Every summer as a teenager, I worked for a family business in my small hometown in upstate New York. I would work the morning shift at the ice cream stand and then walk next door to Danny’s restaurant, owned by the same family, to bus tables at night. I was motivated—I wanted to earn enough money to pay for my living expenses and books during college. But that experience did more for me then help me earn money for college. I also learned an important lesson that has helped me in every job I have ever had since then and has contributed to multiple promotions.
One of the owners, Vinny, often repeated a saying to the staff that has stuck with me: “If you can lean, you can clean.” I’ll admit that as a teenager, this off-handed comment sounded a bit like micromanaging at first—what was the harm in taking a little break once in a while?—but I realized that working hard and putting in extra effort had its rewards. I was quickly given more responsibility at the ice cream stand and allowed to open and close the shifts on my own.
In my early 20s, I left upstate New York to move to my now-home state of Maryland and took the principle of “If you can lean, you can clean” with me. I realized that becoming indispensable to my bosses had its rewards in the corporate world as well. Being proactive by offering to take on additional work and taking tasks off my manager’s plate built trust, respect and accolades—because, in a nutshell, I put in the effort to make my boss’s job easier.
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