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A Big Break Realized Amid Fluorescent Lights and Slurpee Machines

Before his big break, Terry Boring worked as an assistant manager at a convenience store in Pittsburgh.
Jessica Ferringer
Courtesy of Terry Boring
Before his big break, Terry Boring worked as an assistant manager at a convenience store in Pittsburgh.

As part of a series called "My Big Break," All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

It all started with a dead-end job at a convenience store in Pittsburgh. Terry Boring says he had the worst job there: the assistant manager.

"You get none of the respect of the store manager and you get all of the terrible hours that they can't get anyone else to work," he says.

Boring was surrounded by fluorescent lights, old food and Slurpee machines. But the worst part was wearing the dreaded uniform.

"It was like they got out of the time machine straight out of 1981. It's mint green and I had these pleated black slacks. I just looked like a sad joke," he says. "It was not a fun place to work."

Boring's big break happened when one of the regulars named Gregg walked up to the counter to buy his usual pack of cigarettes.

Knowing that there was a deal going on at the store, Boring suggested he buy two packs instead of one.

"I said, 'Listen, you come in every couple days, you buy a pack of cigarettes. You could buy two packs and save yourself some time and money.' "

Gregg paused, smiled and asked him why he was working at a convenience store.

"Most of my young and early adult life had been spent with a lot people telling me how much potential I was wasting and how I wasn't really living up to what I was capable of doing," he says.

Gregg, who worked in the sales department at a bank, saw something in Boring. He told him that he had a job opening and promised him that he'd put in a good word.

That evening, Boring applied and landed an interview. The hiring manager called back with a job offer.

"By the way, this is not a glamorous job that I'm signing up for. It was the customer service representative job," Boring says. "Which at the time, I was ecstatic about."

He immediately shared the news with Gregg.

"I just told him, 'Thanks a lot for putting in a good word for me.' "

Gregg looked at him and realized that he forgot to recommend him for the position.

Boring got the job all by himself.

"It's really amazing what can happen when somebody believes in you," he says. "Even if you don't believe in yourself."

Nine months into being a customer service representative, Boring worked his way up to the sales department where he set record numbers as the top salesman.

Now, seven years later, he's a vice president and the sales performance manager at the bank.

"My big break is found in a most unexpected place," he says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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