We’re out of the gate with five #Thoughtstarter questions this week.

  1. How often have you found yourself reacting to something before you knew all of the facts?
  2. Have you ever felt negatively about a situation and that same situation turns out to have a hugely positive impact in your life?
  3. When have you been disappointed between what you wanted and what you received?
  4. When have you moved forward with a decision because, while not knowing every detail, you knew it was what needed to be done?
  5. When was the last time you acted with the belief that the risk/reward ratio was worth it because you knew you and your abilities?

Welcome to the questions that cover the range of feelings, emotions and perspectives I had about my first job out of college.

What I knew in my gut at the time, and what I’ve come to recognize in reflection, is that my first job out of college was best represented in one word…

Opportunity

It was nothing more and nothing less. My first job out of college owed me nothing and yet required everything from me as a young professional. I expected everything and had truly demonstrated nothing other than my initiative, attitude and intent to that point.

The person that hired me was willing to give me an opportunity with only a limited knowledge and understanding of my real ability to generate a return on investment. Their decision was based on the classic risk/reward ratio. My decision was based on the same ratio only from a different view through the lens of my clarity versus theirs.

In considering the opportunity of my first job out of college, I wasn’t mature enough to consider the risk someone else was taking. I was only prepared to understand the risk I wanted to avoid personally and financially.

My First Job Out of College

“This is what going to college did for me?” Those are the exact words that ran through my head when the job offer was made. Toy Manager Trainee and a starting salary of just over $18K. To be clear, I wasn’t ungrateful. I was just a bit shocked between my thinking around “management position” and “competitive salary” and what was being presented.

I had gone through three interviews and my final interview was with the district vice president. This is the same person that made the job offer. No doubt that the look on my face was not hidden well and came across as a mixture of shock and confusion. Recognizing the disconnect, the words that he spoke next forever changed the course of my life… and that’s not an overstatement.

“We are a growing company looking for people who want to be leaders. Leaders who want to grow, develop and advance. If you join our team, the opportunity for leadership advancement and financial growth will be significant. This is simply the starting point. We are ready to invest in you if you are ready to invest in the opportunity to be a part of our company.”

“Wait… Am I enlisting in the military or receiving a job offer?” I thought to myself. Intrigued and challenged would be how I describe how I felt at that moment. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a growing company? I’m intense, driven and relentless about goals. This sounds like a well-placed challenge, appropriately represented, to a guy just out of college lacking a real awareness and at the same time full of a don’t quit work ethic.”

The company was Meijer out of Grand Rapids, Michigan and for nearly 15 years, that company and the people that I had the opportunity to work with shaped my awareness, understanding and knowledge as a professional and helped me maximize the relationship between opportunity and my potential as a person.

Fast Forward

As someone develops, perseverance must be present and have its impact. My belief is that this is where awareness, insight, understanding, maturity and completeness come from. Needless to say, as I grew in my leadership, other leaders who mentored me, particularly early in my career, demonstrated untold levels of both perseverance and patience.

The great part about working for a privately-held, family-owned company was the direct interaction, influence and feedback people at all levels of the company received from the owners themselves. Fred Meijer embodied this approach with people. During a conversation that Fred had with me as a new store director, he gave me this advice. “No matter what your role in the company, you’re never above pushing a shopping cart or bagging groceries. If there’s trash on the floor, we pick it up. If a customer needs help, you help them. You help your people succeed and they will help you succeed. You need people.”

Impactful? I’d say so. The conversation took place nearly 28 years ago at a corner table in a store restaurant with a parking lot view in Taylor, Michigan. Store 35 as it was referred to internally. The store where I had started my first job out of college as a toy manager trainee was now the store and team of people that I was leading.

The Greatest Investments You Can Make

In the journey of our lives, personally and professionally, we must be alert to the moments, investments and lessons that shape each of us. Two of the greatest investments we can make are in people and in ourselves. It is in the investment of others and others investing in us that we can understand the importance of our accountability as human beings and as leaders.

Opportunity is a chance. A set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. My first job out of college was my first opportunity. What was your first job? What was the first chance you took to maximize your opportunity?

In the week ahead let me encourage you to invest in the time to reflect: To think back about the many firsts in your life that have shaped where you find yourself today. Consider the successes and failures, the starts and stops. Imagine how your life would be if the fear of the unknown or the requirement for certainty prevented you from stepping into opportunity.

This week, let me encourage you to take a moment, a minute or as much time as is necessary to thank a person who invested in, shaped and mentored you.

There have been so many people who have invested in me during the course of my career and life that I wake up every day with relentless commitment and passion to generate a return on that investment by helping the generations of leaders in family business maximize their potential and the potential of the people they lead.

True to his word, the opportunity for leadership growth and financial advancement was significant and that opportunity along with others of significance forever shaped the course of my career and life.

This week I conclude with a simple thank you to Bob J. for offering me my first career opportunity out of college. Your willingness to invest is appreciated, valued and recognized to this day.

Until next week,

Brent

P.S. Let me know about a time you took the risk and maximized your opportunities in the comments.