Valentino, or Tino for short, sat down with us recently to share his employment story. For the past eight years, Tino has worked at Lowe’s where he currently serves as a full-time Delivery Load Puller and Assistant to the Delivery Driver. But Tino hasn’t always worked full-time at Lowe’s; he worked his way up to his current position over time.
Before he got his start at Lowe’s, Tino shares that he worked as a Busboy at Black Bear Diner for five years. He was motivated to start looking for a new job because, “I was not getting paid enough,” he says. With a goal to find a new job and earn more money, Tino sought out support from a job coach through supported employment services offered by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). The job coach helped Tino learn how to search, apply, and interview for jobs, “because I didn’t know how,” he says.
With the job coach’s support, Tino began applying for jobs at Walmart. When he didn’t hear back from Walmart, Tino explains, he continued applying for positions online at Home Depot and Lowe’s. “Lowe’s jumped on it real fast and wanted an interview,” Tino says about his online application experience. “I was shocked at how fast it went.”
Tino was initially hired by Lowe’s as a Front End Seasonal Loader, working a few hours per week. After a period of time, with the encouragement of his co-workers, Tino asked his manager if he could work part-time and was soon promoted to a more permanent position. After working part-time for six months, Tino asked to work full-time, “because I wanted to do something more athletic, like lifting appliances.” At first, Tino was told no because there were no available positions at the time. When a Deliver Load Puller position opened up, a manager notified Tino directly. Tino applied that day and was hired for the full-time position he has today.
Promotions did not come immediately to Tino, as his story shows. He emphasizes that it took hard work and dedication to get to where he is today. It also required a willingness to speak up and ask for help in finding and interviewing for jobs, as well as asking for more responsibility on the job.
Persistence was key to Tino’s success in securing his first position as a temporary seasonal employee at Lowe’s, and then working his way up to a permanent full-time position. Even when he was not hired or did not get a promotion right away, Tino kept applying for jobs and following up with managers to show his interest in taking on more responsibility at work while still working hard at the job he had. By taking this approach, Tino gained the respect of his co-workers and managers who have become important sources of support to his professional growth and sense of belonging.
Tino notes that he was shy at first but remained persistent because he really wanted to work full-time and was confident in his work ethic. Asking for a promotion can be hard to do, Tino acknowledges. But he was encouraged by his family, friends, and co-workers who said, “You can do it. Go for it.”
Ask what kind of challenges he has experienced in regards to employment, Tino says the main challenge he faces at work is dealing with disgruntled customers--a challenge anyone working in retail and customer service can relate to. “[Customers] can be a little upset because they didn’t get what they wanted,” Tino says about customers who share negative feedback with him. Tino explains that his approach to handling these situations is to acknowledge the customer’s experience and to follow up with his managers so they can take action and make necessary changes.
Asked what job advice he would pass on to other employees, Tino shares that his dad taught him to, “Listen to your elders and have that hard work ethic,” adding that his dad tells him to, “find something to do instead of standing around. If you’re done [with a task] and don’t have something to do, pick up a broom and start sweeping.” Tino notes that he receives praise from his co-workers and managers for his work ethic and feels appreciated for his contributions to the team.
Asked what advice he has for employers, Tino says that it’s important for employers to show appreciation for their employees and to help people with their needs, “like if you say you need a little help or don’t understand something.” He acknowledges that not every single need can be accommodated but within reason Tino believes employers should be willing to train people who are willing to work hard and be a part of a team.
Tino advises employers that ongoing training for employees is important to their continued success at work, like when “you got a routine and something new crops up, and you need a little more training to handle the new situation.” He especially appreciates managers who are polite to their employees.
Being a part of a supportive work team has been an important part of Tino’s employment experience. “We’re a solid team [at Lowe’s],” he says, adding that he appreciates the support and encouragement he receives from his co-workers, many of whom he counts as friends. The need for support is mutual. Tino shares how he supports his co-workers by offering a listening ear and words of encouragement when they face their own challenges.
“Lowe’s is like a big ol’ family,” Tino says. “If I’m not okay, they’ll see what’s going on. They love me a lot and want me to be a front end loader again because I work so hard,” he adds, chuckling. “But I’m not going back to that,” he says with a grin.
Asked who supports him in his employment pursuits, Tino notes his first manager at Lowe’s was an important support because they helped train him as a seasonal employee. The manager eventually put in a good word for Tino with the other managers to be hired part-time. Tino gives the main credit to his parents (who are his foster mom and dad, he explains) for the support and encouragement they’ve provided him in working toward his goals. “I took my mom and dad’s word to heart and did it. I’m where I’m at now. I have a driver license, I have a job. I can go where I want—because I’m a grown up.”
Asked what’s ahead for him, Tino shares that he recently won a BBQ grill from entering a raffle prize at work. “I won the large prize,” he says, smiling. Now he’s looking forward to firing up the new grill once the weather gets nicer.
Congratulations, Tino! Keep up the good work.