Before I tell you the story of how I got fired, let me first tell you how I transitioned from retail into corporate. I used to work at a very small retail store as a cashier in downtown Johannesburg.
The business was basically made up of the owner, his wife, and a few employees, about 6 of us in total. I was one of the cashiers at the retail store and there was no room for growth at all.
I worked there for a couple of years but at some point, I started seriously thinking about my future and asking myself if this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.
I remember sharing my discontentment with a friend and her response was but Nicky, you’ve got a job. You should be grateful. and I was grateful but I wanted more out of life. I was ambitious. I wanted to transition into an environment with opportunities for growth.
I knew I needed to do something different for that transition to happen. I knew I needed to go back to school and further my education. So, I signed myself up to get a Diploma in Business Administration. I never completed that Diploma(I never graduated and that’s a story for another day) but after enrolling in school, I started looking to get my foot in the corporate door right away.
I always wanted to go to University but my family could afford a university. So, I had only basic education, just enough to get by in life. I use to feel insecure and intimidated by my lack of a College Degree. So, when I finally got accepted to study for that Diploma, it was like wow! This is the green light I’d been waiting for all my life.
Finally, I get to brag about going to University, having a certificate and having an office job too. I told myself I’ll study right up to PhD level. I told myself I’d climb the corporate ladder right to the top. I wanted it all. That was the plan… hahaha but those of you who know my story know that none of this ever materialised.
I never even got to complete the Diploma I enrolled for. I got kicked off the corporate ladder at step 1. I don’t even have a Degree. But you know what, I’m so glad my ridiculous dreams to accumulate certificates and climb the corporate ladder never became a reality. I think I’d be really miserable if that had happened…but I degrees. Anyway, that’s a story for another day.
Back to me job hunting while working in retail. As soon as I had my student number, I put an excellent CV together and started applying for admin jobs in Corporate South Africa. I knew I needed to start right at the bottom and work my way up. So, I started applying for receptionist jobs, secretary jobs, personal assistants and any supporting admin roles I could find.
As we all know, job hunting can be a really painful experience. The fear of rejection and failure is ever-present, and the anxiety of waiting for a reply from recruiters can be excruciating.
I was applying for so many jobs even jobs out of my league. I use to send between 15 and 20 applications per day. I did that every day for about 6 months. I was that committed. Job search is like a full-time job in itself.
And one day, in 2014, I finally got a job as a Personal Assistant at a consulting firm owned by an amazing woman after going through multiple interviews. Oh boy, I was excited!
The recruiter told me how much they loved my personality. They love the fact that I was back in school studying. They love the fact that I was ambitious. They said they needed someone with my kind of fire and drive.
Everything was confirmed and finalized with my new employer. She was happy with me. I got the job. I was given a date to start. A new laptop was handed to me.
I was beyond excited. I was ready and on my first day at work, I got fired because there was this particular software I couldn’t use. On my first day, by lunchtime, I was fired. I didn’t even get the chance to enjoy the new job for a full day.
My Boss wanted me to schedule a meeting with one of her clients and I couldn’t use the software. It was one of those multitasking software that helps personal assistants streamline their work, making things more efficient and effective. Though I’d done a short computer course, I just couldn’t figure out how to use that particular one.
I remember begging her with tears to give me a chance. I promised her to study everything about that software to my fingertips by the end of that week. But she said an emphatic NO.
I needed that job like I needed oxygen to breathe I had nothing to fall back on, because throughout the process of my transition, job search, enrolling in school, going to an interview almost every week, I left my retail job a couple of months before actually getting the job.
I wanted to prove myself so badly. But she turn around and told me, “at this point in my business I don’t need to drag a dead weight. You’ll slow me down, and I don’t need that”
Her words cut through my soul as with a knife! I left and cried all the way back home. The heart-wrenching part was having to explain to everyone else that I got fired on my first day…
And that’s not where the story ends. So many other things happened after that incident. I got another job couple of months later and eventually got retrenched… and that’s the familiar story of retrenchment most people know about me.
But fast-forward to 2019, just after publishing my first book, I was invited as one of the Speaker at the GovTech 2019 Conference in Durban, South Africa.
At the hotel in which the Speakers were staying, I ran into the woman from the consulting firm who’d fired me on the first day. I was at the Lobby, and when I saw her I thought maybe she came to see someone — she also thought I came to see someone.
But both of us were speaking at the same event! The look on her face when I told her I was speaking at the event has stayed with me to this day. It was exactly 5 years after she fired me.
We sat in the hotel lobby and had a bit of a chat. She told me she was happy to see I’ve made something of myself. She went further to say, working for her might have probably stopped me from becoming who I am now. She said it was never meant to be.
I remember interjecting and pushing back on that, I told her, “No, it was meant to be but you couldn’t look past my shortcomings. I would’ve been the best thing that happened to her organisation at that time.” She just looked at me and smiled!
Honestly, that’s how I felt. If she had given me the chance, I knew I would’ve done exceedingly well. Yes, of course, I was lacking in certain skills but I was willing to do the work to upskill myself. I had the passion, I had the right attitude and I was hungry. oh boy! I was driven and I wanted to prove myself so badly.
The issue is that sometimes people miss out on a diamond because it came wrapped in an old newspaper.
At the end of that evening, I ran back into my hotel room after our little chat, got a copy of my book, signed and gave her as a gift! She wanted to pay and I said no, “it’s my gift to you.”
I have pictures we took together at that conference. I don’t want to share the pictures for obvious reasons. I don’t want it to come across like I’m degrading or exposing her, which is not the case at all. I respect her a lot. we’re still connected to this day. I’m simply sharing my story.
Why am I telling this story? I just want to tell someone out there that you have your place in the world! Don’t let someone’s opinion of you become your reality. Don’t let a bend in the road be the end of the road!
I still can’t use that damn software and I’m not a dead weight!
Today, I’m a published Author, sort after speaker and content creator. I speak and write about disruption, digital transformation, innovation, the impact of emerging technologies, and much more.
Dear Boss Lady, just in case you see this article. I still have major Respect for you and will always do. Yes, maybe it really wasn’t meant to be! But God definitely had it in the books for our paths to cross the way it did!
This is the first time I’ve told this story openly.
Those who know me know this is only a tiny part of my story. A story within a story!
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