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Offered by: Colorado Karate Club

I was 22 years old, my first daughter was one month old, and I was celebrating my first year working at USWEST Communications, the local Mountain Bell phone company. It was my first corporate job, having upgraded from fast food cook and gas station cashier. Still, I was at the bottom of the totem pole. With barely a high school education from Peru my job was to make telemarketing calls to landline customers selling exciting products such as Call Waiting, Caller ID, and VoiceMail. I know, I’m old.

At USWEST I loved my co-workers, my manager, Carol McCaffrey was wonderful and we remained friends for many years. The work, however, was tedious, making hundreds of calls a day for $6 an hour plus commission wasn’t glamorous but it was good work I thought, and I was thankful to have it. My broken English was a challenge, to say the least. Many times people, who were already annoyed that I had interrupted their day, barked at me: “I can’t understand anything you’re saying…click.”

Undaunted, I pushed forward, the company provided lots of sales training, my manager listened to my calls and gave me feedback on how to improve my sales presentation. In a short time, I was at the top of the sales team and some of my coworkers commented on my success: “It’s your accent, people love accents. That’s why you’re doing so well.” I didn’t care if it was my accent or my improved skills, I just wanted to get better and make more money. I still hated the job of calling people, but I figured I’d take full advantage of the opportunity to learn sales, improve my English, and make more money.

I stayed at that job for a couple of years until the center got outsourced and some of us were moved into customer service, where I spent another two years learning to help customers of all walks of life from across fourteen US Western States. Thinking back to those times, I remember how those jobs were not my first choice, how much I dreaded picking up my headset each time. But I also realize that those years were tremendously helpful to me later in life. The skills I learned, the people I met, the customers I helped, it was some of the best post-high school education I ever got, and I made the most of it.

When I meet with students, parents, or friends who are going through a difficult time (school, work, or family issues), I try to convey this message, that whatever you may be going through at this time, it is possibly a preparation for something better to come. Whatever the situation, there is always something positive you can learn from it. Some years later, you may be able to look back and say: “Wow, I know it was hard, but it was well worth it, and I’m glad I pushed through.”

Sensei Willy Strohmeier – Colorado Karate Club

Colorado Karate Club