Society Magazine

From the Little Ole Cashier to the Academic Advisor

Posted on the 11 May 2018 by Rhonda Nemri

Since the age of 11 years old I have been working. One of my most valuable jobs was helping my father run his grocery store. Working there I learned a few tricks from a man that was an entrepreneur and had a vision for success and growth. I learned the basics of customer service and selling products.I didn’t do so well in school, and hated attending with a passion. I certainly believe that the reason for this is because I did not have the academic support from my teachers. When I was in 6th grade I had to attend summer school, and came straight to work with my father after he picked me up from school. I was only allowed to ring up food and soft drinks. Customers would ask me for a box of Newport’s or Marlboro Lights, but I always turned to my father, and had him ring them up. I had to stand on a milk crate because I was too short to see the register, and wanted the customers to believe I was a lot older than 11. That was just it, I wanted to always grow up, but didn’t realize so much came with being an adult. Working during the summer was probably one of my most favorable parts of the day. I constantly drank ICEE’s, and chewed on pieces of candy by the front counter.

I remember when my father first opened his pizza place within the grocery store, I wanted to take on the role of writing the sale signs, and being creative to get a customer to purchase a slice of pizza. I even made some of the pizza’s. Perhaps this is where my love of pizza comes from. I am unsure if I were successful when making the pizza, but in my creative mind I felt like an adult.  I wasn’t on the payroll or anything, but I did get rewarded with a bag of Cheetos, and cold deli sandwiches. From time to time I would get 20 dollars for my work.

When I got older, I was still working with my father as a cashier, and even moved into the role of sales associate for his cell phone business. I was finally on his payroll! I didn’t really appreciate the position at the time, because I felt pushed into something that wasn’t meant for me. College helped me understand my need to want more, and to apply myself. This was not to disregard my father and mothers hard work, but it just wasn’t for me. I started out as an undecided student who took a bunch of liberal arts courses, and received an associate’s degree that I then learned gets canceled out once you receive a bachelor’s degree.  That was not an issue for me, but it was still an indication that it is quite possible to successfully complete something if you set yourself goals, and have a plan. I started at Purdue Northwest (Purdue Calumet at the time) in 2007 as an undergraduate in public relations.  Once I completed my undergraduate degree in public relations, I went straight to my master’s program. I had to leave the family business, and that was something I was excited about. Despite my excitement to leave, I was still aware that this may have affected my father when it came to helping him. Nonetheless, he was very proud of his daughter that went on to get her Master’s and teaching a communication course at the University level.

As this story progresses, I found myself continuing to teach, but then work for a company in downtown Chicago. A place where most people dream to be. But that was not the case for me. I enjoyed the scenery, and the tall buildings. The summer was the best time to work in the city because of all the street music, and festivals. However, the constant commute to the city, trains delayed, and a cold winter freezing my legs off waiting for the train was not my favorite part. I’ve met some amazing people working in downtown Chicago, but there was a constant urge to want to remain in academia. I wanted to teach, I wanted to interact with students, and I wanted to be the mentor to the student that needed mentoring. While working downtown, I did teach here and there part-time. It became overwhelming to have to work at 7:00 am, and get off work to rush to teach my night class. At one point I was working downtown, rushing to Governor State University to teach, and then rush right over to Purdue to teach a 6:30 pm course. It the moment that I knew I wanted to stick to just academia, and my hard-work will pay off some day.

Here I am the Communication and Creative Arts Academic Advisor for Purdue Northwest University. A university I have been a part of since 2007. A University that taught me the principles of how to communicate, and write strongly. The communication department both undergrad and graduate is very challenging, and have high expectations for their students. I learned to get out of my shell and become someone I was afraid to be.

It taught me that initiative and how you work speaks louder than your title. The title doesn’t mean anything, unless you show your work, and how you proceed to take on the role. The amount of time spent in a job does not demand authority or recognition, but what you do with that position. Take a moment, and ask yourself these questions. What changes have you made? What ways have you engaged others? What ways have you influenced the people you work with? How fair and ethical are you as an individual? Are you adapting to new changes? Are you a team player? Do you use your time wisely? Are you a problem/solution type of person? What initiatives have you done to make a change? These are all things I have self-reflected on from the time I attended college to the present time of working as an Advisor.

In today’s society it is easy to get distracted by the noise of politics within your organization. So what are you going to do to make a difference? What are you going to do to stand out? What are you going to do that is different than yesterday? If we do not work aggressively, then we will always be stagnant. One of the biggest downfalls is saying “It is always done this way”. We have to be able to challenge ourselves daily, and do more than the expected. Even if it is not in your job description, you may need to do more to build yourself, to make yourself known in a crowd of “I have always done it this way” or “Don’t let them take advantage of you”. Why wouldn’t an organization take advantage of you, and use your strengths to grow? There is a difference between making you do things unnecessary, than doing things that are necessary. As I ponder on my past and focus on my future, I find that I have been involved in some great opportunities to grow as an individual. I would hope one day I can take my experience to another level, and help others find their passion and worth. After all, when you do something you are passionate about, it does not feel like you are working. Rather you are fulfilling a plan, and what you are destined to do.


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