How A Broke Trip To Aldi’s Changed My Life
I was shopping at Aldi’s during college and I only had a few dollars to my name. I had to take a few things out of my “box” because I didn’t have enough to buy everything I wanted. I was in between paychecks. I literally had less than 10 dollars to my name when I was buying groceries.
I was broke.
I still remember the feeling on the way back to my apartment. I was quiet and deep in my own thoughts. It was the first time I thought to myself that I would never let this happen again. I would never let myself get to the point where I had to make life decisions in line at a discount grocery store.
It was a sickening feeling that I could feel deep in my stomach.
Yes, I could have asked my parents for more money, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had convinced myself that I was going to be completely independent and I was going to do it all by myself. I had no choice. I never wanted to feel that way ever again. I’m not going to let myself down and I’m not going to let my parent’s down. I needed to help them, not the other way around.
So, what was the solution to never let this happen again?
The answer was clear: Work my ass off 24 / 7. I needed to work more, because working more = more money. More money = rent payments, food & tuition payments. I needed more money to be independent. I didn’t have time to rely on anyone.
I only thought 1-2 months ahead. I didn’t think 2-4 years ahead of time. I wasn’t smart enough to do that. I was in survival mode, not “where do I see myself in 5 years” mode.
I started applying everywhere on campus.
Within 3 months, I had 3 different jobs working 30-35 hours a week + full-time school. I woke up at 8am, and usually got home at 11pm. These were all standard office & student IT jobs. Answer phones, fix printers, do your homework when you have nothing else to do. My third job was working at a small ethnic grocery store.
My plan worked. My next step was to find me a great career in the IT industry.
I found myself in the same predicament I was in before. I’m just an average student with no connections to anyone in the corporate world. No one was going to open any doors for me. I had to do it myself.
I didn’t really have any “strategies” to get an awesome career. Scratch that, I had a strategy:
Work my ass off.
Cast a wide net, something has to hit. That was my strategy.
I went to every job fair even if the job fair was just for women or for African-Americans. I got weird looks, but I didn’t care. The recruiters still talked to me. All I wanted was face time.
I sent follow-up emails, and applied for every internship and job that I can.
It was the only way I knew how.
It worked. It had to work. There was no way it couldn’t work.
I joined a group at Purdue called “Minority Peer Counselors” which was also known as MPC. I eventually became the Director of the organization my senior year. We called seniors in high school to let them know they were accepted into Purdue University and we would answer any questions that they had. 90% of the time it was just the high school student screaming in excitement on the other end of the phone, because we called them before they received the official letter from Purdue.
There I met a wonderful woman named Antonia (Tony) Munguia who at the time was an Associate Director of Admissions and was responsible for this group. She was one of the very few people who I’ve met in my lifetime that actually cared about you and wanted you to succeed. She was (is) one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Senior year I was heads down applying & interviewing. I had two internships under my belt, one including Dell which was one of the hottest companies at the time.
There was a big job fair coming up. Tony asked me if I wanted to help a recruiter at Accenture set up an informational session the day before the job fair.
My response was: Accenture? Never heard of the company, but sure. I think they do consulting, and I’m not really sure what a consultant does. But I will definitely be there. I called off work and then I went the next day to help the recruiter.
This connection allowed me to meet the recruiter before the job fair. I still went to the job fair, and asked to speak specifically to her. I said hello again and she made sure to get me an interview.
I was ecstatic. I became obsessed with a company I didn’t know existed 2 days prior.
I pulled out all the big guns. I brought in 5 letters of recommendation to my first interview specifically tailored for Accenture. Yes, that’s right 5. Every job I ever worked at + MPC which had 6 signatures on it + the Director of Admissions wrote a separate letter of recommendation.
It’s safe to say that I wasn’t fucking around.
I had no choice.
I had to make this happen.
It turned out Accenture was looking for technology graduates who don’t mind having to work in the office until 7pm every day. I was a perfect fit. I got an offer.
I had 19 first round interviews with other companies and ended with 4 job offers (That’s 15 rejections for those that are counting). Accenture was the clear winner. I started working 2 weeks after I graduated. I would have started the day after I graduated if they let me.
I didn’t need a break. I didn’t even know how to take a break. It went against everything I stood for.
This went on for about 8 years. For 8 years, I worked every single day that I could. Nights, weekends, you name it. I was working whether it was for another company or my company. I was working even when all my work was done. I found work. It didn’t matter. I was always heads down. I was one of the most reliable and loyal people you could ever meet.
The same strategy that helped me get ahead was now hurting me. I was too deep in it to understand what I was doing wrong.
It wasn’t until recently that I figured out that I’ve done enough surviving, and maybe now I should focus on living and start thinking 5 years ahead instead of the 1-2 months I am accustomed too.
Being broke at Aldi’s was the best thing to ever happen to me. It gave me a fire under my ass I didn’t know existed. But, it also started something that took me 8 years to get out of.
Plus, getting the quarter back from the shopping cart always brings a smile to my face. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry – you probably never will.
Now, I’m focused on helping the survivors in any way that I can. Tony helped me in ways I can’t thank her enough. That single connection to the recruiter was the reason I got into consulting & why I’m still able to do it now.
It’s time for me to pay it forward to all the survivors out there.