I got my first job at 14 years old. I was a sandwich artist at Subway and let me tell ya - it was a dream job. It was also the first time I got fired, but that’s not the point of this post. Every job you have, no matter how menial, teaches you important things and sets you up for success later on down the road.
I played sports growing up and always had chores to do at home, but when you get your first job it’s more of a time commitment and you begin earning your own money. Subway is where I really learned the value of hard work and work ethic. If I wanted a weekend off to attend a party or something, I was going to have to work during the week and get my homework done in a timely manner.
My next job was at a local retirement home. They had a 5-star dining room where everyone wore a tie. Unfortunately, I can’t even remember how to tie a tie anymore. The biggest lesson I learned at Asbury was to never refer to the older women as “guys.” We couldn’t go up and say, “Hey guys, what would you like to drink?” I learned to consider how other people want to be referred to and to make sure I was always being appropriate.
I went to Old Dominion University knowing I wanted to work in Athletics. When I got there, I knew I wasn’t going to find the most glamorous job, but I decided I would do whatever it was I did well. I ended up working in the Wrestling Office and licked envelopes for recruiting mailers. It was my first office experience and I really came to understand how relaxed sports offices can be. I learned that if you get your job done right and on time, there is fun to be had. I built relationships that propelled my career and also forged friendships. It was a great introductory role in sports.
My connections from the Wrestling team got me a gig with our Marketing and Promotions team on campus where I became an expert T-Shirt roller. I actually really didn’t even work on the promo team because that summer my supervisor told me about a new social media role and asked me if I would be interested. I had shared with him that I was interested in marketing and social media and he knew that I had graphic design experience. While this wasn’t relevant initially, I shared where I wanted to go in sports with him and he remembered. A similar thing happened the next summer: I had mentioned wanting to be an EmCee or host for a few events. When the athletic department went in a different direction for our In-Game Host, I was the first person he asked. Always be open with your supervisors and let them know what you’re interested in beyond what you currently do. You never know where those conversations can lead down the road.
I loved my jobs at ODU during college but I wasn’t working over the summer and I still had bills to pay. I ended up getting a job at the local Triple-A baseball team, the Norfolk Tides, as a server in the restaurant. I wanted to work in more of a game day role but at first, that was the only job I could get. I stayed there for a few seasons before finally landing a spot on the Promotions Team. I had tried out and not made it before actually landing the gig, but I showed how passionate I was when I persevered and continued to apply. If you don’t get something initially, reflect on your shortcomings and try again.
The summer going into my senior year at ODU I got an email on the listserv about our box office needing some game day help. I knew graduation was imminent and wanted to bolster up my resume anyway I could, plus I knew the hiring supervisor very well. I applied to be a box office associate but ended up working half days in the sales department generating leads and coming up with theme night ideas. I didn’t let the parameters of the job I was hired for hold me back from going above and beyond. In both the full-time jobs I’ve had since I’ve been told that this experience alone is what really pushed my resume over the edge for them to pull the trigger on hiring me.
My first full-time job was working in Group Sales at KU. Once I got there, I realized it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. A few months in I spoke with my supervisor and told him I was going to start looking for jobs, but I didn’t give up on my current job. I continued to go full-steam ahead and break sales records while I applied for jobs in my off time. I ended up getting an offer to work for their corporate office doing social media, which is exactly what I wanted. I didn’t accept that job but I did learn a valuable lesson: if you work hard, companies will do what they can to keep you. So if you are in the wrong position, that’s okay. As long as you continue to do your job, things will work out.
Last off-season with the Stripers, I found a gig working part-time with the local minor league hockey team, the Atlanta Gladiators. I didn’t have a lot of responsibility but I did learn a lot. It was great getting to see how another local team operated from the inside, and that’s where I learned that side hustles are what you make of them. I discovered this new technology the Gladiators used, Sporfie, and ended up bringing it back to the Stripers this season. It really upped our level of content on social media and I would have never have known about this had I not picked up a side job in my free time to continue learning.
Every job you have, whether you liked, loved it, or hated it, will teach you something. There’s always a lesson to be learned, you just have to be open to it. What lessons have you learned throughout your career?