“I don’t like being a gate guard on mid-shift, I am meant for so much more.” Or simply, “I can’t stand my job!!!!” These are statements we have all heard over the years in the service or potentially even muttered them ourselves. I want to use my experience to help shine a different light on the topic.

In 2008, I left my position as the flight chief of the C-17 Crew Chief AFSC Awarding element that taught hundreds of new technicians during my tenure. We had the workload for 12 instructors but only 8 assigned. We were overworked, but surprisingly had very high morale considering the long hours of teaching and tending to our additional duties. I would like to think I helped us to navigate that season very well. However, when I left and went back to the flightline, none of that mattered. No one in my chain really knew much about me or my abilities. I had to start over as a technician. I was bitter. I felt my abilities were being squandered. I was meant for more.

First of all, notice all of the “me, me, me” in that whine session above. After a few weeks, I finally accepted my new lot in life and refocused on the needs of the mission over the needs of “me.” Once I got down to business, I began to enjoy myself. The organizational skills I learned in my flight chief position really helped me to see a bigger picture for my team and I was able to develop the other Crew Chiefs on our shift. It was fun being able to see the gaps in training and move in and out of the necessary roles to assist and mentor. In fact, this season helped me to make some amazing friends and built perspective for my future roles too.

The point isn’t to have one of those “look for the silver lining” moments; rather, it is to show you that we can find meaning in everything we do. Looking back on this season, I was never excited to do a job I was overqualified to do. Instead, I had learned to look for the soft skills within it and focus on those. On the surface we look at mopping the floor as moving a wet mop over a hard surface. The soft skills in this are customer service, focus on detail, initiative, and even foresight.

Let me elaborate on this…I remember watching a group of Airmen mop the floors in our building at the end of the day. The slopped down the mop with not enough disinfectant and shared a musty smell throughout the building. They also did the whole floor at one time and made it impossible to traverse. Then on another day, a different group of Airmen were on task. They had a fresh mop and a clean smelling mixture spreading across the floor. Not to mention, they did half the hallway and enabled foot traffic. One was focused on how bad the task sucked and the other was focused on the mission.

For me, I was able to practice my passion of teaching others and solving problems. I saw where line workers lacked confidence and competency and was able to mentor them. I was able to excel in this role because I focused on the soft skills within. You may not like your job or may love your job. Regardless, look for those soft skills you can leverage and master to set you up for your dream job.

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