Meaning of dues-paying

dues-pay•ing

Pronunciation: (dz'pā"ing, dyz'-), [key]
— adj.
  1. gaining experience, esp. by hard and often unpleasant or uncongenial work: He spent his dues-paying years as a cocktail pianist.
—n.
  1. the act or process of gaining experience, esp. slowly and laboriously: She had many years of dues-paying before her abilities were recognized.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.