My Job Selling Ties and Shirts

I wrote yesterday about a “launching-point” number, which is how much savings a person needs before he/she becomes an entrepreneur.

Tom Ordonez posted a comment, and I’d encourage you to read it here. He wrote in depth about how to prepare to be an entrepreneur. It’s insanely thoughtful.

In particular, I found these words of advice really insightful:

Build your confidence by being in front of people. Go to a bar and sing at the karaoke. You sing really bad? Even better.

Build your people skills. Work on the weekends in a mall. You could be the person giving away food samples. Or work at one of those little kiosks. Those that stalk you while you are walking around the mall. You could be that person. Excellent way to build your people skills, sales skills, hustle skills, required for a wantrepreneur.

I write about this because my wife and I last night were talking about what summer jobs are older children are considering. “Honestly,” I told her, “the best thing they can do is get a job at McDonald’s.” Meet people from a large spectrum of backgrounds. Internalize what it means to be paid by the hour at a low wage. Learn customer service and people skills.

I suffer from a life-long condition of shyness. There were a lot of racist jokes from other kids during my childhood. As an immigrant family, we used to feel acutely that we weren’t part of the “white world.”

I remember the first time I spoke in public in high school at a Model U.N. conference. My hands shook, I was exhaling too loudly into the microphone. I felt like I was melting. Since then, I’ve had to work hard at public speaking.

For me, a breakthrough moment came when I took a summer job at Nordstrom, where I sold ties and dress shirts. I received a 10% commission, and so, I had to learn to be friendly, outgoing, helpful–and, close a transaction. I really needed people to buy from me, or I didn’t get paid much.

I still remember fondly that summer. It changed my life.

Leave a Reply