By Tyler Olson @

My first Summer job was scooping ice cream at Oxford Creamery in Mattapoisett, MA, where after every shift I’d mop the floors. I like this story from Tyler Bonin at The Wall Street JournaI. Bonin’s advice for new grads is to “mop your way to success.” It’s never too early to learn how to make yourself useful. He writes:

Every commencement season, thousands of graduates are treated to something I call “standard keynote language.” Everyone can recognize these tiny, easily digestible nuggets of wisdom: “Don’t be afraid to take risks,” or “Be courageous.” And the classic: “Follow your passion.” This is sound, albeit clichéd, advice. What would I recommend? “Mop your way to success.”

A mop, used for cleaning floors, isn’t a magical tool for success. Rather, it is a reminder that there should be no task considered beneath you.

When I was a student at Duke, I worked in a retail store. Many of my co-workers were also college students, some in graduate school, and one was on her way to dental school. Many of my colleagues hated mopping, which required going into the haven of filth that was the public bathroom. I had plenty of practice in this area as a former Marine Corps private, so I always volunteered for the job.

My managers noticed. They named me employee of the month and promoted me to management for the holiday rush—a small success at a small store. I learned that a sense of entitlement is a burden. People who believe themselves above something, or entitled to something more because of past achievements, will find that new opportunities slip away.

I volunteered for the necessary task, signaling my work ethic and dedication to the organization. I simply wanted to do my job as best as possible. Perhaps I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was emulating senior Marines who would roll up their sleeves and get dirty when the job required it.

I have met countless others who tell similar stories. A successful consultant told me that after graduating from a top-tier university, he spent a year piecing together tedious part-time jobs while volunteering at startups—only to prove himself. As competitive as the U.S. economy is, efforts like this are only becoming more common.

Read more here.

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