Leveraging Your Career Culture

Developing Good Career Habits Early on Will Serve the Rest of Your Career.

Even the most mundane, front-line roles – whether doling out room keys as a front-desk motel clerk or dishing up burritos and serving beer at your local Mexican restaurant – are of value, not just to the customer, but to you, in developing your career reputation.

You may perceive your early roles as mainly a means to an end; e.g., for college students, jobs often tie directly to paying for textbooks, entertainment and basic living expenses while you prepare for your ‘real’ job. Therefore, you miss prime opportunities to create shiny, bankable career coins. By making regular deposits, you can nurture a positive reputation and network of career advocates that will help shepherd you to more meaningful roles.

I encourage all early careerists to realize that, whether you are 18, 25 or 45, each job in your career arsenal is potentially bankable and, if you attend to it with enthusiasm and as a problem-solving, customer-focused contributor, you can build a career-propelling resume, and as a result, the career to which you aspire.

March Madness, a Motel and a Mexican Meal

In a recent trip to Lake Texoma (Texas), my husband, Rob, and I played the role of customer in a series of initiatives that reinforced for us the value and impact of early-career, front-line staff members.

In one example, 30 minutes outside of Durant, Oklahoma, we vetted pet-friendly motels and dialed the Comfort Inn.

“We have no rooms for the night, Mr. Poindexter,” explained the youthful motel clerk. “In fact,” she asserted excitedly, “It’s March Madness, so you won’t find a room from here to Atoka!”

Frustrated by her sweeping response, but undeterred, we called the Days Inn, which was just across the street, and were met with a prompt and amenable, “Yes, we have rooms available!”

We instantly booked an overnight for two adults and one pet.

Rob and I were curious that the first motel clerk snapped to a conclusion that, essentially, we were out of luck in finding a room for the night in her city, or the neighboring town. Rather than take a moment of her time and suggest a possible alternative solution (such as the name of another motel in the area), in effect, she waved us off.

Checked into the Days Inn, we ambled over to a Mexican restaurant. This was a clean, calm venue that was underwhelmed by customers and appeared to have more than a sufficient ratio of wait staff to diners. A friendly young server approached us, and, though sweet, she was a bit sluggish in tending to our needs. It was as if she was on ‘island time;’ yet, there was no island, no ocean, no pleasant sea breeze to distract while we awaited our orders.

The first issue occurred when my dinner order was misinterpreted. After we alerted the server, she swept away the dish, along with all silverware, and the new meal perfunctorily was placed before me. We scrambled to locate replacement utensils.

Next, we ordered a Corona Light, which they had run out of; rather than being proactive and presenting us an alternative option, the server reflexively returned to our table empty-handed.

Moreover, throughout the dining experience, we were met with casual regard, and whether seeking out a missing set of silverware, a replacement for a wrongly delivered dinner or a substitute beverage, the minutes ticked by, and the onus, therefore, was on us, to direct our server to fulfill our needs.

In both of these instances, these young ladies overlooked opportunities to build value with us, and possibly expand their career reputation that could benefit them down the road.

Leveraging Your Ordinary Job to Create Extraordinary Career Value

No matter how lowly or ordinary the job may seem, it’s important to create your career culture early. Even though Rob and I realized the people serving us were probably not earning a lot of money, we were still the customer and were expecting good service.

Rest assured, careerists, though your simple gestures of problem-solving and customer care may seem small, in and of themselves, cumulatively they will sell your future value, and you never know whom you may meet who not only cares about how much you care, but who will also care enough to extend your message beyond the four walls of your diner, motel or other service arena and help lift your career goals to a new level. The impact, therefore, of your simple gestures, can be exponentially valuable to your overall career goals, and help you to be the culture you desire to attract.

So, your reputation builds and customer advocates multiply while your strategic problem-solving, customer service, leadership skills and talents also become more honed. Ultimately, your resume story becomes robust and compelling, advancing your career satisfaction and culture!