ghandi.jpgMemorial Day is the kick off of the summer season and with it young, eager individuals are busting their butts wanting to be the best at their new jobs.

Well, not everyone.

There was a particular waitress at this beach-side spot who seemed to have her head in the clouds. She took the drink order for only half of our group and then disappeared. When she got back she put a large Bloody Mary drink in front of the 2-year-old in our party and dashed off.

When I went to the bathroom I chanced upon a rare moment. The restaurant manager was giving the young woman an impromptu training session.

“Stand there and smile until everyone tells you what they want,” she advised, adding a few other subtle tricks of the trade.

But unfortunately the waitress was staring off into space with a blank look. She wasn’t nodding her head or doing anything that showed she was listening.

Our service continued it’s miserable, slow journey, and it got me thinking about missed opportunities.

Maybe that young girl figured this was a temporary job for some extra cash over the summer and didn’t think she would get anything else out of the gig but money.

Well, she was wrong.

You learn every day of your life. And every thing you do, every job you hold, will shape you and your work life.

On-the-job lessons learned are a job perk!

What ever you end up doing, what ever your career goals are, you have to see every job as a learning opportunity.

There will be degrees of learning and some gigs will teach you more than others. But no matter what you do, listen to the veterans around you. They usually have a wealth of knowledge you can tap into.

Maybe you’re thinking, “what do I want to learn from this person? I never want to do the job she’s doing.”

But it’s not about the actual job a person is doing, it’s the subtleties, the general rules they’ve learned about work and common courtesy that will serve you well.

One story a CEO told me shows how important listening can be.

I interviewed Harris Diamond, the CEO of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, about his first job selling peanuts at Yankee Stadium. Here’s an excerpt from my book:

The job was no walk to home base. “I never sweated at a job but here I lost weight and came home with my shirt yellow with sweat. I was a mess,” he says. However, he got some of his best pieces of advice early on in his peanut-selling career from another vendor who was in his twenties. He saw Diamond watching the game on one occasion instead of selling his wares. “He said, and I’ll never forget this: ‘there are two types of guys that come here. Those who watch the ball game and those who work. If you came here to watch the game go get a ticket. It’s cheap and easy. If you came here to work understand why you’re here.’”

It was like a light bulb went off for Diamond. “If you’re here to work focus on work,” he says. When he started focusing on work, the money started pouring in.

He listened and so should you, no matter how crummy you think your job is, especially in this economy where many of us will find ourselves doing work we may not like just to make ends meet.

You never know when you’ll be lucky enough to have a learning experience. That’s what life’s all about, no?

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