During the fall semester of my senior in high school (1974), my friend Dennis told me about a new grocery store that had opened in the Westlake Shopping Center (across the street from Northwoods Mall). The name of the store was Randall’s, and it was the first store in Peoria that had scanners at checkout lanes instead of cash registers, so items didn’t have to be rung up one at a time by hand. At that time, I was 17 years old. I asked Dennis for the name of the store manager, and he told me that his name was Steve.
The Friday after Dennis told me about Randall’s, I went home after school, got dressed up, and drove to Randall’s to apply for a job. After I walked into the store, I asked one of the women at the cash registers where Steve was. She pointed to a room that was near the public restrooms and told me that he was in his office. When I walked over to the office, the door was open and there was a man sitting at a desk. I knocked on the door, and he looked over at me and invited me into his office.
I introduced myself and asked him if he was the manager of the store. He said yes. I told him that I was there to apply for a job. He responded that there were no positions available but that I could fill out an application if I wanted to and he would keep it “on file” for future reference.
After I completed the application, I handed it to Steve. He walked over to a four-drawer file cabinet, opened the top drawer, and stuffed the application in the drawer. The entire drawer was filled with completed applications. I asked him if it would be okay for me to check back with him periodically to see if any positions had opened up. He told me that if I wanted to check in with him I could.
The following Friday after school, I got dressed up again and drove to Randall’s. I walked into the store and headed straight for Steve’s office. The door to the office was closed. I knocked on the door, but there was no response.
I walked over to a nearby cashier and asked her where I could find Steve. She told me that he was in the storage area that was located at the back of the store. I walked to the back of the store and asked one of the employees where I could find Steve. He said “come with me,” and walked through some doors into a large warehouse area. He pointed to Steve and said, “That’s him over there.”
I walked over to Steve and introduced myself again. I told him that I had stopped by the week before and filled out an application and that I was checking back with him to see if anything had opened up. He told me there were no positions available. I thanked him and left.
The following Friday I did the exact same thing. I got dressed up, drove to Randall’s, and hunted Steve down. He was in the produce section of the store when I found him. As soon as I walked over to him, he recognized me. We shook hands and I told him that I was checking in with him again to see if anything had opened up. He responded the same way as the previous week.
A week later, I stopped in the store again. I couldn’t find Steve so I asked one of the employees where he was. The employee told me that he was in the freezer area behind the milk display. I headed over to the dairy section and walked through the doors leading to the freezer area.
When I walked in, Steve was kneeling down, looking at some cases of milk bottles. When he saw me, he stood up and said, “Hey Harry. How’re you doing?” I replied, “I’m doing good.” I shook his hand and asked him if anything had opened up in the past week.” He looked at me and said, “Follow me.”
I followed Steve through the store and into his office. He grabbed a pencil off his desk and walked over to a schedule that was attached to a bulletin board on the wall. He said, “I don’t have a position for you, but I’m going to put you down to come in tomorrow night from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. to work. When you come in, I’ll have you fill out the paperwork. I can’t guarantee you any hours after that. We’ll see how you do tomorrow night, and go from there.”
I thanked Steve for giving me a chance to prove myself. I showed up the next night to work. Before Steve left for the day, he told me that he had put me on the schedule to work the following Friday and Saturday evenings. After that, he made me a regular part-time employee. It didn’t bother me that he had to cut some other employees’ hours to give me a job.
My friend Dennis was shocked that Steve had hired me. Dennis had several other friends who had applied for a position with Randall’s, and none of them had been offered a job.
Thirty years after Steve hired me to work at Randall’s, my son Harry graduated from Bradley University (2004). After graduation, I asked Harry if he had any companies in mind that he would like to work for, and he told me about a company in Morton, Illinois, that one of his professors had done some work for. I told him to do some research and learn as much as he could about the company and its owner.
After completing his research, Harry told me that the company was owned by three men who were equal partners. I helped him write a three-page sales letter and told him that he needed a CD with testimonials from two of his professors, a person he had worked for, and one of his classmates at Bradley. He contacted the four individuals and secured a recorded testimonial from each of them.
After putting the testimonials on a CD, Harry and I assembled three packages, each of which included the testimonial CD, the sales letter, a resume, and an interactive CD (with video footage) that Harry had created in one of his multimedia classes at Bradley.
We sent the packages by FedEx to each of the three owners of the company. Harry followed up a week later with a telephone call to the president of the company (one of the owners of the company). The president immediately knew who Harry was because of the FedEx package we had sent to him. After a short discussion over the telephone, he set up a time for Harry to come in for an interview.
After interviewing with the owners of the company, Harry was told that although they did not have a position open for him, they wanted to hire him for a few months on a temporary basis to see if he fit in with their company culture. They ended up offering Harry a full-time job before the trial period ended.
I pushed all seven of my children to get jobs during their high school and college years. Some of them worked for my law firm, while the others went out on their own and found jobs. There was one occasion when one of my college-age daughters told me she couldn’t find a summer job. My response was: This is America! Foreigners come into this country by the thousands and find work, despite the fact that they have no driver’s license and are unable to speak our language. I don’t ever want to hear you say that you can’t find a job. The truth is that you either don’t want to work, or you think you’re too good to take a position that’s available. Do you want me to wake you up in the morning so you can go out and find a job, or can you get up on your own?
She got up on her own the next day and found a sales job at a retail store that was located in Northwoods Mall. Within a month, she received two awards for providing excellent customer service.
Last week I wrote about the state of our economy and how the traditional full-time jobs we were once accustomed to had disappeared. I also wrote about the young man I met who has three part-time jobs and the woman who has five part-time jobs.
We currently have a record number of college graduates in our country who have moved back home with their parents and “can’t” find work. We also have millions of people who have given up on looking for work.
You’ve probably heard that story about the guy who is being chased by a bear; he stops and sits down to change into his running shoes. When his friend who was running alongside him says, “You’re not going to be able to outrun that bear with those shoes,” the man replies, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”
If I were looking for a job in this economy and couldn’t find a full-time position, I would get two or three part-time jobs and then do everything in my power to outperform all my fellow employees. After awhile, one of my bosses would recognize that I was more valuable than the other employees and would give me more hours. Eventually, I would work my way up to a full-time position. If that plan didn’t work, I would move to North Dakota where full-time jobs are plentiful.
This is America, the greatest country on earth. Yes, good-paying jobs are hard to find. All that means is that a person has to act like an American and use some bold creativity to land a job. Then from day one, the person has to approach his or her new job with the right attitude and consistently outperform every other employee in the company. Is that too much to ask? I hope not.