Recently, I participated in a 10 day business challenge blitz from Spiritual Bada&* Entrepreneurs, and one of the challenges was to share three personal stories. The sponsor of the blitz, Amethyst Mahoney’s idea is these stories not only shape us, who we become as adults, but as entrepreneurs, it also fuels our motivation for why we do what we do, and serve who we serve. (Don’t you just love the name Amethyst?)
Part one of the challenge was to share the stories within the group. Sure, I thought, easy peasy.
Part two of the challenge was to share one of your stories with those who you serve, through your business channels. WHAT??!! Ah, this is not so easy; it is scary; and it is Daring Greatly time (cue the lovely Brene’ Brown).
The one story I know it is time for me to share helped me understand why I love the hospitality and call centers industries, and the larger customer service industry. It does fuel the “why” I do what I do, and my respect for employees who do these important jobs. So without further adieu…
I am a high school drop out
There I said it. It was a badge of dishonor I wore for a very long time.
High school was a difficult for me. It was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, and I had several family events happen over the same 2 to 3 years. There was more to it the story, but overall this once highly aspiring young person turned into a sad, lonely, overweight, and clinically depressed teenager.
According to National Institute of Mental Health, “In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.” So I was probably in good company with other teens at my school. But at the time, all I felt was a deep loneliness with no hope, or sunshine, in her life.
I attempted to make up for lost time senior year with almost double course load after flunking my junior year. It became too much. In my mind, I couldn’t add more failure on to my overwhelming sense of failure the previous year, so I cut my losses and dropped out March before graduation.
I was devastated and lost. This was not how my story was supposed to go. I had no Plan B. I earned my GED in August of that year, but it took me ten more difficult years to find the mental health assistance I needed and my path back to college. Most importantly it was a journey for me to learn to love learning again. My passion has become helping others love workplace learning.
But What to Do For Work?
This is why I love the hospitality and call center industries. During those 10 years, I worked 8 years in hospitality, primarily hotel operations, and 3 years as a call center agent, and I mostly loved it. (Of course no job is perfect. J) People who don’t go to college, for whatever reason, still need a job to support their families and contribute to society. These industries offered me solid jobs, and developed a strong foundation set of skills that have served me well.
Those positions, and the leaders I was fortunate to have, taught me about integrity, having pride in accomplishing a task to the best of my ability, working on a successful teams, conflict management, defining problems and developing solutions, just to name a few.
They are those precious soft skills that everyone needs to be successful, and they aren’t taught so much in college. No one even every asked me about my school experience, either, which was a huge relief.
As for the hard technical skills, many employers sponsored me to take classes, either informally through their learning ‘universities’ or formally. Most of them had college tuition programs that eventually lead me back to school.
Good People Doing Great Work
My experience in those roles showed me that intelligent and talented service employees and leader are all over the spectrum with their educational backgrounds. People don’t go to college for all sorts of reasons: some had children unexpectedly young; some had medical issues; some didn’t want the burden of enormous debt; some people need to help their families; some like me, had a challenging high school experience so continuing wasn’t their goal.
The reasons are all over the place, but rarely is it lack of intelligence.
Knowing this, when I teach my classes, I teach them as true skill building, like a mini university class. The people I teach are smart, regardless of their past education history, and they do incredible work.
I eventually earned my associates, bachelors, and master’s degrees. I am one of the few people I know who actually work in the field of my master’s, which is adult education, training and staff development. Does it make me better at what I do? In somethings, I think so. But would I be a poor training manager without all the initials? It would depend on my professional experience.
When I was in the corporate environment, I felt many soft skill programs, especially customer service programs were insulting and talked to service professionals like they were children. I hated it! That’s why I went out on my own to develop an intelligent class that speaks to the real experience of working with customers.
So that is why I do what I do, why I passionately serve those who hire me, and I am grateful I have the opportunity to do so.