When we’re little, we all have ideas about what we want to be when we grow up. Both my parents were awesome entrepreneurs. When I grew up, I just wanted to be responsible and successful like them. I do believe this gave me an advantage because I didn’t have any expectations of what I should be – I had the freedom to decide. The job market was my canvas.
I started working when I was fourteen as a dishwasher for weddings. While hundreds of guests were dressed up and dancing under the stars, I was in the crazy hot kitchen spraying down dishes and trying to walk away that night with the least amount of food pasted all over me. Not exactly fun, but I didn’t hate it either. I was just starting my work journey and was open to anything.
I spent the next seven or so years working in restaurants as a busser, waiter, bartender, expediter, manager, hostess – I was just about everything but the cook. There were things I didn’t like about every position but it was still a great experience. I dealt with nasty guests, bad tippers, complaining co-workers, drunk guests, managers with a grudge – all of it. If you asked me to go back today, there wouldn’t be a chance of me going back. BUT, I needed that experience to start to learn how to work with complaining coworkers, how to manage my anger or frustration, how to treat guests, etc. etc.
In my early twenties I started selling Cutco Cutlery (knives) to housewives, in their homes, and working solely off the referrals I hoped they would give me. I got paid even if I didn’t sell anything – but selling meant more money and usually more referrals.
If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you’ve learned that I was really inverted, shy, and feeling lost in my teenage years. How does a person with those qualities be successful at a job selling knives in strangers’ homes? Successful I was. I was the top salesperson my first weekend out of a 50-person training class, I was the #2 sales rep that summer out of hundreds, I won trophies at conferences, was recognized by the president of the company, flew through promotions – and that was just my first summer on the job. During the next five years at that company, I just kept growing and soaring.
Why? Because I did what I was asked to do. I do believe my success in life is a direct result of following that formula. My manager said, “Go set up 7 appointments for this week” and I would sit in a spot until I did what he asked me to do. My manager would say, “Go take these 3 new reps on your next appointment and sell a thousand dollars worth of Cutco” (btw, it was encouraging, not strict or commanding), and I would take those 3 new people on my appointment and sell as much as I could – almost always hitting the goal.
When I moved to Denver from Tucson, I had 4 leads to get started with. That spring I had to sell more Cutco than I had ever sold in one semester while preparing to be the Sales Manager of one of the top-producing offices in the region that summer. I had to sell over $15,000 in just over three months, in a new area, so I would be over $75,000 in career sales (higher than my assistants in career sales so they would respect my position – they didn’t know me or what I was capable of yet – numbers talk). I sold $16,000 that semester, just in time for my 80-hour+ weeks to start as the Sales Manager of Denver, Top Recruiter/Trainer, and Receptionist Manager of our Division.
I’m beating around the bush a little, but trying to prove a point I suppose. By always doing what I was asked to do, I gained a million miles more experience than anyone around me. Most people have boundaries or doubts that block their ability to succeed. If I didn’t know how to do something, I figured it out one way or another. I didn’t let anything stand in my way. By just doing what I was told (and going above and beyond almost always in small ways), I excelled at what I was doing. I kept growing at a rapid-fire rate and those experiences got me to where I am today.
Once you have had the experience of sales, networking, grunt work – all of it – then you can really determine what you want to do and go after it with full force. I now know there are things I don’t want to do and it’s because I’ve done them more than a few times and really tried to enjoy it. If I didn’t, then I ruled that out of what I was going to do in the future. I guess I should clarify I didn’t entirely rule it out – I wouldn’t close myself off to anything.
I was a sponge and learned as much as I possibly could about every position around me. I always studied “the next step” – my manager’s role. I didn’t end up opening my own office because I could tell as a Sales Manager that it wouldn’t appeal to me but I grew as high as I could with that company, as fast as I could. It opened so many doors it’s crazy. My past work experiences just catapult me into new dimensions of opportunity and it can be like that for you too. I encourage you to dive in and commit to any position you have. Study the next step and grow like a weed that can’t be killed. You can learn a set of very valuable lessons in any job – you just have to be open to them.