Between 2009 and 2012 I worked as a Janitor. Not full time, just after hours. I worked my desk job, ran my promotions company booking hip hop shows in the Greater Vancouver area and worked 3-4 hours every night as a cleaner, cleaning mostly office buildings and warehouse type spaces.
I worked 8 hours in IT and Marketing, then worked 3 hours cleaning up other people’s messes, and then worked for 1-2 hours before I went to sleep for the night only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. Of course my life changed when I became a father and I started focusing on my career and passion for digital marketing, but before then I was all about making money and getting paid $40\hour to clean wasn’t a horrible gig. I needed something that didn’t require a lot of thought process or strategy, but also that didn’t feel like I was wasting my time.
The tasks were simple, empty garbage cans, replace garbage bags, mop floors, vaccum carpets, sweep paved warehouse floors, dust desks, wipe kitchen counters, basically everything I hated doing at the time of my life but pushed myself to do.
Now when I reflect on this time of my life and the job itself I realize just how much I learned during those three years. I didn’t learn about hard work, that goes without saying, Janitors work hard. Hard work wasn’t new to me though, I’ve been side hustling since I was a teenager and working my ass off since then too. What I learned was more about people, psychology and business service relationships. It prepared me well for running my own business, interacting in the workplace, and taught me a lot about how to read people and not take things too personally.
A few things I learned:
- It was often not the Presidents, CEOs or Managers who were rude to me as a cleaner. It was usually the secretaries, or assistants. I still haven’t figured out why exactly, but they were often the ones who poorly relayed messages to me, questioned things rudely or simply treated me like I was beneath them. I remember always thinking “This person is treating me like crap because she thinks that I’m worthless, but she doesn’t even know that I have a 9-5 that pays me more than she makes, and side businesses on top of that”.
- There are good people and bad people at the top. That quote that talks about president’s and CEO’s treating all of their employees from their management to janitors the same and respectfully is true. The most successful companies I worked for as a cleaner had the most respectful president’s and CEOs. Often they were the only ones in the office after hours and at night while I was cleaning so I interacted with many of them. I never explained that I was a businessman as well, or anything about my career, but mostly listened and lightly interacted with them.
- It was very easy to provide better than normal service as a cleaner. There are many large janitorial companies that are so focused on revenue and paying their employees little, that providing excellent customer service and common sense often made me excel and made it possible to easily obtain new contracts.
- People are disgusting. Some of the things I cleaned up were unimaginable. I may not have been completely respectful and aware of the actions I took in my workplace and how that may have impacted the cleaners who came at night, but I can say that I have never done some of the things I saw as a cleaner.
- After Hours in some offices is a place of romance. Janitors walking in on after hours romance taking place in the workplace is a thing at some organizations. I believe this speaks volumes about people in general. I never knew details nor did I want to.
Overall cleaning for those few years taught me that hard work always paid off if done intelligently, that people can be good and bad at any level of success or position in life and that most importantly everyone has something going on in their life that you know nothing about.
It reinforced that my moral compass was on track, and that treating people how you want to be treated will always help you win.