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Terrifying & Amazing

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Torchbearer: Janibell Rodriguez — Dominican-American. New Jersey, USA.

Janibell Rodriquez is a plumber/saleswoman/model who had to recently struggle through a question many of us have faced — I graduated, now what am I suppose to do? It’s a terrifying phase of life that we sometimes forget about once we’re in the middle of our careers.

Model Dreams — Terrifying & Amazing

“At first I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going or how to get there. I didn’t know anything! I was simply an 18-year-old girl that people told to go to college, because I would get a good job. I had no idea what I really wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be a model. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology to get a business degree in fashion. I told my family and friends I’m going to a fashion school, but I didn’t tell them my real dream was to model. However, two-years into college I didn’t want to model anymore.

When I started learning about the business side of the fashion industry — there were so many different directions I could go in, that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. After I took a few business courses, I became really scared because I wasn’t interested in any of it. The experience was a little terrifying but then it turned out to be amazing.”

Getting Past College

“I was born in a really bad city. I didn’t go to a good school. Out of the 381 high schools in New Jersey, my school was ranked 379 at the time. It was really difficult to stay focused, but I wanted a better life.

In college I was like a zombie. I didn’t stop. I was working from 9:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.; taking classes from 6:00 p.m. — 9:30 p.m., three to four days a week. I was also taking online classes — sometimes doing my homework on the train. It was really chaotic but it was worth it. However at one point when I graduated, I didn’t think it was going to be worth it because I didn’t have a job I enjoyed.

A lot of people think, ‘Okay, I’m going to get a degree. Then I’m going to get a really good job, and I’ll be fine.’ But it might not work out that way. It might be a little harder than you think. Getting the degree is just one part, making a name for yourself and having good work ethic — that’s something different.

It took me two years after getting my degree to find a job I really liked.”

A Mom’s Passing — I Had No Choice But To Be Strong

“When I was in college I lost my mom. My world came crashing down. I didn’t have a job, didn’t have any money, I didn’t know what I was going to do. A lot of people would come to me and complain about life and I would say, ‘Listen, it’s not that bad. Tomorrow is going to be a better day.’ I would cheer them up and they didn’t know how I was able to do that {after losing my mom}. It’s okay to be angry and to be sad but just know better days are coming.

Things happen and sometimes you don’t have any choice but to be strong. I think my inspiration came when people started telling me, ‘You’re so strong. I don’t know how you’re doing it.’ Because I didn’t feel like I was doing anything, I just had to adjust.”

Grieving in College

“When my mom passed, I had to make a decision — drop out of college and go figure life out OR figure out life while you’re in college. To me it was about, what would my mom want? So I didn’t drop out. I didn’t take a break, because if I was to do that then life would get in the way and I may never come back!

Three days after burying my mother, I went back to school — I went back to the dorms. I left my family grieving on their own, even though I was the only child and the closest thing they had to my mother. I became a little selfish and left. I was grieving, they were grieving, we were all grieving and that was not going to help me get better. I went back to school and distanced myself for the semester.

I don’t even know how I got up and went to class! I programmed my mind to not think about it. I didn’t give myself time to grieve. I blocked the emotions that I was feeling — I was in complete shock — I thought it was a dream that I would wake up from. Literally all I was thinking about was school, internships and working. It was good and bad — It did help me in my career. Thank God I finished that degree, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it now.”

Follow Your Skills

“After I graduated college, I was hired to do product development and marketing, but I was completely unhappy. I didn’t like the work environment. I felt I wasn’t very good at what I did.

I was also doing retail work part-time — selling cosmetics and fragrances. I worked in retail stores since I was 16. One of the skills that you need in retail is to be a good salesperson — you’re interacting with people every day and selling. I was doing it for so long, I could sell things in my sleep! My managers would always tell me I should get into sales, but I didn’t pay any attention to it until I became unhappy at my product development job.

I went from cosmetics to fashion to plumbing. Now I sell lighting, appliances and plumbing materials. At the time, everybody was confused — I didn’t know what I got myself into but my employer said once I trained and learned the product that I would do well. After intense training and understanding a very male dominated industry — I love it!”

I’m Stuck — The Struggle

“This is literally what was going through my mind the two years after graduation: I’m not making money. Bills are past-due. Life is hitting me. I’m an adult. Now I don’t have Mom. I don’t have Dad. Rent is due. What the hell! Bills need to be paid and I don’t know where my career is going — so I’ll be a Macy’s manager and a bartender.

It took one guy at the club where I was bartending to ask me, why am I not using my college degree. I felt stuck. I was applying to jobs left and right. I needed that extra push to go after what I think I deserved.

The job I got hired for was a Sales Trainee. I already knew how to sell. I was a manager at Macy’s. I really thought about if I wanted to take a step back from being a Manager to a Trainee. But how am I going to sell if I don’t know the product? I went, applied myself and learned everything there is to know about plumbing. I told myself: I’m going to make a career out of this!’”

Fashion is Everywhere

“I never thought I would be in the plumbing industry. The interesting thing is because I have a fashion degree, I have an eye for trends. In the work I do now, it’s all about renovations — new kitchens, new bathrooms. Fashion is everywhere — not only in clothes and makeup but also the car you drive, the house you live in. Everyone has a different style and taste — that all revolves around fashion. I was able transfer my creativity to bring fashion into the home. That’s how I put my degree to use.

When you’re doing fashion, you need to understand what designers are releasing. The type of plumbing I do involves working with a lot of architects, designers and in new construction. You need to understand the taste and style of whoever you’re selling the products to. For example, when someone is renovating a bathroom — What kind of faucet do you want? Do you want a steam shower? People think a faucet is a faucet but there are different finishes. There is gold, bronze…There are different tiles, wall colors, types of wood. It’s all interior designing.

I get the best of both worlds. I use my creativity, but I also use my sales experience.”

Young Woman in a Male Industry

“It’s kind of an advantage to be a woman in a (predominately) male industry, but you need to know your stuff. Don’t just be about looks. You have to be very firm and still friendly. You don’t have to be mean. Sometimes they can be a little rude and intimidating because they are contractors and plumbers. I like to remember that they may be able to pick up a toilet or bathtub, but they also need the products I’m selling.”

Job-Hopping — I Didn’t Want to Settle

“I’ve had so many types of jobs! I’ve done product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, make-up, apparel, shoes. Name the retail store, I’ve worked there! I was a Starbucks’ barista. I’ve even worked at a dentist office.

I had to figure out who I was! I needed to figure out what I like to do! They call it job-hopping but I don’t consider it job-hopping. You have to figure out what you like to do and what you’re good at. In order to do that I had to go intern, I had to work. ‘Do I like this job? Ehh, maybe not. How about this job?’ It’s kind of like dating. You’re not going to settle for a guy just because he’s cute or makes money. I didn’t want to settle! I approached all my jobs like dating. (laughs) I was dating to find the one that I’m going to marry!

I knew plumbing was the job for me the day I interviewed. I had no idea, but when I walked into the showroom and saw the beautiful toilets, faucets and showerheads — it felt like home. Then when I found out people stay at the company for 30, 40 years — I just knew it was an amazing company.”

Hobbies vs. Careers

“I’ve become more realistic. Modeling is more of a hobby now. I use modeling and make-up tutorials to express myself. People confuse what makes them happy and what they should make a career out of. My career is about being a saleswoman. I like being challenged to solve problems. Yes, you can make a career out of your passion, but you can also learn to like new things.”

— Janibell Rodriguez


Enjoyed Janibell's journey? Then let us know! Here are other inspiring moments.

  • Read: "Never Let Your Dreams Die" - How many people have reached a point in their careers, where they are no longer happy, but keep reporting for duty every day because they need that pay check at the end of the month? I had gotten there slowly, but surely.

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