SelectOne Blog

Life Lessons from My First Job


Nearly 20 years ago, my alarm clock (not iPhone app) jolted me awake at 3:15am so I could go to my first job.  This harsh new reality was a 4:30am shift start at James Desiderio, Inc., a business run by extended family, as a warehouse worker and soon to be delivery truck driver.  This was the year I developed what would become a lifelong love affair with coffee.

 I lasted six months before downshifting to something more conducive to balancing with school; at the time, I didn’t fully realize the valuable lessons I’d absorbed from this job.

Preconceptions can get you into trouble.  In my head I had expectations of five day, 40-hour work weeks.  Then I arrived for my first day, worked from 4:30am until around noon, at which time I was told to sweep the front walk area of the warehouse.  I swept quickly, thinking this was my cue to finish the shift; little did I know a couple hours worth of prep work for the next day were still ahead. And after five of those weekdays, a standard 8 to 9-hour shift awaited on Saturdays, as did a 6-hour shift most Sundays.  My preconception was quickly shattered with a new standard of what it really meant to work hard.  

Never underestimate the value of hard work.  I worked hard.  But not harder than those around me.  The leadership team routinely put in 70+ hour work weeks.  I had the unique vantage point of working at Desiderio's while they were laying the groundwork for a significant expansion; in retrospect, it’s clear how seriously they took the responsibility of employing many people and providing great customer service. This hard work was the manifestation of dedication to their craft.

Building a successful business takes dedication.  Working hard isn’t just about hours on the job. It’s about dedication to one’s craft, pursuing excellence, constantly striving to build the better mouse trap.  At the time I worked in the warehouse, it was located in a multi-story, century-old industrial complex, inefficiently laid out for modern inventory movement methodologies and processes. Thus, inventory was constantly being shuffled and reorganized on a never-ending quest to be able to pull orders faster, cycle count with higher accuracy, and deliver more value and better quality to the customer. 

Accountability is king – even with customers.  A few times I came in late, exhausted from a 12-hour shift the day before.  4:30am turned into 4:49 more instances than I’d care to admit; and nearly every time I was caught slinking in late, coffee in hand, I was reminded what time I start.  Funny thing is nobody in a leadership role was ever late – they were nearly always there early.  My first week of driving solo on deliveries, I faced a challenging situation with a notoriously confrontational, long-standing customer who accused me of botching the delivery.  After a verbal assault, he shorted me $100 cash (likely on purpose); my uncle (CEO), when confronted by the Receivables department with a shortage, asked me if perhaps the money had fallen out of the cash box, or slipped under the seat of the truck.  After recounting the incident, he instantly knew the angle being played by this particular customer; he picked up the phone and let the customer know that while Desiderio’s valued their business, they would not allow for mistreatment of anyone on their team.  I was sent back to collect the $100 shortage, and the customer genuinely apologized.

These lessons carried me into subsequent jobs, ultimately to SelectOne, and are a daily influence on interactions with our team, customers, candidates, vendors, and the broader business community.  They're among the first lessons learned the hard way on the job, but they really can be leveraged to any job or career change.  

Changing jobs is challenging enough, but being closed-minded makes it all but impossible – instead go into a new situation refreshed and ready to learn.  Don’t expect things to come easy, since they rarely will – instead, expect to pour a heavy dose of good old-fashioned hard work into the equation.  And dedication separates those who “go to work” everyday from those who achieve the elevated state of building something far more meaningful: a career.  But above all else, go the extra mile to show those alongside for the journey that you’ve got their back.  


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