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How I Gained Work Experience, Achieved Promotions and Keep Getting Job Opportunities

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.

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