15 Years of Lessons….

This coming Monday, which is Memorial Day for us in the States, also is memorable in my eyes as well, because it’ll be 15 years since I began working as a front-end clerk in retail. As someone with autism, such a job as this can be considered daunting due to the pressures it entails (talking to people, multitasking, keeping a level head, etc) and it this anniversary made me reflect on what I’ve had to do to survive (and even thrive) in retail as a Spectrumite.

To that end, I’ve composed the following list of lessons I’ve learned which can be applied not only to retail but to all types of employment:

Make Your Mark: I’d like to pose the following questions to all who are reading: “What can you do to make people remember you? What can you do that no one else can?” Focus on your strengths, the positives, all the attributes that will make you a great employee and then let your talent shine. I remember an elderly customer when I was just learning the ropes who would be frustrated at the bottle machines for not accepting his bottles, he would then take out his aggression, both verbally and physically.

His unkempt appearance and his attitude made him feared among the store; making him smile would be considered a huge achievement in and of itself. I decided to be kind to him and explain that if the bottles weren’t being accepted, then I would write him a deposit slip which would make his life easier and that’s what I did every single time he came in. In return, he showed a great achievement indeed and smiled at me and it’s been one of my greatest accomplishments at my job.

In later years, I’ve found myself often explaining to customers now what (in my eyes, as a visual thinker) makes the machines tick, almost like an autistic version of Alton Brown. I have that elderly customer to thank for that, even though it’s been many years since and I don’t know where he is now.

A Punch of Positivity: How you look at the job affects the day; which in turn affects your performance. A positive attitude can do wonders for both yourself and others, sure we all have problems, drama and worries and all that jazz, but it’s important not to let it affect the work we do, which for some of us, is one more challenge on top of other challenges, but lean on the support of your friends, family and co-workers can make even the worse day a little bit better.

Proving Critics Wrong: This was the one that I needed to do the most work on because critics will always be around, a former supervisor of mine would be on me about multitasking and getting the most out of the workday, never seeing the attention to detail my work had brought forth. She looked at me while I was working on the bathrooms scrubbing the grout because I was (and still am to this day) focused on attention to detail, people had been raving about how great the bathrooms looked when I finished, they still do compliment me on that, but when my former supervisor finally saw the work I did, I felt like I finally won her over, another accomplishment in my job.

Rainy Day Saving: This is a lesson that I’ve learned relatively later in working and one that I can’t stress enough to those working now. I consider it very imperative in case disaster strikes (and more often than naught, it usually does.) Saving a baseline of 10 percent from your take home pay can mean the difference between having enough money versus not making ends meet. If you can save more than 10 percent do so, but a minimum of 10 percent should be in a saving account or inside your piggybank every week. Trust me, it may seem like a little to save up, but that 10 percent will grow over time, allowing you to achieve your dreams and desires, so I implore you not to spend all your money, even if the temptation is overwhelming, like Adrian Monk says, “you’ll thank me later.”

So, I can only hope that my lessons that I’ve learned are things that you can take into your own lives; your own circumstances. I’m going to sound like my favorite artist Billy Joel when I quote his song “Second Wind”, but I feel like it’s apt to end on: “You probably don’t want to hear advice from someone else/ but I wouldn’t be telling you if I hadn’t been there myself.” I share these with you all so that when the storms of life, the disasters come, you can still keep calm and always…..

Shine On!!


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