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My first real job

24 Oct 2019

I came to the US from Ghana when I was 20. I moved here with no money (well, $3k). No family. And a place to stay for only 3 months. 

I moved here to go to college but something happened, and I couldn’t afford to go anymore. So I did what a lot of immigrants do, I worked a bunch of dead end jobs. One was selling door to door office supplies in the middle of winter in Staten Island…brutal. I’d work, save and send the little leftover back home. 

Then, I met Gideon, a new friend who saw potential in me. He helped me get a job at a startup called Hyperoffice where I sold SaaS work productivity tools, similar to Google Apps. My first “real job”. 

I really struggled to learn the complex product so I wasn’t hitting quota in my first few months. My manager, Mike, told me that he was getting nudges from up top to let me go, and I had about a week. I was crushed. This was my shot, and 3 months in I’m already finished. I felt like shit. And then an idea hit me. 

I went to Mike and said: 

“I know you’re getting pressure to fire me because I’m not hitting my quota, and I’m getting paid a salary, so how about I work for free for 60 days, and if I’m not hitting quota by then you let me go. What do you say?” 

Mike talked it over with the execs, and said we had a deal. 

Awesome! I just bought myself two more months. I wasn’t sure if it would make a difference, but I at least wanted to go out knowing I’d given it everything I had. It was October 1 and I had until December 1. I started working. Cue the Rocky montage. But instead of running up stairs and punching meat, I was asking for help, talking to prospects and reading books. And of course…Eye of the Tiger played in the background 🙂 

End of October rolls around, I was close. But I missed it. I even had to borrow money to pay rent that month. 30 days left. One more chance. 

That November, I worked my ass off and at the end, with a few days left to spare, I hit quota. Barely. Mike was happy but said I needed to keep the momentum. December, I worked even harder and blew my numbers out of the water. Not only did I crush quota, but I was number 1 in the whole company. 

The momentum carried into next year, and I was the top account executive in the company that year. There was no looking back. 

But this story isn’t about sales or quotas. It’s about learning that through selling work productivity tools I’d discovered the ultimate productivity tool. 

I’d found meaning in my work. 

Finding meaning is more than numbers, it’s about finding purpose. I wasn’t fighting not to get fired, I was fighting to prove I wasn’t a failure, so I could be a role model for my little brother and sister.

And although I didn’t know it then, it was the first step in my quest to understand what makes work meaningful. 

And now, years later, at my company Meaningful Gigs, we’ve been testing a theory that quantifies meaning, and the data is super encouraging. We still have a long way to go, but we’re moving closer to our dream to live in a world where every person finds meaning in their work. 

Ronnie (eye of the tiger) Coleman