My Top Three Skills

I’ve cultivated various skills over the years from instruments to foreign languages to needlework to visual art. There are three skills, though, that are valuable and that I’ve worked hard to improve over the last year especially. These are my top three skills.

 

Writing

I am primarily a self-taught writer. In elementary school we had writing assignments, but then from sixth to tenth grade I was homeschooled and my mom isn’t a writer. Before I started dual-enrollment I had some tutoring to prepare me for writing college essays, then I was on my own again. On my own time I practiced creative writing like storytelling and poetry. I’ve improved with practice and by seeking out free online resources about my craft. In February my friend Justine and I launched the bimonthly blog Over the Invisible Wall and in July I started this blog.

 

Customer Service

When I began working at Walmart, I discovered a passion for helping customers find what they need and have the best shopping experience possible. It can be difficult to remain calm and collected with customers who are rude, but I do my best to smile, apologize for any trouble they’ve had while shopping, and improve the rest of their experience. The people who are kind and genuinely appreciative of my help make the frustration of difficult customers more than worth it.

For example, I recently had a customer ask my advice on spray paints for a project she was working on. I didn’t know a lot about our different spray paint products, but I read over the packages’ description of the product and asked questions about the project. I walked from Crafts over to Hardware to show her more options and help her find the very best option. I used information I had along with details she shared with me to give suggestions and improve her shopping experience and hopefully her project as well.

 

Initiative

I do my best to pay attention to what is being done versus what needs done and take it upon myself to complete the task. At Walmart, I’ve picked up the slack in my department that has come from being short staffed. We’re behind and need to work topstock, so I’ve made sure to spend some time during each of my shifts on that. I’m currently the only one who knows how to make fabric remnants, and I’ve cleared out the space under the table that was crammed full of them. Additionally, if I hear customer service paged several times to a department I have experience in, I’ll walk over to find the customer and help them to the best of my abilities. No matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, the customer comes first, and if the associate in that department won’t help them, I will.

The Five People Experiment

You’ve almost certainly heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I was encouraged to think about five traits I want to develop in my life and compare it to traits that define the five people I spend the most time with.

Five traits I want to cultivate:

  1. Productive
  2. Focused
  3. Consistent
  4. Confident
  5. Healthy (in a general sense, both mentally and physically)

 

The five people I spend the most time with and one trait that defines them:

  1. My boyfriend, funny
  2. Justine, productive
  3. Jake, creative
  4. Dad, focused
  5. Mom, selfless

 

There is some overlap in the lists. I don’t only desire improvement in the five areas in my list, those are just the top five now. Humor, creativy, and selflessness are also important to me, so I can appreciate that they can be part of my main circle and influence me.

I’ll be spending more time with people in the Praxis community in the coming months, cultivating relationships with them and working with them as we move towards similar goals. This will help and encourage me in the traits I’m working on.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 9

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Yesterday I shared my notes on Episode 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 9, Your Personal Brand, Isaac Morehouse discusses what your personal brand is and why you should cultivate it.

Notes

You have a brand whether you want to or not. Your personal brand is the same as reputation. It’s what others believe and feel about you.

Building your personal brand is not about putting up some image or making yourself look cool. The first thing is to understand you have a brand, then to take control of it.

Be sure what others perceive about you is accurate. Lots of people are bad at this. In Praxis, they’ve done a personal brand workshop. Think about yourself, write few sentences about how you want to be perceived. What do you want people to think? Find someone else that doesn’t know you well or at all, have them Google you for 20 minutes and see what they can find. Write down what you associate with them and see what they associate with you. Compare how you want to be seen with what they perceived.

If your brand is too benign or blank there’s no information for people to know about you.

Be aware of how you’re being perceived if you don’t know. Own who you are and be consistent with it.

Your personal brand is not a liability to manage, its an asset to use. It gives you access to opportunities and helps you build your network.

Response

I’ve branded myself a writer. I write about writing and my writing projects on my blog (which a blog is just… more writing). My LinkedIn heading is “creative writer and thinker.” A lot of my goals pertain to writing, though I have some other creative interests as well. The main thing is that I write therefore I am a writer. I don’t just call myself a writer, I actually write. You can see that on this blog and on Over the Invisible Wall.

The funniest time I was misinterpreted happened while I was at work. I was trying to find different pens in the office supply aisle so I could put the returns in their proper place. A customer saw me with six or eight different items in my hands, handed me an empty box from the shelf and said, “Here, work smarter, not harder.” It took him a minute to realize I was working and putting things on the shelf, not taking them off. He thought I was a mom doing back to school shopping!

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 36

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Today I listened to Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 36, Finding Gold in the Grunt Work. In this episode, Isaac Morehouse discusses the value of being eager and willing to do grunt work.

Notes

Isaac tells the story of conversation with a CEO who has an employee who wanted a raise but hates grunt work. The CEO doesn’t ask that employee to do grunt work because it’s clear he really doesn’t want to. Another employee higher up will do it. The CEO even has to do it sometimes!

You should want your opportunity cost to get higher so you’re most valuable activity isn’t usually getting coffee. Someone has to do things like coffee runs, let that be you. You’re never too good for grunt work.

If all you’re doing is grunt work, take ownership and prove you can do otherwise. You shouldn’t have to ask to do less grunt work, if you prove you are valuable you will be given more important work to do. And if you’re always fine with doing grunt work, that’s an added bonus.

You could be valuable but not everyone knows or sees what you do. With grunt work, it impacts more people and is highly visible.

Create value in other ways if you’re only doing grunt work. Be eager, volunteer to get things, clean up, etc. “Sometimes the work isn’t glamorous.” If someone is afraid to ask you do to the crappy things you’ve made yourself dispensable.

Response

I work at Walmart in a retail position. My two primary responsibilities are customer service and improving the cleanliness and appearance of the aisles in my department. The second, referred to as “zoning,” is necessary to improve customers’ experience in the store. It’s easier to shop when the aisles are clean, organized, and you can see every item on the shelf. Zoning is tedious and can be categorized as grunt work.

During my shift, I am assigned a department, either Crafts/Stationery or Toys. I’m almost always the only person in my department, excluding short periods of overlapping shifts. That leaves me solely responsible for the zone. Customer service trumps zoning, but the zone still has to get done. Additionally, we’re almost constantly short staffed in some area and I will get asked to help out either with the zone or customer service.

For example, yesterday no one responded to calls to the paint counter or sporting goods counter, so I did. I asked the customers at the sporting goods counter what they needed. I was unsure of what to do, so I had it announced again that customers were still waiting. At the paint counter, I mixed paint for two customers who’d been waiting.

When I’m in Crafts, it’s common for a manager to walk by and ask me to zone two aisles in Housewares, the rugs and curtains. I always say yes, pause what I’m doing, and fix those aisles before returning to my department.

Lately we’ve been short staffed in Crafts, which I consider “my department” because it’s where I hired in. There are four Crafts associates: one lady who is on leave, one lady who’s been calling off, the department manager, and me. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to pick up the slack so we don’t fall further behind and so we can catch up to where we should be as soon as possible. The lady on leave was the only one who knew how to make fabric remnants, pieces less than a yard long, so she taught me before she left. I’ve taken most of the pieces under the fabric table and made remnants so customers can buy them. We have to pull top stock, the boxes that are on the very top shelf, down and put it out on the shelf for customers to buy. The top stock shelf is where we first put overstock, when possible, but it needs to go out once it’s no longer overstock. When I have time, I make it a point to work the top stock to make it easier for the department manager.

Praxis Pre-Program Review

Tonight I submitted my pre-program deliverables for Praxis. In honor of this, I thought I would discuss the deliverables and the work I did to complete them.

1. Professional Headshot, a photo featuring me wearing nice clothes as for an interview. I enlisted my dad to help me, and we went into our backyard to take the photo.

DSC_1323.JPG

You can’t even tell that it’s weeds behind me!

2. Email 101, a professional email address and a lesson on email etiquette.

3. Professional Testimony, two reviews of working with me were required, I had three. I reached out to my youth pastor, Tim, the owner and editor of the Millstadt News, Abbie, and the co-owner of Over the Invisible Wall, Justine.

4. LinkedIn Profile, update it to tell a story and engage visitors. I added more detail to my work experience, including a link to my Panera Job Review post. I looked at some other participants’ LinkedIns for examples to help me.

5. Personal Website, post about how I’m “breaking the mold” and a site to build my brand. I had built my website before I started any of the work, back in June. My breaking the mold post is my birthday reflection post describing how I worked toward my goals over the last year.

6. Pitch Deck, a slide show that tells my story and showcases my skills and projects and makes a value proposition to business partners. This was the hardest of the deliverables for me. I labored over the design, presentation, wording, and big picture.

Back from Hiatus

Sorry for the unexpected and unannounced hiatus over the last week. I got my wisdom teeth out last Wednesday and spent my time in bed or laying on the couch until Sunday.

After that, frankly I forgot to take the time to come back and post here in the time I had available.

Since my recovery, I’ve worked on my pre-program Praxis deliverables and found on-demand merch printing options for Over the Invisible Wall. Deadlines for Praxis are looming, so I will be posting but it will likely be short for a few days while I finish up.

I Missed Yesterday

This is somewhat similar to this post, but it’s been a little more than a month since then.

I didn’t post yesterday. I hadn’t scheduled any content, and wasn’t sure yet what I was going to write. There was a Praxis call that I was looking forward to. I’d decided to make my post my notes from the call.

I recently updated my computer from Ubuntu 16 something to 18.4. I had some issues with Firefox. It wouldn’t load webpages on the first try, or at all. Zoom, the Praxis call application, kept launching and crashing. I joined the call for two minutes. The computer froze. Several times.

I tried restarting it. More than once. I was getting more frustrated.

After I’d tried three times to rejoin the Praxis call after I was kicked off, I quit. I was too frustrated to continue. I didn’t want to try to fix the problem, I was too mad. I took a break. I started reading Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy.

I didn’t post or write a poem. But I had a solid 35 days of blogging first and wrote poetry off and on.