An urgent message for all those in their first job… what to do to move up fast… even in troubled economic times.

By Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. Everyone remembers their first job with, perhaps, a bit of nostalgia and a soupcon of fondness, after the fact. But did you really know what you were doing… and, more to the point, leverage that job and rise high  — even in a period of economic dislocations, miseries, and muddles?

Perhaps because of these depressing realities, you had to take a job, any job, just to pay the rent. In such a situation you may have felt chagrined (to say no more) that you didn’t have the job of your dreams and were not sky rocketing to fame, fortune, and the cover of Time magazine. Whoa… bad analysis, worse attitude. YOU need this article desperately.

My favorite nephew Kyle is in this boat. He’s a bright lad, a newly minted honors graduate from a well-regarded California institution of higher education… marooned by the seemingly unending recession and its never quite better aftermath. He couldn’t find a job in his field, and so with prodding and exhortation (and a great deal of it) took the first job that was to hand, working in the vegetable department at Kroger.

Don’t laugh. And don’t go all arrogant and condescending either.

Is he disappointed? Yes! Irked? Let-down? Oh, yes, but that was before his wily Uncle Jeffrey picked up the phone for some down-home success tips. Now, Kyle is the “maniac on the floor”, primed for greatness and the executive suite. And so I selected one of the most exhilarating songs of the 80’s to accompany this article; Maniac from the film “Flashdance” (1983), belted out of the park by diva Irene Cara. Whatever despairing depths you are plumbing today, this red-hot dance tune will lift you and lift you higher.


The gods of corporate Olympus move in mysterious ways… and so it was with Kyle, Kroger, and me, for I made my first stock investment into Kroger when I was 13 or 14 back in the ’50’s. The reason was one stock maven Peter Lynch of Fidelity Investments would applaud: because we shopped there. I didn’t have so many shares to start with, but I visited Kroger as often as the family wished to eat… and I could see how my biggest (my only) investment was faring. Even then I took a very proprietary interest in “my” Kroger. I even recall picking up some soiled lettuce off the floor and properly disposing of it. It was a portent… but of what? It took the better part of a lifetime to discern, but Kyle’s launching pad in the lettuce department seems to be the link.

Introduction to The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR)

Kroger, as you may well know, is the country’s largest grocery store chain and its second-largest grocery retailer by volume and second-place general retailer, Walmart being the largest. As of 2010, Kroger operated, either directly or through its subsidiaries, 3,619 stores. It reported US$ 82.2 billion in sales during fiscal year 2010, with 338,000 employees, including Nephew Kyle, right there at the bottom, on the first rung of the ladder of success, nowhere to go but up. Lucky boy.

Why so?

Kyle is a business “virgin.” He knows as little about business as is possible. This can be either a very good or a very bad thing, depending on what happens next. Kyle, for instance, has no bad business practices  to unlearn and overcome; he has no such business practices at all. Thus he starts with a “tabula rasa”, a clean slate, in the immortal phrase of monumental 18th century savant John Locke.

Kyle has two options: fill this slate with one bad, progress-destroying habit after another, or knuckle down and learn the crucial things to turn a pedestrian entry-level job into a launching pad for lifetime success.

It ALL starts with attitude.

Kyle, unless your department at Kroger is a little bit of heaven, your supervisor’s biggest problem is personnel.  They will demonstrate and perfect every sin venal and cardinal. They will specialize in complaining, their moans and groans elevated to stratospheric heights. Rather than get on with the job for which they were hired, they will conspire to cheat, chisel, and connive, liberally biting the hand that feeds them, gratitude and service towards the company inconceivable notions getting lip service and nothing more.

This being the case, an employee, any employee no matter how junior and inexperienced , who actually works up to their full potential, understanding that they work for Kroger, goes on the supervisor’s Christmas card list at once, with kudos, compliments, and useful perqs galore.

Now hear this: you have been gifted with every advantage. The one you most need at present is the right attitude. You are now a Kroger man. You are now a part, albeit on the first step, of a large, growing, proud establishment. Act like it!

For openers, let your supervisor know, best by superior work ethics and results, that you are a grateful, loyal and enthusiastic member of the Kroger team, a team which has grown steadily larger and more lucrative since in 1883 Bernard Kroger nailed his colors to the mast, “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.”

* Look the part. Spruce yourself up, exemplifying everything you learned as an Eagle Scout. Wear the insignia of this achievement. It will show your new colleagues what kind of fellow you are and suggests you have what they want.

* Read everything you can about Kroger,  including their annual report and the plethora of useful documents you’ll easily find at their website. Print these documents. Study them. Make yourself thoroughly conversant with the facts. You will also find a thorough report at the Wikipedia. Put your copies in a folder and carry them with you; make sure your supervisor sees you studying them at your breaks. Believe me, you’ll be the ONLY one showing such initiative.

* Always be on time; that goes without saying. Inform your supervisor that you are willing to take extra hours if others in the department cancel shifts. Let the supervisor know that your first loyalty is to the company, its customers, and what Kroger values: one grocery innovation after another. Kroger people are proud of what they’ve done to feed America and feed America well.. You must know these achievements and swell their pride.

* Have a good, solid, professional relationship with your supervisor, but never be a brown nosing apple polisher. Your job is to help your supervisor run the complicated store with its thousands of products in which you now work. At all times be polite, respectful, professional. You are not his buddy and pal, you are something far more valuable, a colleague who assists him rise… and whom he values accordingly.

* When you see a good deed, tell the supervisor; also, tell the person you have told the supervisor. One of the most important things you will ever do in business is to recognize employee achievements and, by a timely word in the ear of someone more advanced in the hierarchy, help that person secure the many emoluments which business can and does offer.

Two more things.

I know of your great interest in the ecology “green” movement. That is fine. In this connection I advise you to broaden your understanding of what it is and should be. Remember. the most important animal you can help save and preserve is the human animal, and here what you do could be of the greatest importance. Study Kroger and its ecological endeavors; make it a point, when possible, to seek out the food chemists and others who are helping us all live better lives with more nutritious and safer foods.

And, remember, even if you do not stay at Kroger, every word in this message remains germane since you will require good references to move up… and this is how you get them.

Now….. become the maniac on the floor, your presence and good work everywhere apparent, noticed with approval and approbation by the Kroger executives who see in you themselves and wish to advance you accordingly.  And remember…

“You work all your life for that moment in time It can come or pass you by…”

And for you that moment is now.


About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc. providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses.

Republished with author’s permission by Graham Lee – The Income Zone

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