Here's The Insightful Career Lesson Mike Rowe Learned From Cleaning The Inside Of A Septic Tank On 'Dirty Jobs'

Mike Rowe Comic Con NYCCMike Rowe/TwitterMike Rowe Tweeted from Comic Con even though he hates using social media.

Mike Rowe, best known for being the host of the show “Dirty Jobs,” took part in the
New York Comic Conpanel “
How to make friends and influence people: Talent and production company relationships in the new media landscape” over the weekend, and he dropped a couple of real nuggets of wisdom that just aspiring professional can apply to their career.

Rowe should know considering he sampled 300 jobs in over eight seasons on “Dirty Jobs,” gave a Ted Talk in 2011 on the value of work, and started the Mike Rowe Works Foundation.

He’s also milked camels.

Rowe said that one of the biggest lessons from “Dirty Jobs” was when he first heard of the notion of taking the “reverse commute” — to go in a career path in the opposite direction from the one you’re currently on — from a septic tank technician in Wisconsin named Les Swanson who was formerly a psychiatrist.

Rowe explained how somebody could go from a psychiatrist to a crap cleaner:

“We were standing one day up to our nipples basically in this lift pump chamber … you have no idea what goes on in there. It’s where all the stuff you flush down the toilet accumulates before it heads to the waste water treatment plant. We’re standing in this thing knocking hunks of cholesterol off the walls, it’s 120 degrees, it’s like steady Judy, steady. It’s the 7th level of hell.

I say to Les, ‘Man how did you get here?’ He laughs and says ‘What do you mean?’ I say, ‘What did you do before this?’ He says, ‘I was a psychiatrist.’ So I asked him, ‘What brought you to this business?’ And without missing a beat Les says, ‘I got tired of dealing with other people’s shit.’

The moral of the the story is huge, he [Les] didn’t dream about being a septic tank cleaner, he just looked around [as a psychiatrist] and saw where everybody was going, took stock of what he was doing and thought, ‘I’m not gonna go that way.'”

In other words, the job doesn’t define who you are or how happy you are, it is about the passion you bring to your work and how you choose to live your life, whether you’re a website designer or a septic tank technician. There’s no reason why you can’t reverse direction and find satisfaction.

Rowe also helped field a question from the audience about how to end professional relationships without burning bridges when you realise it isn’t working out:

“During the 9 years I was On Dirty Jobs I had three general managers, six presidents and 10 network executives assigned to my show. Now that’s just the way it is, its a revolving door in this industry that nobody up here can overstate, it is big and well oiled.

As a freelancer I can look back and tell you that I’ve been hired for grown up gigs by people who were PAs [personal assistants] that brought me coffee. Im so glad I was always decent to people, or tried to be anyhow. Never ever underestimate the importance … show up early, stay late and be nice. You will stand out in this industry and people will go out of their way to hire you later.”

This goes for any profession, not just production. You have no way of knowing if that eager intern you had last summer could one day end up in a position of power with the ability to hire, or fire, you.

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