As soon as I got bumped out of my cross-country trip (Thank you, Covid!), I started looking for a house to buy. I figured that the housing market would fall apart – which would have made sense with so many people losing their jobs. But as you may have heard, just the opposite happened. The housing market went crazy as everyone started to nest.
For months, I found nothing I liked that I could afford, but I kept searching until I found a gem – an 1880s house in Bath, ME that had been converted into law offices. The 10-room house was in serious need of renovation but it was in a beautiful location along the Kennebec River. With high ceilings and hardwood floors, this beautiful old house would convert nicely into two luxury apartments – one for me to live in, and one to rent out to help keep the monthly mortgage payments low.
My mom offered to go in with me on the deal, but I still needed a mortgage. And according to the mortgage broker, in order to get one, I had to have a job.
“But I have cash from the sale of my last house,” I explained. “I just want a mortgage so I have some cash left.”
“Yes,” the broker explained again. “And to get a mortgage, the bank requires two pay stubs. They don’t care where you work. All I need is two pay stubs to secure your mortgage. After that, you can do what you please.”
Fine, I thought. I’ll get a job and stay until the renter moves in. Then I’ll quit and live happily ever after in Bath. I searched on Indeed and found an open position as a retail clerk at a company I knew well from my direct marketing days. I networked a bit, got the job, and my new, temporary, role of “Shop Girl” began.
I was used to working behind the scenes in management and looked forward to being in a retail setting and seeing customers live and in person! But then reality set it. The hours were long. The work was tedious. The staff wasn’t motivated and they rarely talked to the customers. The product was gorgeous, but the store was dusty with many old and broken fixtures. On top of that, the store didn’t seem shop-able to me – there was little helpful signage, and sizes and collections were mostly out of order.
I was only going to work at this place for a short time, so who cared, right? It wasn’t really my business. Except it was. I could complain about everything that was wrong. Or ignore it. Or I could figure out how to make things a little bit better.
You know where this is going…
I jumped in and began putting things in order because that’s one of my super powers. And while I was sorting, why not clean the shelves, dust, and vacuum? I got help adding a little signage, cleared things off of hard-to-reach bottom shelves, and cleared out cabinets of old product. My favorite project was putting a few hundred shams into rainbow-colored order so that a searching customer could find just the color they were looking for.
By putting things away, I kept myself engaged with my work. And as I got more comfortable with the product, I started chatting with customers, greeting them when they came in the door and asking if they needed help finding anything. I explained that I was new but that since I had just put things in order, I could probably help them find whatever they were looking for. The customers, of course, loved that.
And my busy-work amused the other employees. My sortation process led to interesting conversations. And connections. And laughter. And the manager gave me pretty much free reign to re-order as I saw fit.
The weird part is that about two weeks after I started, the purchase of the house in Bath fell through due to a zoning issue. My friends all assumed I’d quit, but I decided to keep working. The hours were long and the pay was low, but I loved being helpful. I couldn’t fix everything at the store, but I was making things a little bit better.
When I decided to leave Maine in March to move back to Virginia, I did quit, but left many new friends behind – customers, management, and staff.
Is there something around you that could use a little straightening this week? Cause you never know where it will take you!
It’s never wrong to be kind. And it’s always nice to be helpful. Leaving things a little better than you found them scores on both fronts.
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