A few years back when I was nineteen years old, I remember filing for unemployment. I went down to the old TEC office on Spencer in Pasadena arriving there at about 8:30 a.m. thinking “the early bird gets the worm.” Boy was I wrong! There was a line out the door with about 75 people lined up on the sidewalk waiting to get in on this mid-summer morning. After a couple of hours in line and covered in sweat, I finally got in the door and took a number. After waiting a few more hours, I finally got to meet with someone to discuss my situation, but was dismissed after just a few minutes. I thought to myself, “Wow, that was really helpful – NOT.” Nevertheless, I proceeded to look for work, and luckily within a week, found a new job. All was OK for the time being.
The new job was in the hospitality industry, where I spent the next 20 years or so, serving customers and staff members in upscale hotels. At that point, I decided to venture off to try a few new things, reward myself after working so hard for so many years. But after a while, I asked myself what was it that I really wanted to do? Was it back to working in hotels again? I agonized for weeks thinking about all I had done throughout my career, trying to decide what I would do next.
Well one day, I was passing a Workforce Solutions office and decided to go in and check it out. Realizing that the work they do was all about customer service, I thought there may be some opportunity for me here. After all, I had worked in the hotel business for a long time, where good customer service is the key to success.
I had great memories of my hotel work and the people I had met–escorting Brittany Spears to her hotel suite, chatting with Kevin Costner while hanging out in the hotel lobby, playing basketball with Justin Timberlake—all part of my job to provide great customer care. But now it was time to meet other people (not so famous) who needed to find work, and it was time for me to take my career in a new direction and help them!
After convincing a Workforce Solution manager to hire me, I found myself parked at a desk with a computer and a phone. I remember one of my first customers. His name was Tony. He was very charismatic and followed every bit of advice I gave him. But after working with Tony intensively for about 3 weeks, I was getting frustrated because he had not yet found a job.
One day, I finally asked Tony, “What is it that you’re not telling me?” He looked at me and said, “Tim, I was convicted of murder!” I looked at him with a smile and said, “Well it’s about time you told me; now we can find you a job!” Soon thereafter, Tony got a job working at McDonald’s and within a year, worked his way up to manager. Way to go, Tony!
Now in the 7th year of my second career, I still savor moments like this and the countless times customers have shared their success stories with me about their new jobs or the training they completed to get a new job. It is my honest opinion that it is so much more rewarding to help people in this way, than doing some of the more insignificant things I just mentioned.
So my advice to everyone is to take pride in what you do, or have done in the past. When looking for a new job or a better job, draw on your experience, consider the positives that a job has to offer, and find the intangible rewards that come along with it. In a service job, know that we all can make huge differences in the lives of our customers, and it feels good when you are able to help someone. You will be rewarded, and I believe that goodness will come back to you tenfold!
Tim Lopas is the Office Manager at Workforce Solutions – Pasadena. He has been in Workforce Development for seven years. His career began in the hospitality industry where he was manager of guest services. Tim is a native Houstonian whose passions include mentoring youth and going fishing.