How folding clothes taught me to live intentionally

Fidgeting with my folder, I waited nervously my knee bouncing up and down from subconscious jitters. I sat anticipating my first interview ever. Nevertheless, it went smoothly. Clad in khakis and a red t-shirt, I worked as an apparel associate at Target for the next six months.

For a moment, rewind twelve years. My family still teases me about a time I scoured a gift shop with the exciting premise of picking any item I wanted off the extensive shelves. After deliberately searching, I finally found what I desired. It was love at first sight… a neon yellow, orange, green, and pink “camouflage” floppy hat. Perfect. I mean who wouldn’t want to walk around with a tie-dyed highlighter explosion on their head, right? Needless to say, since I was really young, I have loved clothes and fashion even if I did not have the best taste at age five.

Elements of my job at Target coincided with my ongoing obsession with style. Standing in the back room, I found an enticing wonder looking up at the levels upon levels of the new season’s hottest trends. Organizing “just-in” apparel or arranging the new scarves and purses in the accessories section was right up my alley.

However, most of my hours were not spent absorbed in the fashion realm.

Although I did not see anything glamorous in folding graphic tees, cleaning the fitting room of strewn jeans and blouses, or reattaching disembodied limbs of manikins, it submerged me for the first time into the working world. It was my first introduction to interviewing and training, working under bosses, and developing customer service skills. It was also a first-hand experience of observing how all the moving pieces played together to create a massive chain corporation.

Two things stuck with me the most — First, no matter how menial a task felt some nugget of wisdom could always be extrapolated.

Typically, a shift rotated between the tasks of organizing the fitting room, restocking the racks of clothing, and re-folding and re-hanging clothes that had been disheveled throughout the course of the day. Intermixed was answering and transferring phone calls and assisting guests.

But in those tedious tasks, I grew.

From helping a woman pick out the perfect summer, causal outfit for a baby shower to helping an elderly man select the correct handkerchief, customer service was mandatory and valuable. Hand-in-hand with customer service skills came clear communication whether it be chatting with guests, coworkers, or assisting a customer on the phone.

In order to serve guests effectively, the store ran on a formulated system, imperative knowledge for the employees. Building and utilizing organizationfrom the workings of the back room to setting up aesthetically pleasing displays was vital.

However, perhaps the biggest concept I learned was not through the daily tasks of the job — it was a mindset. Seeing first hand how every employee worked into creating the corporation opened my eyes. It became crystal clear that advancement demands individual intentionality. I was taken aback by the swaths of college grads and adults working entry level positions with no drive to advance.

To me the thought of working at Target at age forty was absolutely terrifying. Perhaps part of the lethargic comradery among employees sprouted from the deep-seated negativity. Conversations among my coworkers revolved around gossip, how badly one wanted to leave, and how many minutes until they could clock out. However, there was one person who did not fall prey to the negativity devouring most employees — my boss. She exuded relentless positivity even on a day she had been working since 4:30 AM prepping for a new clothing line launch. She worked crazy long hours and had to do some of the “undesirable” work, yet she never failed to greet each employee or guest with an emphatic smile and an authentic interest in their day. I aim to be like her. She defined her own experience.

“Morals of the story” surround every person even in the most simple tasks. My biggest takeaway from spend hours picking rumpled sweaters off the floor and artfully balancing spaghetti strap shirts on on slippery, plastic hangers was to actively search for the lessons in the little things and define my own experience.

Kayla SanoyComment