The Moment My Personal Wealth Journey Really Took Off
There I was, covered in blood, working in a refrigerator for 8+ hours per day, lifting 100-pound boxes, and slinging animal parts for money. It was the best job ever! I miss it to this day. However, life (and my boss) had other plans for me. If I could point to one moment in time when my professional life really took a turn for the better, the moment when my paycheck began its meteoric rise to figures I’d never dreamed about, it was then when my boss gave me what we in the company jokingly call “The Tap on the Shoulder.”
What made this so strange to me was that thought I was a hard worker, I was an extremely quiet introvert!
A Reprieve from Boredom and Frustration
I was working as a meat cutter at a regional chain of stores (that itself was a subsidiary of a nationwide company that was, in turn, a subsidiary of an international company). I had struggled for 8 years to get back into a meat room after changing companies—signing on with a much larger supermarket after quitting the mom-and-pop operation at which I’d learned to butcher. During those frustrating years I filled my time with stocking yogurt—quite a task for someone with mighty gorilla mitts, hanging price tags, and generally being miserable.
Looking back, I don’t blame the previous Meat Department Manager at the store for not taking a chance on me. Since then, I’ve seen so many new employees coming in off the street claiming (falsely) to know how to butcher that it boggles my mind. (I still don’t know why anyone would lie about that—we’re going to find out the first time you pick up a knife!)
However, at the time I was getting so frustrated (and bored) in my current role that I was contemplating quitting. It was then that a confluence of circumstances (synchronicity—but we’ll get to that a little later) saw a change in leadership in the department just as I was about to give my two-week’s notice. The new boss needed a cutter coming into the busy summer season and I was something of a known commodity having already worked in the store for years.
Boom! I was a meat cutter again. Doing what I loved to do. Providing customers with a product they were excited about. Earning much more money than an average grocery store employee. I took my increased earnings and blew them immediately—buying my first brand-new car (with just 8 miles on the odometer), snagging a new leather jacket, grabbing up a bunch Star Wars action figures. Life couldn’t be better . . . right?
Time for a Sea Change
And for a long time, I didn’t think it could. I put my head down, worked as hard as I could, and focused on becoming the best meat cutter I could be. It was mostly because I loved the work. My father was so proud when I learned to cut because it was a trade—a profession! But it was also because I liked the gang I worked with and respected my boss so much. She was only the second female Meat Manager I had ever seen and had spent years working at a meat packing facility. Somehow, she hadn’t turned into a surly bear that barked orders. She was still nice, asking after our personal lives, creating gifts bags with homemade goodies in them every holiday, bending over backwards to accommodate our time off requests. (I didn’t know it at the time, but she was the type of boss I wanted to be.)
So, when she pulled me aside one day and said there was a job opening at the lower leadership level and I should apply, I was taken aback. Never had the thought of being a team leader ever crossed my mind. However, through my hard work and perseverance, she had identified me as having potential above and beyond my role.
I spent a day or two with butterflies in my stomach, questioning my own abilities, terrified that I would make the leap and hate it. In the end, I think I applied mostly because I didn’t want to disappoint my boss. (And I guess I didn’t.)
Planting the Seed!
A few months into the role, something happened that—looking back on it—would be that pivotal moment in my career that would change the trajectory of my life forever.
I was working side-by-side with the boss on a very busy day. We were slinging meat, chatting away like we always do. She paused, turned to me, and said: “You’re going to be the next Meat Manager.”
I laughed—yeah right! But the sincerity and conviction with which she said those words struck deep inside me.
Long story short-ish, it wasn’t long before I found myself in a Manager-In-Training role and just a couple months later I moved to another store to become the Assistant Department Manager. Two months into that role and my boss (another female Meat Department Manager) told me she was leaving to go to another store and I was the leading candidate to take her spot and it turns out I was.
Of course, each of these promotions came with a sizeable raise (some of which I negotiated even higher. The last promotion to Department Manager came with a raise so big that the Store Manager who offered me the position literally said “Wow!” when he handed me the letter.
Since then, I’ve grown in my role, taken on other leadership positions, transitioned to a different store, and made more money than I thought I ever would. My wife and I bought a house that we previously would never have been able to afford in a suburb of Maine’s largest city, purchased a pair of new cars, and have the luxury of taking five weeks off with pay every year!
Life is good and only getting better!
Find Your Cheerleaders (and Trust What They Say)
Now just imagine if I hadn’t taken the words of my boss to heart. Imagine if I hadn’t recognized the trust that she had in me when she told me to apply for that first leadership role. Imagine if I hadn’t heard the sincerity in her voice.
- Would I have even known about the role? (I wasn’t looking at the job postings at the time because I was happy where I was.)
- Would I have had the courage to even apply? (Probably not.)
- Would I still be a meat cutter working for a decent but not life-changing wage? (Probably.)
- Would I have moved to the ‘burbs and had access to all the perks living near the “Big City” grants? (No.)
Lorraine—my boss—was the first real cheerleader I had in my professional career. She spotted the potential in me and with just a few words here and there really made me realize that I could do so much more. Without that little push, I would have stayed int he role I was in, happy enough but never really breaking into that next income tier.
That’s my first challenge to you all—recognize your cheerleaders!
Chances are, they’re already in your life, you just have to listen to what they’re telling you. It could be a boss, a co-worker, a friend, a loved one. Most times we get stuck in our own thought patterns and don’t even notice the little clues that these people are giving us. Be receptive and take those words to heart.
If, by chance, you don’t already have cheerleaders in your life, go and find them!
Look for people you admire, get closer to them, work with them, ask for feedback!
One last tip: Don’t be like me! Don’t wait for the tap on the shoulder . . . go and get it!
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