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Be the Best Damn Receptionist

01/09/2018

When I reflect back on my life, the three keys to my success have been:

  1. Ownership,
  2. Flexibility, and
  3. A really good-size chip on my shoulder

 

The last one may be surprising, but I honestly don’t know people who achieved anything truly great without having to battle some internal dysfunction.

 

Photo Credit: Lizy Hoeffer Irvine

 

My story is no different. I am the second daughter in a family of four, with a mom who worked two jobs and a dad who was in and out of our lives starting up new businesses. The most stable thing about my early life was the instability.

I grew up conscious of the cost of water, milk and the roof over our head. The stress of everyday life was often unbearable and humiliating. I can remember multiple occasions when the electricity company showed up at our house to shut off our lights just as the school bus dropped us off from school. I constantly felt ashamed and I hated when people felt sorry for us.  This “hatred” was the first chip that powered my journey. It forced me to work hard when I wanted to give up. It was the driving force that led me to overachieve in school and music. That overachievement awarded me scholarships to college and It also taught me valuable lessons about ownership. I may not have been responsible for the economic conditions of my childhood, but I was in control of my effort, and taking ownership in that had big payoffs.

In college, I was able to reinvent myself. Not only did I have scholarship money, but my dad’s businesses were thriving. I was finally able to buy new clothes, go out to eat. I joined a sorority?!? and started living the life I was supposed to live… and just when I was started to forget the “ownership” lessons of my past my world came to crashing down. My dad had a severe heart attack and was forced to shut down his company. Not only would he no longer be able to support me and my brothers, he would also end up needing financial assistance. After crying for what felt like a decade, I realized that I had two choices, give up or be flexible. My dad supporting me was not the only way. There were lots of people in school, with little to no assistance. The issue at hand was a money issue, and I knew of a couple of ways that I could take ownership in my circumstance. I could get a job and start to make money, I could take night classes so I could stay in school. I could find a cheap apartment and live with roommates and I could take out student loans to help me supplement what I could not afford, and thus I set out to find a job that ultimately led me to where I am today.

At the time my career aspirations boiled down to the following: double-digit paying job, with room for growth that did not require a formal college degree!   I was open to a wide array of career choices from, telemarketer, server, hotel concierge, or bank teller. I started sending out my resume, when a good friend of mine, who was working as an assistant at a mortgage broker, told me about an opening at her company. I was beyond excited, her job not only sounded super fun and flexible it seemed to pay a lot of “bonuses”.

At my interview I learned that I would not be applying for the super cool assistant job my friend Jessica had;  instead, I was applying to be the receptionist. I am not sure why I had an ego at this point, but I remembered feeling a little embarrassed by the job prospect. Thank God,  as I waited for my interview I reminded myself that this job checked all of the boxes: $10 an hour, 20 to 30 hours a week, and room for growth in a booming industry. I took a deep breath and realized that I was in the right place at the right time.

 

Photo Credit: Jessica Savidge at Savidge Photography

 

I remember walking into my interview to meet Stephanie. She was an energetic, loving boss lady with an infectious laugh and awesome accessories. She made the mortgage industry sound exciting and life-changing. She had multiple phones ringing and piles of client files to review. She was the busiest person I had ever met, and I wanted to be JUST like her.  By the time I walked out of her office that day, I was begging for that job. Not only did I get it, but Stephanie also made me a part-time assistant too. (This wasn’t one of my rules, however now that I am rethinking this, it should, but if you can’t find a chip on your shoulder find a great mentor, someone who really inspires you and impressing them will be just as motivating).

Working for someone who you love and respect is priceless. I was fortunate to have found this job, and working for Stephanie made me try harder than I ever had before. I would stay late, come in early and volunteer for any task. I even volunteered to cold call year-old leads (obviously before the do not call list) and became pretty good at it. Turns out I have a gift for turning angry people into happy clients.  Because I took on this extra task, Stephanie ended promoting me and let me manage a group of “callers.”

These two jobs were the foundation of my mortgage career and the stepping stones into processing, loan originating and running a team. I have worked in almost every department and appreciate that no job is beneath me. I take ownership of it all, and like I said before ownership always has big payoffs.

So the moral of my story: If you are going to be the receptionist, be the best damn receptionist there ever was, and you won’t always be the receptionist.

 

Photo Credit: Jessica Savidge at Savidge Photography

 

Realize that success is on you! Be flexible when challenges arise, as they always will. There are multiple ways to create the result you are looking for, so channel your discomfort and use it as motivation to create the life you have always wanted.

All my best – Lizy

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