When people ask what I do for a living, I often answer with "I travel and talk to people". This is oversimplifying but it's essentially true. However, let's dive a little bit deeper into my career, how I got here, and where I plan to go. Maybe you can relate and/or be inspired by my path and in turn it will help yours.
Where did it all start?
The first time I can remember making money was when I collected pop cans and returned them for change. Growing up, we could barely afford food so this was the only way I could buy what I thought were the "good things in life", AKA candy. I eventually started selling candy on the bus to school. This started with auctioning off Halloween candy then taking that money to buy big bags of more sought after candy to flip. Once I got a bike, a friend gave me a portion of his paper route which really changed the game for me. I considered it my first real job which provided me with confidence. I even sacrificed an entire Summer, which is a big deal as a kid, to work for my grandparents. They built a new home and needed help cleaning the yard. This entailed many jobs but one of the worst was picking thousands of rocks out of the dirt then moving them with a wheel barrel outside of where grass would be planted. It was dirty, hot, back-breaking work but it was worth the money at the end of that Summer. It bought me the nicest bike in school, a brand new silver Mongoose with four chrome pegs and all the works. This again reminded me that money, AKA working hard, would bring the "good things in life".
By the time I was 12 years old, I had stopped going to school and was working full time with a traveling carnival. The job duties included setting up an interactive game in each city we traveled to then operating the game until the carnival ended. My commission was 10% of all sales. I made roughly $600.00 - $1,000.00 per city (14 days with travel) which made me feel rich as a child. All of this money went to helping support my family and buying everything a pre-teen could imagine. I had a new tv, PlayStation, mini fridge filled with snacks, and even a disco ball. Yes, I had a disco ball in a room on one of the trailers that we traveled with... What more could a 12 year old ask for? After a year and a half of doing this, I moved in with my grandparents and went back to school.
Even though my main focus was getting good grades and competing in sports, I worked at a golf course until I was old enough to get a job at KFC where I worked until college came around. I stuck to my belief that working hard would provide the better things in life which was what those jobs did for me. Only now, the good things in life were clothes and sports gear. All the past experiences had one thing in common which was business. I loved learning about successful businesses and owners as well as businesses that failed and why. I realized that my passion was to help a company be successful, so that was exactly what I went to college to learn how to do.
College brought some interesting jobs to say the least. I worked at a chain of pawn shops where I learned to negotiate, a chain of liquor stores where I was paid under the table, a Little Caesars fast food pizza restaurant where we did more drinking than working, and to this day my favorite of all previous jobs which was a landscaping gig for a business that my good friends family owned. Landscaping was hard work but being a part of a family owned business gave me more insight on how a business works than any other experience had. This, along with working at multi-million dollar properties, motivated me to take school more serious than I was.
When did things begin to get serious?
Later in my college years, I found an internship which is where I began my professional career. I felt out of place, at first, because I hadn't yet worked for a big business but was determined to prove myself. I did just that by doing anything that was asked of me and soaking up any information that was presented. I worked overtime every week which showed how committed I was. When the internship was over, a full time position was offered but I turned it down to challenge myself with a new company and a more challenging role. For anyone reading this, I recommend taking more chances while you're young and have less responsibility. There's a good possibility that it will change the entire directory of your career. If it's made for a good reason, it will move you in the right direction. A few weeks before graduating, I landed the job of my dreams (at the time) and prepared to make an impression. I proved myself, later landing additional responsibilities and in turn financial promotions. Over the next 6+ years, I spent time with that company and another doing warehouse/inventory management, purchasing, operations, and project management. My career came with more promotions, international travel, and vast business experiences. These were great years of my life.
Even though I felt some success in my career and had profitable side gigs and investments, there was something missing. I wasn't learning anymore and I felt like my income level was capped. The only solution that I could think of was to move up the ladder with another company or work in sales. However, working in sales was my biggest fear. I didn't think I would do well because of the crippling anxiety and insecurities I felt. Family and friends thought I would be great in a sales position but I wasn't convinced. So, I decided to climb the ladder with a new company. However, just as the search began it ended.
What do I do now?
Earlier this year, I was approached by a local company to run one of the sales departments. I had always turned down these opportunities, in the past, but this time it was different. They were not only the best fit for what I was looking for but it was also the perfect timing. I had enough of being scared and decided I was going to let courage outweigh my fears.
Since I've made the decision, it's been a year of growth. I feel like this is what I was meant to do, at this point in my life, because I'm uncomfortable which is pushing me to grow and learn on a daily basis. My job entails managing a sales department, which consists of making decisions and/or changes to department processes. Managing customers is what takes up the most amount of time. The biggest of the department is to grow sales which is done by creating solutions for our customers. A typical day could be traveling to current or potential customers to offer assistance or it could be handling whatever demands the department has. Each day is different from the last which keeps me on my toes. It's been a great year of growing in terms of knowledge, experience, and income. I'm grateful for the opportunity, overcoming my biggest fear, and what is to come.
I think the next step for me is to humbly master the art of selling and problem solving along with growing my investment portfolio. Thats it! This simple to write goal will entail a large amount of work and education. Taking this leap of faith taught me that I can succeed in sales but also that I have so much to learn. I often hear people say that they grew their career the most in their thirties and now that I have a three at the beginning of my age, it looks like that may be true for me as well. If you made it this far, I hope there was something gained. Feel free to connect with me via social media or email if you want to talk career, business, investments, or something else. Until next time...
Greg is a Grand Rapids, Michigan native with a passion for personal growth.