Welcome to the Workforce – Work before Seminary

Originally this blog was going to be a group blog of a bunch of friends who would contribute something every now and then. The hope was to give a voice to second generation Asian-Americans who were serving in reformed circles, but it turned out I was the only one writing and no one was really reading – which I laugh about now. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at selling the idea and my approach regarding second-generation Asian-American ministries at the time didn’t exactly jive with a lot of people I came across.  However, since I already bought the domain names and have web hosting, this will become the ramblings of a tired old man that once again no one will read.

From the age of eighteen to twenty-eight, I made an hourly wage of less than $13. A good portion of this was due to the fact that I was pursuing a career in mental health counseling, but I’ll get into that later.

To date, the longest tenure I’ve had at any job is still at Target. For a full five years it ate my soul. I remember applying for the job in this dinky kiosk and going in for interviews as a scrawny college teenager.  Starting at $7.75 was amazing at the time and it wasn’t just any Target. It was a Super Target.

I was one of those bright-eyed new guys. Getting paid while watching sexual harassment videos that were made in the 90’s was awesome. The acting was terrible, and the dialogue was always delivered by people who seemed extremely uncomfortable with what they were saying. The first thing though I really ever learned was that no matter how much training an organization gives you, they will always throw you into the deep end and you will make mistakes. Training is expensive for a company no matter the industry. Essentially they’re paying you to sit there to read or get accustomed to the job you’ve just been given. However there’s sometimes no quicker way to get people up to speed other than having them do the real thing. Mistakes will be made, what matters is how you bounce back.

Some of the guests (customers) were truly horrendous.  I was naive at just how terrible some people could be.  There were guests who would just treat you like trash just because you simply because you worked in retail.  A woman once handed me her child’s school supplies list and proceeded to asked me to get everything for her.  I helped her find the first three items before I told her I didn’t have time for this. There was another time when someone asked me where an item was located and I told her the aisle.  She gave me a blank stare and repeated the question.  I looked at her dumbfounded and repeated myself louder, “E1. It’s down that way.” She paused for a second, turned away and muttered under her breath, “I thought you were speaking Chinese.” I was too shocked to respond.

On the flip side, I have met the hardest working people at Target.  For many of my co-workers, this was their second or third job of the day.  One of them was a grandmother who was a real estate agent, but worked at Target to supplement her income so that she could also support herself and her grandchildren when some months didn’t go so well.  I didn’t know that another of my co-workers worked a second job until he approached me to work with him at his other job after he saw me doing a few roundhouse kicks in logistics (backroom) to cool off- yeah I was that awkward.  He offered to introduce me to his manager at the strip club down the road to have me work with him as a bouncer.  I was a 130 pound dork with glasses, wearing khakis two inches too long and tattered shoes from my sophomore year in high school.  I shook my head and undoubtedly, we never talked about it again.

After college, I had a difficult time finding a decent job, much of this was due to the fact that I had a psychology degree and all the employers at my engineering school were looking for…well engineers.  I was pursuing a career in mental health counseling and I felt like this was just part of the cost – crummy jobs until a masters degree. Getting experience in the workforce before becoming a therapist was extremely important to me – I still strongly believe that. Unfortunately, no one exactly wanted a psych major at the time. Standing in a mismatched misfit suit, I remember talking to a recruiter from Amazon at the job fair. After I told him my major he looked at me without hesitation and said, “We don’t need people like you. Here, have a pen.”

My first job outside of college was for a temp agency doing data entry making around $11 an hour. It was 2007, and the recession was just starting to go into full swing. Went perm about 6 months later and the banking industry went bust a little after. One after another of our clients bankrupted leaving the company I was with a lot of stock that we owned and would never be able to sell.

There was a round of layoffs and everyone at the company took a 5% pay cut. I went into a mode where I stupidly thought if I could reduce operational costs, I would be able to help save people’s jobs – this meant I started working around 6 am to 6 pm for several months trying to figure things out.

  • Reviewed all of our sku’s and flagged anything that had a negative gross margin or was significantly lower than than where it should have been.
  • Performed dead stock analysis so that we could markdown the price to get them off the shelf to make room for more something that would improve the inventory turnover ratio.
  • Cleaned up duplicate material numbers so that I could properly perform analysis to set the correct safety stock, reorder points, MRP profiles, etc.
  • Reduce our on-hand raw materials inventory by over 60%.
  • I also implemented RBAC for the company on the ERP system that significantly reduced mistakes.

People were still being let go and I found myself devastated.  I remember walking over to a friend’s cubicle and seeing him starting to pack his bags and him telling me that he was let go.  I felt like I had failed and that was something I carried for a long time.  I ended up leaving when I started seminary. What I took away from all of this was:

  • To the company, everyone is replaceable. No one is truly in indispensable to any organization. There will be temporary pain and loss, but people get over it and move on. The long term loss at times isn’t quantifiable and it is only perceived as temporary. However, the true impact can only be felt by the people who remain and its usually only qualitative.
  • It’s not the job of your company to take care of you – at least not anymore. I used to go to the Target next to work and one day I ran into my 0ld LOD. He had chosen to take a pay cut and demotion so that he could spend time with his terminal daughter. Hearing that broke my heart.
  • Take charge of your career. No one is really going to spend the time and lay out a career path for you. Figure it out yourself and meander your way there. It may not be what you expected, but if you believe in God’s sovereignty it’ll be where you’re supposed to be.

Author: Richard

I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what I'm doing.

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