handle this will stand you in good stead.
Secondly, never underestimate just how much an office and its colleagues value the person who can fix the printer or order a courier to drop off some vital work to a client. Such seemingly basic, indeed boring nuggets of knowledge actually form the bedrock of day-to-day office life – and as you develop over the years that knowledge will make you stronger professionally.
No job should ever be beneath you – and the moment you think it is, it's perhaps the time to question whether you're becoming the kind of colleague, member of staff or indeed leader that you want to be. No matter at what stage your career might be, if you've had experience of doing the mundane, you'll appreciate and above all value that role, its function and what part it has to play in the role of business.
Consider this example, from the world of corporate law... Just before a deal is closed, the two sides have to agree on what information the seller has given to the buyer about what has been sold, be it a building, business or Boeing-747. This task often falls to the trainees, who will go through reems of folders to make sure that the paperwork matches on both sides.
Going through long documents, page by page, often late at night, is not what dreams are made of. However this is one of the most vital things to do before your client signs a multi-million dollar deal. A mismatch could cost either side a lot of money.
Fast-forward 20-odd years. Imagine it's your business that's being sold or you're the lead partner on the deal. The trainees still have to check all of the disclosed information but, having been there yourself, you'll understand what's involved and factor into the deal timetable enough time for them to do their job properly, thereby minimising the risk to you or your client. Now that can only be good for business.
So never be afraid to start at the bottom because you never know when you'll be at the top.
by Rachel Spedding