I have always been a talker. Being the youngest of four children, I learned at a very early age that vocalizing your thoughts can take you places you would have never thought possible. Sometimes this meant my big brothers’ closet because that’s where they put the little sister that talks too much, but other times it meant getting a few extra minutes of my parents’ time to help me with homework. Or maybe it was the clarification of what pedal I’m supposed to be pushing while learning to drive a manual, or insight as to what I should study and where. I learned that conversation can be a very powerful, very useful tool.
When I went to college, I never anticipated that I would graduate without a set plan in place. I worked as a barista at a major retailer during my schooling, even picking up shifts in other departments to pay my way through college. I had an internship the summer prior to my graduation, but it didn’t blossom into a job offer as I was hoping. Instead, graduation came and I crossed the stage, received my diploma, and felt the weight of the world pressing down on my shoulders. The retailer was willing to transfer me to a store closer to family, and a fitness club nearby needed a customer service supervisor. Because I had no other options, I decided to work both while I figured out what to do next. It was far from the image I’d had in my mind of what I would be doing with my degree. I had just spent four years studying business. And there I was, still making coffee and signing up new gym members. Granted, I got to meet a lot of neat people and my coworkers were wonderful. But juggling one full-time and one part-time job fresh out of college was exhausting and downright disappointing. Most days I worked morning shifts at the club, then finish the day with a few hours at the retailer. It was all too easy to let myself feel frustrated and upset, and staying positive at work grew to be a challenge.
And then my entire life changed with a conversation. I was in a particularly bad mood that day because traffic had made me late to work, and the first three people I assisted wanted to cancel their gym memberships. Then a man walked in and asked for a printout of his visits to the gym. I asked him why, and he explained that his company paid for his gym membership but required proof of use. I casually mentioned that it was a neat initiative for employees, and he agreed and shared his experience at the club so far. As I went about helping him, the printer jammed. My frustration was building but I tried to stay positive and continue our conversation. I actually ended up walking with him down the hallway to the only office that had a working printer, and we continued talking. He told me all about his line of work, assisting people into jobs they love. The more he shared, the more interested I became in the company.
When we reached the office, I was finally able to print off the record of his gym visits. He mentioned he might actually have an opportunity for me since I seemed friendly and had a ‘good head on my shoulders’. Was I interested? Was I interested? In having ONE job, having my weekends back, and not constantly feeling exhausted? Of course! He gave me a business card and told me to send him my resume and my availability to meet with his team. I reached out to him the moment I got home that evening.
Less than a week later, I found myself in his office, sitting across the table from three of his colleagues. We discussed a few different opportunities they had available, but none of them sounded like a fit. One was too far of a drive, another was too unstable of a schedule, etc. But we had such wonderful conversation, I had a hunch that something was going to work out with this company. Finally, his manager came in and spoke with me about my background, asking if I would be interested in an internal position as a recruiter with the company. It was a career I had never thought of, but the company and its employees had already impressed me from our interaction thus far, and it seemed like an excellent cultural fit. I told him yes, I was absolutely interested, and he decided to move forward with bringing me on board. I had my interview right then and there, received an offer a few days later, and gave my two weeks’ notice to the retailer and the fitness club the next day. My entire life changed within three weeks, all thanks to a conversation.
It is all too easy to shut down and be miserable when you’re frustrated, tired, or things just aren’t going your way. But in any setting – personal or professional – it always works in your favor to put your best foot forward and pull yourself out of your comfort zone. Every interaction leaves an impression. Every person you connect with can provide a different viewpoint or insight you may have never considered. And every conversation has the potential to open new doors. To this day, I’m so thankful to that gym member for having that conversation with me and introducing me to his company. (We still work together!) Its lead to a challenging but rewarding career and so many opportunities and new connections that I would have never found otherwise. That’s the power of great conversation: you truly never know where it can take you.
Samantha Hohnstadt is a Resource Development Manager at Modis, a global leader in the staffing industry. She is also an avid blogger, yoga enthusiast, and traveler. When she’s not helping candidates connect with new opportunities in metro Detroit, she’s working on her blog ‘She Goes Simply’, networking, or spending time with friends and family.
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