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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

How a Stolen Car Could Change Your Career Path

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You’ve probably had someone tell you, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s usually at a moment when it seems things can’t get much worse—a breakup, a layoff, or in the case of Fred Wells, a stolen car.

At the time, Wells was a professional athlete who had built a successful career as a football player, first on the practice squad for a US team and next playing for the Pessac Kangourous in France. After six months of near-celebrity status abroad, Wells would head back to his hometown of Flint, Michigan to work at a Sears outlet for four months. As you can imagine, the transition between the two jobs felt a little jarring.

It was during one of his Flint stints, however, that his career went in a direction he never imagined—all because someone stole his car. Without a way to get to work (or anywhere), Wells wouldn’t be able to keep his job. As a fan of the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he started working on a solution.

He headed to an Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch to pick up a loaner car and had a great conversation with the employees helping him out. The employees asked about Wells’ job, and they started chatting about playing football in France. In a short conversation, the team quickly saw that Wells would thrive in the Enterprise environment that, like sports, is based on competition and camaraderie. Before long, an employee was suggesting Wells apply for a role himself. “Hey, a lot of athletes end up working here,” he mentioned, given that each branch has a team vibe that balances individual performance with shared goals.

At that point, Wells still thought he was going back to France for one more football season. But while a passion for the game served as an anchor in his life, the back-and-forth across continents and radically different lifestyles was starting to take its toll—and something about this brief experience stuck with him. “When I walked into the branch, I felt like I was at home,” he admitted.

Even though the company seemed interesting, Wells needed to consider whether he could even get hired for the company’s Management Training Program. Although he had no experience in business, he had a way with people and credited football with giving him an insatiable drive, a competitive spirit, and a knack for leadership—all qualities Enterprise values in its employees. He realized that with the right training, these soft skills could easily translate to customer service and management roles. Plus, he figured his ability to rally himself and others around a goal could really make him stand out: “I’m a leader, but I’m not necessarily a vocal leader. I lead in a lot of the other aspects of the business. If I see something that I want, I go after it, and there’s no stopping me once I’m after it.”

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That confidence in what he could bring to the table not only landed him the job, it resulted in him quickly advancing within the company. In two-and-a-half years, Wells has received four promotions, growing from a Management Trainee all the way to leading two branches. Despite not having started out in the industry, he built a strong career by identifying the key characteristics of his ideal employer and matching them to his own strengths.

He still thinks of himself as a high-impact player, relying on his foundation as an athlete. “Every day I come to work, I use football. I’ve used my football analogies to gather my team together, all to come to that one goal,” he shares. Wells’ style as a leader builds on his strengths while contributing to the same culture that attracted him to Enterprise in the first place.

Now, he’s focused on spreading that culture to new recruits, and to others who are looking for their next career move. His advice? “Be a student…Take everything in, and eventually, it will come back to you. And it will all make sense one day.”