Recently, I was in a store trying on shoes and asked the salesperson when a new delivery of shoes might be expected as they were out of my size. He looked at me and replied, “I honestly don’t know, I’m just a sales person and the buyers don’t work weekends.”
His response was troubling to me, but not because he did not know the answer (though if I were the store buyers, I might want to take note and be sure my weekend crews are well versed on where to find answers regarding product arrival queries). His response was troubling because I find too often these days whenever I ask a question a receptionist, sales clerk, intern or (fill in the blank) can’t answer, I hear in response “I don’t know, I’m just a…” (fill in the blank e.g. intern, receptionist, sales rep, warehouse employee, stocker, cashier, delivery person, etc.)
“I am just a…” What does that mean, really? Isn’t everyone more important than “just a” something or other. Shouldn’t everyone, from a salesperson to a receptionist to a janitor to an intern, feel more pride in their job and feel more importance than to be inspired to describe themselves as “just a…” i.e. implying they have no power and aren’t important or knowledgeable enough to help a customer or answer a question?
I would argue that at no time should anyone ever say they are “just a” when referring to anything they do. Every job is important to a company, or they would not have the job in the first place. Henceforth, each employee (and, yes, intern) is important, just as the way each performs his or her job is, and each should take pride in that job since each carries just as much weight and import as the CEO’s – albeit on a slightly different pay scale.
I’ve witnessed many companies collapse under the weight of poor morale and weak employee performance, often because too many members of the team thought of their job as “just a…” and as a result, never felt important enough to learn more, do more, and be more in their job.
Next time you have occasion to describe what it is you do, swell your chest a bit, and say with pride, “I’m an intern,” or “I’m a cashier,” or “I’m on the night shift clean-up crew.” You are important to your company. You are, quite simply, important. And the sooner you begin acting like it, and believing it, and understanding why it is you are important, the better you will begin to feel about all of the things you do. And, your performance at work, and in life, will become a living monument to your contributions. Make every minute count because they are ticking by, even as you are reading this.