Like many of you, I worked through college. It was part-time work, but it paid for something that I would otherwise not have had: my car. My parents were not in a financial position to purchase a car for me when I graduated from high school. I could either bum rides (we lived in a small town and there was no public transportation) or I could work. I chose to work.
I learned many lessons during those years, but here are the most important ones.
1. You are never to good to (fill in the blank). If the work is honest and you need the job, you will do it. Stocking shelves, cleaning toilets, stomaching rude customers, taking out the trash, running boring reports – nothing is beneath you when you have financial commitments. And, once you become the boss, don’t ever ask someone who works for you to do a task you won’t do.
2. Hard work gets noticed. The truly great bosses I have worked for watch employees and staff with precision. They notice a lot more than we think they do. If you are working hard and smart, they notice.
3. Never, ever think that a “blue collar” job is beneath you. While talents and skill sets vary between industries, anyone who is a good worker is priceless. It doesn’t matter if you are making $10 per hour or $2,000 per hour. Do your job well, people notice and you become an asset to your organization.
4. Just because someone seems to be at a crossroad doesn’t mean they wish to stay there. Everyone has dreams. When you met someone in your life, they may be on the path to their dream. They may not have named or claimed their dream or they may have just realized it. People come in to our lives and either offer us an experience or a lesson. Learn from them all.
5. Never judge someone by their clothes. The richest people in my hometown were the peanut farmers who wore jeans, overalls and hats to the store.
Don’t get me wrong: working retail through college was a great career motivator. Working nights and weekends, which is pretty common for college kids, sucks. Standing on your feet during your entire shift is definitely motivation for a desk job. But, I would not have traded my experience for anything. So if you have children, please encourage them to work a part-time job. The lessons you learn as a young adult will carry you through your life.