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College 101

Reality Check: Bio of a High-School Graduate
Article Type: Connect

Shawn V. Rizon has a confession to make: He is addicted to Orange Julius. Luckily, there’s a shop right next door where he can get his fix. How can one person be lucky enough to have unlimited access to the juice? Shawn is a sales associate for a mobile phone company.

The road to sales associate was a long and rocky one. Shawn graduated from high school four years ago, and made the decision to enter the workforce right away. The reality was that, with a high-school diploma on his resume and little work experience, Shawn was looking at entry-level jobs.

But he was willing to start at the bottom of the totem-pole and work his way up. Shawn knew from a part-time job at a pizza joint he held during high school that the food industry wasn’t for him—he was tired of smelling like tomato sauce every night. Instead, he began filling out applications at the variety of shops at the local mall.

Problem was, it was summertime, and all the college students were back in town, filling up the jobs they had the previous summer. Pickings were slim. Shawn persevered, and was eventually hired to handle shelf stock and customer needs at a hip clothing store. Shawn did well with the customers – he had always been a people person. Nobody could be demanding enough to wipe the smile off Shawn’s face, and customers responded.

Unfortunately, Shawn wasn’t very skilled at keeping the sales floor neat. He’d never been one to organize his closet (his method of folding was closer to bunching) and it showed on the shelves.

Undaunted, Shawn went back on his word and took a job at a hot pretzel stand to earn some cash until he could find something that suited him more. He had by now found his own apartment, and needed to pay rent, bills, and feed himself. While he was able to make ends meet while working at the clothing shop, being unemployed wasn’t an option.

With luck, his days of spreading cream cheese on pretzels (and sneaking a pretzel now and then) were short-lived. His application to the mobile phone shop next door went through, and Shawn found himself a sales representative, with a required uniform of khaki pants and a white collared shirt. Buying a few sets put a dent in Shawn’s savings, but he was excited about the opportunity.

With only his personal clothes to fold, Shawn found his people skills allowed him to do very well as a sales associate. People trusted his answers to their questions, and more often than not bought from him. This was key, as Shawn’s salary was very low – sales associates relied on commission to augment their pay. Luckily Shawn’s skills helped him earn a decent salary, and his work ethic impressed the manager.

Within 16 months, Shawn had been promoted to floor manager, and was making thirty grand a year. He was able to move into a nicer apartment (and could afford to furnish it this time). When his buddies came over to hang out, he heard their stories about how difficult it was to find and keep work. The economy was suffering, and a few of his friends had been let go—their positions taken by over-qualified college grads looking for jobs.

This reality check made Shawn work that much harder, knowing he had a pretty good gig at the shop. He had his sights set on store manager, and knew that with perseverance and hard work, he could get there.

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