A Big Break Realized Amid Fluorescent Lights and Slurpee Machines

May 18, 2014
Originally published on August 2, 2015 9:47 pm

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

It all started with a dead-end job at a convenience store in Pittsburgh. Terry Boring says he had the worst job there: the assistant manager.

"You get none of the respect of the store manager and you get all of the terrible hours that they can't get anyone else to work," he says.

Boring was surrounded by fluorescent lights, old food and Slurpee machines. But the worst part was wearing the dreaded uniform.

"It was like they got out of the time machine straight out of 1981. It's mint green and I had these pleated black slacks. I just looked like a sad joke," he says. "It was not a fun place to work."

Boring's big break happened when one of the regulars named Gregg walked up to the counter to buy his usual pack of cigarettes.

Knowing that there was a deal going on at the store, Boring suggested he buy two packs instead of one.

"I said, 'Listen, you come in every couple days, you buy a pack of cigarettes. You could buy two packs and save yourself some time and money.' "

Gregg paused, smiled and asked him why he was working at a convenience store.

"Most of my young and early adult life had been spent with a lot people telling me how much potential I was wasting and how I wasn't really living up to what I was capable of doing," he says.

Gregg, who worked in the sales department at a bank, saw something in Boring. He told him that he had a job opening and promised him that he'd put in a good word.

That evening, Boring applied and landed an interview. The hiring manager called back with a job offer.

"By the way, this is not a glamorous job that I'm signing up for. It was the customer service representative job," Boring says. "Which at the time, I was ecstatic about."

He immediately shared the news with Gregg.

"I just told him, 'Thanks a lot for putting in a good word for me.' "

Gregg looked at him and realized that he forgot to recommend him for the position.

Boring got the job all by himself.

"It's really amazing what can happen when somebody believes in you," he says. "Even if you don't believe in yourself."

Nine months into being a customer service representative, Boring worked his way up to the sales department where he set record numbers as the top salesman.

Now, seven years later, he's a vice president and the sales performance manager at the bank.

"My big break is found in a most unexpected place," he says.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Tess Vigeland. Time now for the latest installment of our series My Big Break, about triumphs big and small. This next piece comes from listener Terry Boring whose story does not echo his name. He wrote to us about his big break that started with a dead-end job at a convenience store in Pittsburgh.

TERRY BORING: I was the assistant manager, which as some people may or may not know is actually the worst job that you can have in the convenience store business because you get none of the respect of the store manager, you get all of the terrible hours that they can't get anyone else to work. And the uniforms, it was like they got out of the time machine straight out of 1981. It's mint green and I have these pleated black slacks. And I just look like a sad joke. It was not a fun place to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BORING: My big break happened one day when one of the regulars walked into the convenience store and I later come to find out that his name was Greg(ph). He bought his usual pack of Marlboro Lights. And I remember at the time we had a special going on where if you bought two packs of Marlboro cigarettes it was $10 instead of the usual $6.50 per pack. I said, listen, you come in every couple of days, you buy a pack of cigarettes. You could buy two packs and save yourself from time and money, and...

He paused and smiled and looked at me and he said: What are you doing here, kid? What are you doing working in a place like this? No one had ever asked me a question quite like that before. Up until that point, you know, I didn't do very well in school. I - most of my young and early adult life had been spent with, you know, a lot of people telling me how much potential I was wasting and how I wasn't really living up to what I was capable of doing.

So I didn't really have an answer for him and I just said, I really don't know what else I would be doing. And he said, well, I work at a bank and I work in sales. You should come work with me. I want you to apply for a job. I'll put in a good word for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BORING: I went in. They interviewed me and the recruiter called me back and said some words that I really wasn't expecting: We'd like to extend you an offer for a job. And by the way, this is not a glamorous job that I'm signing up for. It was the customer service representative job, which at the time I was ecstatic about.

And I ran into Greg and I said, hey, I got the job. And he said, oh, congratulations buddy. I just told him, you know, thanks a lot for putting in a good word for me. And he said, oh, I totally forgot to. Sorry about that. And I had done it all on my own. The thing that I can kind of take away from that is, it's really amazing what can happen when somebody believes in you, even if, you know, you don't believe in yourself.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BORING: About nine months later I got a job in the sales department. And I became the top sales person, and having set the annual and monthly record for sales in the department they noticed me. And eventually I kind of worked my way up and here I am seven years later, the vice president of the company and sales performance manager.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BORING: And my big break can be - you know, is found in a most unexpected place.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

VIGELAND: That's Terry Boring. He emailed us his story and now we want to hear from you. Send us a message at MyBigBreak @npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.