How a Broke Trip to Aldi Changed My Life.

I was shopping at Aldi as a college student, and I only had a few dollars to my name. I had to take a few things out of my box because I didn’t have enough to buy everything I wanted. I was in between paychecks. I literally had less than $10 to my name when I was buying groceries.

I was broke.

I still remember exactly how I felt on the way back to my apartment. I was quiet and deep in my own thoughts. It was the first time I thought to myself that I would never let this happen again. I would never let myself get to the point where I had to make life decisions in line at a discount grocery store.

It was a sickening feeling I could feel deep in my stomach.

Yes, I could have asked my parents for more money, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had convinced myself that I was going to be completely independent and I would do it all by myself. I had no choice.

I never wanted to feel that way ever again. I wasn’t going to let myself down and I wasn’t going to let my parents down. I needed to help them, not the other way around.

So what was the solution to make sure I was never this broke ever again?

The answer was clear: Work my ass off 24/7. I needed to work more, because working more = more money. More money = rent payments, food and tuition payments. I needed more money to be independent. I couldn’t rely on anyone but myself.

I only thought 1-2 months ahead. I didn’t think about where I’d be 2-4 years from then. I wasn’t smart enough to do that. I was in survival mode, not “where do I see myself in 5 years” mode.

I started applying everywhere on campus.

Within 3 months, I had 3 different jobs and was working 30-35 hours a week in addition to attending school full-time. I woke up at 8 a.m. and usually got home at 11 p.m. These were all standard office and student IT jobs. Answer phones, fix printers, do your homework when you have nothing else to do. My third job was working at a small ethnic grocery store.

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My plan worked. My next step was to find a great career in the IT industry.

When I graduated, I found myself in the same predicament as before. I was an average student with no connections to the corporate world. I knew no one who could open doors for me. I had to find a way to do it myself.

I didn’t really have any strategies to landing an awesome career. Scratch that, I had one strategy:

Work my ass off.

Cast a wide net, and something has to hit. That was my strategy.

I went to every job fair, even if the job fair was just for women or for African Americans. I got weird looks, but I didn’t care. The recruiters still talked to me. All I wanted was face time.

I sent follow-up emails and applied for every internship and job that I could.

It was the only way I knew how.

It worked. It had to work. There was no way it couldn’t work.

The payoff

I joined a group at Purdue called Minority Peer Counselors (MPC.) By senior year, I was the director of the organization. We called high school seniors to let them know they had been accepted into Purdue University and would answer any questions they had. About 90% of the time, it was just the high school student screaming in excitement on the other end of the phone because we called them before they received their official acceptance letters.

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There I met a wonderful woman named Antonia (Toni) Munguia who was an Associate Director of Admissions and was responsible for this group. She was one of the very first people who I met who actually cared about me and wanted me to succeed.

Senior year I was heads down applying and interviewing. I had 2 internships under my belt, including one with Dell, which was one of the hottest companies at the time.

A big job fair was coming up. Toni asked me if I wanted to help a recruiter at Accenture set up an informational session the day before the job fair.

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My response was: Accenture? Never heard of the company, but sure. I think they do consulting, and I’m not really sure what a consultant does. But I will definitely be there. I called off work and arrived the next day to help the recruiter.

This connection gave me the opportunity to meet the recruiter before the job fair. I still went to the job fair and asked to speak specifically to her. I said hello again and she made sure to get me an interview.

I was ecstatic. I became obsessed with a company I didn’t know existed 2 days prior.

I pulled out all the big guns. I brought in 5 letters of recommendation specifically tailored for Accenture to my first interview. Yes, that’s right. 5. Every job I ever worked at, plus the entire Purdue admissions office signed a recommendation letter. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t messing around.

I had no choice.

I had to make this happen.

I didn’t just want this job. I needed this job.

It turned out Accenture was looking for technology graduates who didn’t mind working until 7 p.m. every workday. I was a perfect fit. I got an offer.

I had 19 first round interviews with other companies and ended with 4 job offers (That’s 15 rejections if you’re counting.) Accenture was the clear winner. I started work 2 weeks after I graduated. I would have started the day after I graduated if they had let me.

I didn’t need a break. I didn’t even know how to take a break. It went against everything I stood for. My motivation was purely driven on advancing my career in the best and fastest way possible.

This went on for about 8 years. For 8 years, I worked every single day I could. Nights, weekends, you name it. I was working whether it was for another company or when I quit my job to start my own company. I was working even when all my work was done. It didn’t matter. I found work. I was always heads down. I was one of the most reliable and loyal people you could ever meet.

I didn’t realize that the same strategy that helped me get ahead was now hurting me. I was too deep in it to understand what I was doing wrong.

It wasn’t until recently I figured out that I’ve done enough surviving. Maybe now I should focus on living and start thinking 5 years ahead instead of the 1-2 months I am accustomed too.

Being broke at Aldi was the best thing to ever happen to me. It gave me a fire under my ass I didn’t know existed.

Every time I pass an Aldi, I always remember getting the quarter back from the shopping cart and the feelings it generated every time I did it. It always humbles me and also generates motivation to succeed even further.

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It was also my first realization that I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed as much help as I could get.

PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.