A Janitor’s Work Ethic

So this post is long overdue, it’s been in my head for weeks and I finally decided to sit and write it. This post is about working hard to be the best in every aspect of your life, especially your job. And for me my job falls in line with my passion, so it’s easier. You may ask, what’s your job, Eric? Well, I am an Admissions Counselor at a private catholic university focusing on multicultural outreach and love it!

I am writing this post because I wanted to reflect on my experiences and describe how I gained my work ethic. So, I grew up in a family of hard working people, as many others do. My grandpa was a day laborer, my grandmother a seamstress working 14 hour days. Most of my uncles were/are custodians at high schools. My parents for years were janitors for a private company, now they own their own business. I grew up with a vacuum in my hand and a Windex bottle hooked to my pocket. From about 12 to midway through college I helped my parent’s cleaning offices. I was never excited to work nights with my parents, especially when the tasks consisted of taking out other people’s trash, cleaning their bathrooms, and organizing their desks. I did it because it was necessary. I did it because my parent’s said it would build character and responsibility.  Now, as I reflect on my experiences and the work I currently do, I realize that in those nights of cleaning I gained my strong work ethic. I gained humility (some may challenge me on that), customer service, accountability, and dedication to doing a job at the highest capacity.

Yesterday, I was given my performance evaluation for the new position I hold as Admissions Counselor. My supervisor and I had a two hour conversation about my work, leadership style, and way I carry myself. This conversation with my supervisor led me to writing what I truly learned as a janitor.

1)      Janitor’s work while you sleep. As the work day ends, ours start. We do the behind the scenes work. Cleaning your office, school, or medical facility while you sleep. From those long nights, I learned to take pride in “behind the scenes” work knowing that you won’t be noticed or recognized for it, but people will appreciate it.


2)      Janitors have humility. Whether it was throwing away trash, cleaning throw-up at an elementary school, or scrubbing toilet bowls, we did the task and didn’t complain. It was part of the job. Now, I realize no task is too menial or beneath me. I do my work and those “Other Duties as Assigned” with enthusiasm and to the best of my ability.

3)      Janitors prove their worth every day. With so many janitorial companies available trying to under sell you, you need to bring you’re A-game all the time. You can provide 364 days of wonder service, but if you mess up once, it could be your last day. There is 100% accountability for your workmanship and service. Now as a student affairs professional, I work every day with the mentality that I need to show why hiring me was a great decision. I bring it every day, I try to prove my worth every day. I don’t take it for granted, knowing how easy it is to be replaced.

This mentality, this work ethic is what I bring to my position. Some people see it as trying too hard, or over working. Other say it’s bad for work/life balance, but I never learned how to balance. For me, my work is my life. I can’t help but be excited to do the work I do. I get energized by the students and knowing I’m making a difference and helping reach their dreams of going to college. At the same time, there are days I’m super tired or sluggish. I have ways to motivate me. I have my Notre Dame “Play like a Champion” sign, the LeBron “baby powder throwing” gesture, and motivational quotes all over (in my home, room, and office). These things help me bring my A game every day and go H.A.M. in all that I do.

There is one more thing I’d like to share. During the performance review, I did receive one point of criticism; I was described as too smart for my own good…but also described as one of the top three hires in the last ten years. We talked about working on my “smugness” and the way I interact with others. Okay, what do you expect?  You can’t fuel the fire of confidence like that. As Kanye says, “It’s hard to be humble when you stuntin on a Jumbotron.” Okay, I digress. I was challenged to improve the way I interact with my coworkers and control my sometimes overbearing swag. I realize that you can either be an insensitive dictator that delegates tasks or an inspiring leader that gets people to buy-in; I want to be the latter. As I seek to improve myself,  I will continuously work on being a more caring, genuine, and inspiring leader, especially if I want to become a Director/VP of Enrollment Management in the future.


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