I’m a worker. I have been since I turned 16. My parents didn’t want me to work, but I’ve always wanted that sense of independence and having my own money. Back then, my first job was at Baskin Robbins. I don’t remember actually working very many hours each week. I do remember that scooping ice cream is a fun part of the job and that mopping the floor was a bad part of the job. But, this is not the job I want to tell you about.
My first “real” job started right after high school graduation. I had several friends who worked at Six Flags Over Mid-America. They convinced me to spend my summer with them having fun and getting paid for it. They were right. That first summer, I started working as a Ticket Seller. I showed up each morning at Wardrobe by 7:00 am and put on the most ridiculous “costume”, or uniform, as our supervisors called them. I admit, the first month or so, I did not work as hard as I could have. I was more interested in getting off work early and talking to boys. But, as the summer wore on and I became part of the Six Flags culture, I changed.
Six Flags brought out the best in me. They rewarded us well with good pay (far exceeding other jobs I could have done), free passes to the park, special “after hours” parties for the employees, dances, opportunities for scholarships, and more. I began working harder and longer than I thought possible. I wanted to be the best when I was there. I didn’t want to be a ticket seller who was the first to leave early each day.
One thing management did to motivate us was recognition in the form of the type of name tag we wore. Employees starting out were “black tags”. This was a name tag made from one of those tag making punch machines. It was on a black tape/sticker that was stuck on a blank name tag. If you did well in your position whether it was an admissions position, games position, or rides position, you could be promoted to an “orange tag”. The orange tag was designated as the assistant to the foreman. If you continued to excel, you could be promoted to “red tag” or foreman of your area. The pinnacle of positions were those that wore engraved name tags- but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Being the driven person I am, I decided to work hard and get an engraved name tag as quickly as possible. It didn’t happen my first year, although I did make it to orange tag by the end of the season. I started out my second season as a red tag and was so proud. It was the end of my second season that I achieved my goal. I was promoted to an Accounting Auditor position and was given my coveted engraved name tag.
I look back now and realize it wasn’t about the type of name tag I wore that made me proud. It was that I found a company with a culture that could motivate me to keep reaching for more. I have many happy memories from those days and many bad hair pictures (it was the early 90’s, you know). I’ll even share one with you now because it shows me after I earned my engraved name tag.
What is the job you’ve had that motivated you the most? I’d love to hear about it and what the company did to make you feel that way.
In the early 90s, my mom was probably teaching me how to wear jammies :P, life is long indeed! In any case, in our country, I feel that we are being fed (through media/TV) what/how late 80s and early 90s were in the west :S
Thanks for the story Trish. I recently had my 30th anniversary with my employer, and I realize a lot of that longevity was due to the nature of the co-workers and the collaborative style that I enjoyed. In short, the culture.
Recently watching many people leave in a voluntary separation situation, I was struck by how many were so complimentary as they left. They spoke highly of their co-workers and complimented them for the work they had done and the work they would surely be doing to advance the company further.
I’m a big proponent of turnover (I know, ironic) but more because people discover themselves in their work, and when they discover they want to do something else, I am thrilled when they make the courageous choice to do so. And for those who want to stay and create a legacy, that’s great too, and that’s why colored badges and other totems can be so important. They keep people looking forward.
Sorry for the ramble, but I love a good piece of self-knowledge. Must be part of what makes you a good HR Pro.
Trish, I’d have to say two of my early jobs that motivated me the most. First was the Army. In my line of work, the motivation to do things right was important, because to fail in them could result in my own death. This taught me personal responsibility, and team work. You really get motivated to succeed as a team, everyone is in it together and that’s your strength.
The next job has been stand up. The motivation there is rooted in the laughs. Just is there is no more lonely place in the world than being on stage and bombing (I know from experience), there is nothing more awesome than making a crowd laugh. It’s addictive, it’s what motivates me to spend hours each week working on material, it drives me to work hard and deliver a great product.