How To Find A First Job That Doesn’t Make You “Pay Your Dues”

You didn’t rack up college debt so you could get coffee; here’s how to find a job that offers more meaningful work.

How To Find A First Job That Doesn’t Make You “Pay Your Dues”
[Photo: Flickr user Bit Boy]

Paying dues—aka menial work like getting coffee for the team—is a term that many millennials shudder upon hearing.


Millennials are audacious in their goals and relentless in their pursuit of happiness at work. (Can anyone blame them?) That’s in part why there are so many “millennipreneurs”—a recent survey of 2,600 entrepreneurs based in 18 countries found that millennials launch about eight companies, both in the new economy and traditional sectors, compared to 3.5 for baby boomers.

Why get coffee for someone else when you can try and change the world, right? Well, it’s not that simple. The reality is, paying dues is still necessary and expected in some industries—film, music or production, for example—and can actually be a good thing to do for your career in the long run. Doing grunt work isn’t just about making sure higher-ups have what they need—it’s also about showing how much you want a promotion.

Rodrigo Garcia Salas, a recording engineer in Davenport, Florida, says it’s all about showing your bosses how much passion you have for the job.

“If you want to work with the greats you will not be able to… without being the guy who gets the coffee,” he says. “Why? They want to make sure you have respect for the craft. They want to see how bad you want it.”

Decided that paying dues is not for you? Alright, then you’re going to have to follow these three steps.

Look For Work In The Right Industry

With the emergence of highly technical jobs, paying dues has become antiquated in certain industries like technology in particular. Many technology jobs involve hard skills—like coding—so if you have the skill you can show an employer that you can probably do the job.


The best part: It doesn’t matter how old you are.

“The best places for new grads to look for positions with quick career growth is usually in the tech industry,” advises Pierre-Renaud Tremblay, director of human resources at Dupray, a high-tech steam cleaner manufacturer in Newark, Delaware. Monster has thousands of technology job listings to get you started. The key is to “look for companies that care more about performance than pedigree,” says Tremblay.

Find Out What A Company’s Employees Actually Do

Another trick to knowing whether you’ll have to pay dues in a job is to look at current employees’ job history on LinkedIn. What do they list as responsibilities?

“You can search current employees and scan their career to date to see if there is any synergy with the career path that you would like to take,“ recommends Simon Hughes, founder of Jobatar, a video interviewing platform located in London.

Get Advice From The People You Know

Lucky for you this resource is right under your nose. Ask experienced working professionals you know—mom, dad, your parents’ coworkers, your professors, alumni—to tell you what opportunities will afford real work (instead of grunt work) off the bat.

“When first starting out, the quickest way to find something is to look inside of your own sphere of influence,” says Sarah Klein, a talent coordinator at The Garis Agency, a publicity firm in La Costa, California. “Ask around. Take an inventory of your circle and go to them for guidance.”


This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.