The janitor

An "as-told-to." You might never have noticed, but maybe you should. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

What do you think about the “as-told-to” stories we’ve been publishing recently?

I’m hearing some good feedback. And, I’m also getting some amazing leads and hearing some very interesting stories. (If you have an idea for one, reply and let me know about it.)

Today’s is by Faith McKinney, who worked as a janitor for the U.S. Post Office for two decades.

I’ll let her explain what else she does. (The selfies are a clue.)

Here’s what it’s like to have her job, and why—and also, to aspire to something else.

By Faith McKinney (as told to Bill Murphy Jr.)

I was born in 1966, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the heart of almost nowhere. I started out as a Post Office clerk in 1989. I was a single mom then, and my daughter has special needs, so I wanted to work days for childcare reasons.

Even now, my daughter is 32, and she’s at the functional level of a six-month-old. Constant care. I still have to change diapers. I still have to do everything for her. Dress her, feed her.

But it takes like 20 years as a clerk to get the seniority to work days instead of nights. So I became a janitor at the Post Office instead.

What’s it like to be a janitor? Is that what you want to know?

It’s an honorable job. But, I know that I have gifts and I know that I'm really smart. And, when you're a janitor, sometimes people forget that you're a person.

The worst part was disgruntled employees in the bathroom. That was the worst. I would have to clean that up. I let the manager know of course, but I said, Don’t make a big deal. Don't make a spectacle. That’s what they want.

I still have my dignity even when I’m doing the most disgusting tasks. They can’t take away my dignity.

I didn't cry at the time, but right now I'm thinking about it, and it's like: That was really bad.

But, most days were pretty good. Since I’d been a clerk and I knew a little bit about mail, I’d try to help when we were short. That got me some brownie points.

I'm shy, really. I'm shy. And I was like in my mid-40s, Black, bald, an overweight African-American woman.

I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be famous. But, I didn't know how to get noticed.

One of the first things I did was, they had Deal or No Deal auditions in Indianapolis. I had no interest in being on Deal or No Deal, but I figured there would be media, and if I dressed up kind of funny, they might interview me.

So I contacted a reporter and I told her I'd be the Black, bald, belly dancer. It worked.

Then, I started out with selfies.

At that time on Facebook, you could post a picture with somebody, and everybody would see it. I started doing selfies with just regular people, and they would be seen everywhere. Like 5,000 people.

Then, I was in a networking group at an event where the on-air talent quit, and the cameraman asked me if I knew anyone who could fill in to do interviews. And I said I’d do it.

I was terrible at first, but I liked it, and I learned. I got the idea to start interviewing celebrities as they came through Indianapolis. The trick was to contact the organizers of events: “Hey, do you mind if I interview your guest?”

So, I started interviewing. Dan Rather, Mike Pence when he was still the governor of Indiana, Lee Daniels, who directed The Butler, Soledad O’Brien, Travis Smiley. Who else? Michael Eric Dyson.

A lot of people that are celebrities, but not necessarily like, A-list celebrities. I did the interviews, and posted the selfies, and became kind of local famous.

And then I self-published a book called Schmingling: the Art of Being Well-Connected Through Blatant Self-Promotion.

But, I felt embarrassed.

Because I’m like, Oh, I’m trying to be this famous person who hangs around with celebrities. But I’m also like, I’m a janitor. This is what I do.

And, I’d be at the Post Office, out in the lobby sweeping and emptying trash cans and cutting the grass, and somebody would come up and recognize me.

It felt really awkward. I was grateful for the job and to be able to serve and support my family. But I felt that anxiety and angst.

Then, there was one woman who had seen me on Facebook. She worked for the Post Office in sales, and she used to come in. I’d be walking around emptying trash cans and this lady would be “fangirling” me.

And one day, out of the blue, she just asked me: “You’re obviously not afraid to talk to people. Would you want to work in sales?”

So I went to work in the Post Office as a salesperson. It’s a bit more money. I was a janitor for so long that I was at the top of my pay scale, so it was just like $5,000. But, I am getting the experience.

I go to different businesses and government agencies and help them use direct mail and shipping products — fulfill orders and reach customers. Instead of using UPS or FedEx, I show them how they can use the postal service.

Now, I really want to help other people, especially the ones that are working these kinds of jobs, like janitors, because they need to take care of their family. And, that’s honorable, but they’re very talented, gifted, intelligent — and they don’t get the support and the attention.

They’re invisible. People aren’t going to take them seriously.

But if you can show social proof, if you can show you should be seen in a different light, they’ll take you more seriously.

That’s what I learned. It’s what I want to share.

I've got a speaking engagement on Thursday with executive women in health care here in Indiana. It’s my first kind of “big gig.” It’s not paid, of course.

But I’m going to talk about how to get credibility. If you work in a hospital, how do you get credibility externally, outside the business or the company you’re working for?

What can you give, or show your managers, or your C-suite people? “Hey, I’m valuable. I’m being quoted here. I’m on this podcast, and this show, and this is what I’ve learned.”

I'm really looking forward to it. And, I'm really nervous about it.

I'm a shy introvert, really. A really shy introvert.

I know you can't tell now, but I am.

7 other things worth your time

  • I wrote over the weekend for Inc. about the battle between Fortnite and Apple, which banned the app from its app store. Now, iPhones with Fortnite already installed are being offered on eBay for as much as $10,000. (, Business Insider)

  • But Apple is now worth like, literally $2 trillion. (TechCrunch)

  • President Trump called for a boycott of Goodyear Tires, after the company reportedly barred employees from wearing “Make America Great Again” hats at work. Meanwhile, the LA Lakers wore “crossed out” MAGA hats before and after their first playoff appearance against the Portland Trail Blazers. The hats read instead: “Make America Arrest the Cops who Killed Breonna Taylor.” (Reuters, HuffPost)

  • The Pentagon is investigating two enlisted soldiers who appeared in uniform as part of the Democratic National Convention. (Stars & Stripes)

  • Facebook took down thousands of accounts, pages and groups as part en effort to limit violent rhetoric tied to QAnon, political militias and protest groups. (NBC News)

  • Airbnb filed for an IPO. (CNN)

  • Finally, The Wall Street Journal published a guide to voting by mail in every state. I think it’s a useful service, but it’s behind a paywall. Then, it occurred to me that if I posted the link to Twitter, and included the Twitter link here, you should be able to click through without the paywall. (Let me know if this works. I don’t know why I never thought of this before!)

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Photo credits: Faith McKinney. Starting in the left corner and going clockwise, she’s posing with Lee Daniels, Mike Pence, Dan Rather, J.R. Martinez, Kirk Franklin, and Soledad O’Brien.

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