What It Takes To Win At The Entry level: Absorbing And Embracing Adversity

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After a year of working at a comfortable management desk job right out of business school, I was pulled into my boss’s office and was told it was time for a “critical experience.”

As my boss was speaking, all I remember hearing were the words “working off-shift” and I knew that I was headed to manage the night shift.

Ego deflating critical experiences might involve relocating to a field office in the middle of nowhere, working on the smallest and most un-sexy brand (like my male friend working on a feminine hygiene brand), or completing mundane data entry that even a monkey could perform.

These entry level critical experiences are never the jobs you hear about at university, however their intention is simple and important: to test your devotion to the company and accelerate your understanding of the business from cocky new grad to competent leader.

There is a plethora of ego deflating critical experiences, however yours might involve relocating to a field office in the middle of nowhere, working on the smallest and most un-sexy brand (like my male friend working on a feminine hygiene brand), or completing mundane data entry that even a monkey could perform.

While they’re not fun, these experiences are highly beneficial and if you want to move-up to the executive levels – or at least beyond the entry level – you must embrace and succeed at these critical experiences, and this blog series is all about how you can do just that.

In this first entry of the series, I provide my insights on how to win at the entry level by embracing and absorbing adversity.

It’s often said that those who reach the successful and stratospherically successful plateaus in life and career are those who can handle the quickest pace of change. I would go a step further and say that they are also the ones who seek out and learn from the most adverse scenarios. It sounds counter-intuitive, but these adversity-craving people realize that adversity is where the growth is and don’t shy away from it.

In fact, research shows that the most successful people in society have the highest Adversity Quotients (AQs). In his book The Adversity Advantage, Paul Stoltz parallels the ascent of Mt. Everest by blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer to the journey we all are on to raise our AQs.

The concept that struck me most from Stoltz’s book is that those who gain as much out of an adverse experience as possible have the strongest grasp of how to suffer well. People who suffer well take ownership of the position or situation they are in, and don’t fall into helplessness, get the most out of their scenario.

For me, working the night shift meant drastically changing one of the most fundamental and steadfast structures in my life: my routine. While challenging, it was one of the best things for me. Not only was I making executive calls affecting a large team of employees and having a significant impact on costs and budget, but I learned to be adaptable in life and to be more open to change.

Around this time I read that online retailer Zappos (Fortune rated it one of the best corporate cultures in America) would pay $2,000 to any associate who decided to resign. Their philosophy was simple: If you don’t love working at Zappos, you aren’t going to do a good job.

This was the challenge I posed to myself and what I challenge you to do when faced with an adverse critical experience: summon the strength to suffer well and focus on raising your AQ (you will eventually be promoted!). Get to a point where even if your company offered you $2,000 for a new position, you would see the benefit in staying and say no thanks.

Adversity is logarithmic. Now is your time to eat it up to raise your baseline tolerance of it for the even larger critical experiences coming down the pipe. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and a promotion not far away.

Next post: keep your head down and stop trying to promote yourself.

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About the author

Gregory Murray Greg Murray is a recent grad with a B.Comm working at PepsiCo as Supply Manager and a Yellow Belt Six Sigma leader. Greg is passionate about business, leadership, diversity & inclusion and marketing and have spoken at University of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto on these topics. An avid fan of digitial and social media, Greg can be connected with on LinkedIn.