A Corn Field

Looking back on the years of my life this morning, I was thinking it would be an interesting exercise to review my work experience from earlier in my life, before college graduation and before the true start of my professional career, and examine one thing I am grateful for from each experience. I think it is important to look back to humble beginnings and the lessons learned through hard work and sweat.

  • For my experience detasseling corn at age twelve, I am grateful for the lesson of hard work and endurance.
  • As a bagger and conditioner at a grocery store, I am grateful for the early experience of interacting with regular customers who showed up like clockwork at the same time and day and engaged in friendly banter as I bagged their groceries and assisted them.
  • As a busboy and dishwasher, I enjoyed the nice, neat, and orderly stack of clean dishes at the end of my shift. The zen-like feeling that nothing was left undone as I clocked out and turned the lights out.
  • During my time as a line cook, I am grateful for the experience of working under pressure. To line up orders as they came in and start each meal on the grill at the right time so everything came up together and on time.
  • For my experience working at fast food restaurants like McDonaldโ€™s and Taco Bell, I am grateful for cultivating speed in getting orders completed.
  • During my time as an actor at the Mark Twain Outdoor Theater, I am grateful for connecting with the history of my hometown for the entertainment of thousands of tourists each summer. I am also grateful for the perfect summer job spent with childhood friends.
  • In my experience working on a factory assembly line, I am grateful to learn the importance of how each small individual task contributes to a complete whole of a much larger process. I am also grateful for my first experience applying for and being promoted to a new role at a company as a molder.
  • With my time working in an electronics department at a department store, I am grateful for earning commission by practicing ways to work in “protection plan” upsells into a pitch that weren’t annoying or infuriating.
  • For the time I spent baling hay for a local farmer, I am grateful for the experience of negotiating per unit pay and committing to work that you get done when the task is completed.
  • In my high school community service program, I was grateful for the experience at the Red Cross taking massive unorganized lists of donors and organizing them into spreadsheets and being able to easily organize the data once it was all entered.
  • During my time volunteering at a soup kitchen, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve those who would otherwise spend the evening without a meal.
  • For the time I spent working in a call center, I am grateful for the practice communicating effectively over the phone which was a real challenge being hearing impaired. I am also grateful for my first experience working with a company that accommodated my hearing impairment when it would have been easier to just avoid hiring me.
  • With the time I spent waiting tables, I am grateful for the experience of providing polite customer service, ensuring guests are well taken care of and maintaining composure with rude guests.
  • In my experience working in a casino as a slot machine attendant, I am grateful for the experience of understanding casino operations and how to optimize staff deployment on the floor to ensure customers are well serviced.
  • In my internship as IT staff at a steel plant, I am grateful for learning all about dummy terminals, how they work, and how shift managers utilized them on the plant floor.

I still remember the words of one of my co-workers at a restaurant when I headed off to college: “Don’t forget your roots.” It was these working-class jobs that helped me develop a strong work ethic and provided a foundation for my professional life. For that, I am forever grateful. For those of you who also came up working in restaurants as wait staff or line cooks, can you relate to occasionally having a nightmare about a table that has a missing order, all these years later?

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