Rule # 118- Keep Moving
The question submitted this week was from Andrew- How did I get my first job?
I graduated Penn State in August of 1981 during the rise of the recession. Good news is I graduated in 3 years, bad news I graduated into a 10% unemployment economy. Mortgage rates hit 18.75 the month I graduated- the highest ever . Nothing in the economy was working.
What made matters worse I had planned to eventually become a land developer and work for a major builder. I had a degree call “ man-environment relations (MER)” , and it was Bachelor of Science degree that supposedly prepared me to do site planning and environmental assessment . Unfortunately during the summer of 1981 no one was building or developing anything.
So I set out for my first “real job” unprepared, unqualified but very enthusiastic.
I had taken jobs starting when I was 15 when a friend of my Dad’s got me a prestigious job of raking up cigarettes butts from the gravel at the old West Point Amusement park. No, it was not as glamours as it sounds, it was far worse.
My Dad was extremely disappointed in me when I quit it after only 2 weeks. Giving up my opportunity in the entertainment industry.
I was confident that I could get something better than picking up butts and trash from gravel- I wanted the exciting world of food service.
The closest fast food place to my house was GINO’S , a now closed chain specializing in hamburgers ( Gino giant) and chicken ( KFC).
They were not hiring in 1976 but I applied 5x and was just annoying enough to get in the place.
Yes, I begged to make $1.83 training wage in 1976 and was overjoyed to proudly wear that poly- shirt and paper hat. That job gave me my own money, redemption from my father’s West Point disappointment and some of the best friends I have ever known. I was one of the worse chicken cooks they ever hired- but what I lacked in skill I made up for in dependability and resilience. I quickly realized the fact that I had no social life, and lived only a 10 min walk away gave me the most important skill of any job I ever had- I showed up. I showed up a lot -enough that I averaged over 40 hrs a week.
And when I wasn’t working I was going out with co-workers – Jim, Jeff, Al, Marie, Ken, Rick. The list goes on. This job changed me in ways I can never fully thank the company for, it taught me what working could give you.
Not just a paycheck, but pride and a place in the universe. I amassed some pretty impressive wins in my life, and significantly more than my old $100 pay checks, but everything I needed to know to be successful came from those first 2 years in the chicken room.
So when I started to look for my first post graduation job I approached it with the same excitement and confidence. I took 80 + interviews at Penn State and sent out 500+ letters- and received a grand total of 1 offer. From Franco Harris, of immaculate reception fame, fast food chicken franchises in Pittsburgh as an assistant manager. I declined the offer but only after getting to meet Mr Harris in Pittsburgh. Yes it was 13k a year, but he was Penn State royalty (rest in peace)
I then took a internship with Montgomery County planning commission- making virtually nothing but at least having a platform for another job. It lead to an offer as assistant township manager for Soudertown, Pa – but it was clearly a low pay, dead-end job. So I kept looking- kept moving.
I was never the most qualified for a job, I just had the persistence to keep trying. I applied everywhere- I mean everywhere.
Eventually a friend of my dad’s told him they were hiring trainees at Harleysville Insurance- so I got an interview. While waiting in the lobby I picked up “Philadelphia Journal “ that had a pic of the woman I was going to interview with receiving her CPCU. In those 10 mins I read what a CPCU was, what a underwriter was and had just enough Info to handle the interview.
I sounded sincere and excited about wanting to become an underwriter and pursue a CPCU ( whatever that was) – she bought it and I got $13,500!
Throughout all this process I now realize the only reason I got a job , and eventually a career in insurance was I never stopped. I kept pushing even when the job was above my head and I was not qualified. Facts be damned, I needed a job and I wasn’t going to stop.
I think that’s the secret- never stop moving. Never listen to those who say it won’t happen- just keep moving.