Before the Ukiah Costco opened for business in 2018, I talked with then-General Manager Michael Wiederholt as his employees were running around getting the store ready for customers.
When one of those employees, 18-year-old Ashtyn Howe, stopped briefly to tell me this was her first job after graduating from Ukiah High School that year, Wiederholt thrust out his hand to give her a high-five and exclaim: “Costco was my first job, too!”
That was cool.
Because I can’t think of a better first boss for a teenager than someone who loves their job and is proud of the work they do.
First and foremost, the teen learns that a job is something to be respected and done to the best of your abilities.
Second, they learn that taking pride in your work makes any job more pleasant and productive for those around you. Even if you don’t enjoy what you do, a co-worker who does their best with every task can inspire you to do the same.
But perhaps the most important lesson a boss who loves their job can teach teenagers is that such a feeling is even possible. And hopefully they will be inspired to find one they can love, yet while still appreciating every job they get during their search.
Because acting like an entry-level position is beneath you does not convince employers you are destined for bigger and better things. In fact, I think it shows them quite the opposite.
Performing well at the job you have doesn’t mean you’ve resigned yourself to it forever. But it does mean you are far more likely to land the job you really want.
Providing proof of the inspiration Wiederholt gave his employees is 2018 Ukiah High graduate John Gonzalez, who worked at the Ukiah Costco warehouse for two-and-a-half years. And while Wiederholt was only his boss there for about a year, Gonzalez said he left a lasting impression on him.
“Full disclosure, I was still a teenager when I started working for him and there were times when I wanted to put his picture up and throw darts at it! But now looking back, I realize what he was doing and what made him such a good leader,” said Gonzalez, recalling that Wiederholt led by instilling good practices, not by being a friend to his employees.
Gonzalez now works as a District Sales Manager for a beverage company in Pismo and said he is often thinking back to the lessons Wiederholt taught him, and deploying some of his techniques on both himself and the employees he manages.
“Michael would always ask us, ‘What are your passions? What are your career goals, and where do you want to be working?’” Gonzalez said, explaining that thinking of where he wanted to be and what he wanted to be doing definitely helped him focus on doing the best job he could at Costco.
It also helped, Gonzalez said, that Wiederholt gave him the freedom to do a good job — meaning that at first his boss checked in constantly, but then once Gonzalez demonstrated that he could do a good job, Wiederholt would step back and let him perform well on his own.
“He showed me how to be a good leader by letting me do good work and by doing good work himself,” said Gonzalez, recalling how Wiederholt balanced his office work with plenty of time “on the floor” of the store, often stocking shelves or doing other tasks as needed.
In fact, during stressful times like lengthy power outages, Gonzalez recalls seeing Wiederholt helping directing traffic at the gas station before the warehouse opened, then coming inside and helping with the long lines of people buying generators.
When asked what his work aspirations are now five years later at age 23, Gonzalez answered in true Wiederholt-form: “To focus on where I am now, and do the best job here that I can.”
(Ukiah Daily Journal)