Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful For Early Work Experience

The holiday season prompts reflection about the things for which we're thankful. This year my reflection is a bit different from years past.

I recently had a discussion with a colleague about what employers expect of our graduates. The next day I happened across a promotional piece that asked, "Would You Hire You?" The question provoked some thoughts about what is really important in today's workplace and how I may have acquired some of the skills that might actually result in me "hiring myself.”

Most employers want their employees to be hard workers, reliable, ethical, and willing to respect, serve and connect with others. Over the past decade, colleges have increasingly taken on the task of educating students – formally and informally – to gain these and other essential skills. The fact is that, not so many years ago, these skills were most commonly taught at home. I am most certainly thankful for learning the importance of these skills from my parents and am also thankful for the opportunity to apply them at a fairly young age.

As a teenager, I had the good fortune to work in the pro shop of the public golf course in my hometown. The golf pro, Denis Husse, who is still there all these years later, was a fantastic person who knew the importance of setting high expectations. He modeled the way, creating a vibrant workplace that made me want to be there. He used to tell us that the way we treated our customers could give our course the feel of belonging to an expensive private country club. We worked hard to learn golfers' names, showing interest in hearing about their round of golf (no matter the score!). We went the extra mile to show we appreciated them. We hustled to serve and make each golfer feel important. Denis also reinforced his belief that treating each other respectfully and professionally would translate into how we treated our guests. So we did, and it did.

I worked three summers there – opening the shop some mornings at 5:30 a.m. and/or closing at 9:30 p.m. – at times working as many as 70 hours in a week – and was rewarded way beyond my $3.50 hourly wage. I was educated by a great leader who didn't ask us to do anything he wouldn't do himself. The emotional intelligence he displayed so effortlessly back then is what I work on every day now – because I know how he made me and all my co-workers at the golf course feel. Thinking back now, it was a great initial experience for my working career.

I wonder, if I had not had the opportunity to work in that pro shop all those years ago, whether I'd be as willing to hire myself today ... and I'm thankful – to Denis and that old job – that I'll never have to answer that question.

To share an insight or thankful experience, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.