A Lesson In Career Mobility From A Dollar Tree Associate, Part 2

When the story left off, Timothy was not very happy with my career advice regarding his sought after promotion at Dollar Tree.

The irony of the whole situation is that I completely understand where he's coming from.

As most readers of this blog know, I'm in the middle of searching for employment myself.  Searching for your next career opportunity and attempting to move up the corporate ladder are very similar in tone.

In all honesty, me adding my two cents to his conversation was simply my way of helping.

Despite my clumsy entry into the conversation, if I were to meet Timothy again and he were receptive, I'd drop more career knowledge on him.

I know he may not want to hear it but I've been down the road he's heading.  I wish someone had said to me when I was his age what I'd say to him:

1. Generally speaking, your employer doesn't give a shit.

For the most part, your employer generally doesn't care about your bills or your cost of living.  He or she is there to run a business, not serve as a personal financial planner.

I get it---you finally get your budget figured out the CTA goes and raises fares.  It's incredibly frustrating.  It puts a massive crap in your budget.  That extra money has to come from somewhere.  Using money woes as an excuse to justify a raise will get you nowhere.    All of our bills are going up, why should you get more money because of it?  If that were the case, we'd all be getting raises.

2.  Your employer will give a shit if you add value.

Please take special note of this:  Adding value DOES NOT mean showing up WHEN YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO or BEING ON TIME.  Guess what?  YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!  You don't get Brownie points for doing what you're supposed to do.  That's a part of your job.

If he had simply made the case that he took on extra responsibilities or can process his register transactions quicker and they have a higher dollar amount due to his suggested add ons  (I see you have glue and construction paper, did you also need some scissors?); that would be adding value.

3.  No matter how good of an employee you are, your attitude determines everything.

If Timothy showed his temper with me---an actual paying customer---I can only imagine what a pleasure he is to work with if he's having a bad day.

I've worked enough retail to know how people are; pushy, rude with a me first attitude that would make the best of us run for the hills.  Nonetheless, all of us---regardless if we're working with the public or not---will have one (or two) of those days.  Part of being a professional---hell part of being an adult---is dealing with situations and people you don't like.

It sucks, I know.

But that's life.

If you piss, moan and pout every time something goes wrong, you will soon find yourself on the outer reaches of the boss' good graces.  Translation---no promotion.  No upward mobility.

4.  Know when to hold 'em.

As I stated in my first post, I only heard part of Timothy's career discussion but frankly speaking, I shouldn't have heard any of it.

At all.

That conversation was a private matter that was best left off the floor.

The manner, time and place Timothy chose to make his case speaks volumes about his use of discretion and appropriateness.  In turn, that's probably why he's still a part time associate.

Thinking about all of this, I wondered how many times I may have unknowingly fudged up the unwritten rules of interviewing or job hunting and no one simply told me.

Granted I'm old enough to know better but interviewing is a honed skill that has to develop.

I look at it like speaking a new language.  Some people pick up languages easily, others struggle.  Yet eventually with practice, you'll master the skill.

Timothy's little outburst reminded me that whether its a job at the Dollar Tree or something behind a desk, you always have to be ready to succinctly and confidently  prove your worth.

Professionally that it.

You know what else I hope Timothy got out of our encounter?

Don't mouth off to a customer when your name is clearly printed on the bottom of the receipt.


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  • Those 4 points are so important and so very true. Great post!

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