My first paid job was sitting pool side as an attendant. I sat for hours waiting for members of a very exclusive club on the East Side of Manhattan to come in, spend some time swimming, then go back to their busy, fast-paced lives. I would give them an all importnat towel and show them to a room in the changing area. I learned a lot about a lot.
All of my bosses during the years I worked there were quite meticulous – cleanliness was next to nothing – it was everything. We cleaned constantly. Inventory had to be kept precisely, suits and other belongings had to be stored in member lockers; no one was to be kept waiting and tips were not to be accepted.
I counted thousands of towels, interacted with many people I would never been in the same circle with, worked with some very talented people as well. My take-aways from this job will serve me well for the rest of my life:
- Take the time to put things in order. It may not seem important but not having an idea of what you have and what you don’t is extremely stressful. I learned that counting or preparing even the smallest things make a job much easier day-to-day.
- Your co-workers can help and harm you. Be cognizant of who is around you, their motives, but don’t be afraid to be taught or ask questions.
- Keep looking for opportunities – from attendant, I became a lifeguard and a swimming instructor. I even was a substitute for my supervisor before the age of 20.
- Engage. Doesn’t matter where you are from, people are always curious – it is human nature. I interacted with women and men who held powerful positions in Fortune 100 companies, film producers, politicians, and many people whose wealth and power were centuries-old – you know, the people who museums, wings of hopsitals and towering skycrapers are named for. They were as interested in how I was doing with my studies in college and my pursuits as I was in their amazing lives. One day….. its nice to dream; its better to have a goal.
It’s nice to dream, it’s better to have a goal. The people in that organization, from supervisors to “big bosses”, prominent family members and immigrant co-workers – the concept of resilience was the common thread.
So be open – listen, engage! Even at my age, I will never miss an opportunity to learn. Everyone has a story and an education can be an invaluable asset – we all need to remember to always look for the opportunity to learn.