For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Leave a big hole...

Yesterday, the girls and I went on a grocery shopping trip at the store I used to work at. Now that dh officially has a new job (all the paperwork is signed and a start date it set) and we have an idea what hours he's working, there's no practical way for me to go back to the job. Since I've left, every time I go shopping, I get staff members I've worked with coming up to me and asking me if I'm coming back, wondering why I had to leave, and commenting on how much I'm missed. My kids laugh and tease me about it.

After the last shopping trip, I found myself remembering one of the seminars on tape I listen to on a regular basis. It goes back a few years, but I still remember it. The speaker's theme was "leave a big hole." He talked about how, when faced with opportunities, many people find excuses as to why they can't take them. One of the more frequent ones he's had is people going on about how important they are at their jobs, how vital their position is, and how much their companies need them. They are under the impression that they have job security. The speaker told of how he had one guy that was telling him all this, so he responded this way. He said to take a glass of water, put your finger into the water, then pull it out again. The length of time it takes for the water to fill in the hole your finger was in is about how long it'll take a company to replace you.

He then went on to talk about how, whatever job you have, it's imporant to do that job to the best of your abilities. A lot of people moan and groan about their jobs. The hours, the work, the people, the conditions... They may start out eager, but before long they're cutting corners and settling for "good enough." (I won't even touch the jobs were people are actually admonished for doing it "too well" because they're making their co-workers look bad) Few people, even those who enjoy their jobs, say positive things about them. The point he was trying to stress was that, even if you're a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper there ever was. Whatever your work is, be the best you can be at it. Constantly try to improve yourself and your skills. Find the joy in your work. Take pride in doing a good job. Do it because it's worth doing, because it's your job, not for external accolades, promotions, or whatever. He then went on to say how, by simply being the best at your own job that you are able to be, when the time comes to leave (and in this day and age, it's pretty much assured that you will), your absence will leave a big hole; one that will be difficult to fill.

I never needed a seminar to tell me to do my work well. This was something I learned from my parents. They never "taught" it to me. They never had to. I simply saw what they did. My parents, "uneducated," with questionable English and no certifiable skills, could do pretty much anything they put their minds to. No job was beneath their dignity; no job was too unpleasant to not do well. While there were certainly some jobs I simply couldn't bring myself to do (like gutting chickens - I could do every other part but that), even at a young age, I knew that it was me, not the job, that had a problem. The job needed to be done, so my parents did it. I don't think it ever occurred to them not to do a job well. Looking back, I remember doing jobs that, in retrospect, were pretty disgusting, but I did them. Quite a few were done without being asked. I saw it needed to be done, so I did it.

The funny thing is that, as the youngest of 5, I was by far the "laziest" of us all. With so many older siblings, I could get out of quite a few jobs my older siblings couldn't. I never thought of myself as being particularily hard working - certainly not compared to the rest of my family. Yet when it came time for me to be on my own, every employer I've ever had over the years has valued me for how well I do my job, and what a hard worker I apparently am. In one cases, I was amazed to find the owner even knew who I was, never mind knew me enough to write a glowing letter of reference, instead of getting one from the supervisor I'd originally asked.

It's always been rather a surprise for me, and what's happening now is no different. Sure, I was "just" a grocery store cashier, and I've certainly encountered people who would consider this sort of work as somehow beneath them, but status hardly matters to me. I always tried to keep in mind that mine was probably the last staff face the customer would see on the way out, so the impression I made would be the one that stuck with them the longest. The most important thing was the customer in front of me, and I enjoyed doing the little things, like always checking the eggs, wrapping a leakable item, bagging items efficiently, etc. These were things I appreciated as a customer, so why not do it as a cashier? It never occurred to me that this was any big deal until I had more and more customers telling me that in all their years of shopping, they've never had another cashier take that extra step, whatever that step happened to be. From this, I knew the customers appreciated it, but even if no one had actually commented, I'd do it anyways, because that was part of doing my job well. Now I'm starting to realize that other staff members, including ones I never worked with directly, appreciated things I did as well.

Like the speaker on the tape I listened to so many years ago said, I seem to have left a big hole.


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