Despite a common narrative that millennials move from job to job, studies show job tenures are likely in line with previous generations. One such example of this is Ashley Chittum, a longtime employee of Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s FireLake Discount Foods. Initially hired in 2007, Chittum worked her way up from bagger to the front office of the grocery enterprises. In late 2018, she transitioned to a new position in the Tribal administrative office as a cash receipts technician. She discussed her background and career at the Tribal enterprise with the Hownikan.
Where are you from originally?
“I have lived in a lot of surrounding areas to Shawnee, Oklahoma. I attended schools in Bethel, Prague, Meeker, Yukon and Tecumseh, but graduated from Tecumseh High School in 2004. No matter where we moved, we ultimately always gravitated back toward Shawnee, where I currently reside.”
How did you end up applying for a job with CPN?
“I personally am not a Tribal member, but my uncle, Curtis Belcher, is a very proud Tribal member. He and my aunt both recommended getting started with CPN when I started applying for jobs in 2007 since they were doing such amazing things for the community and were always expanding.”
Given you have been with the grocery enterprises for some time, what are some of the changes you’ve noticed as you’ve progressed in your career?
“I am generally a very quiet person. Working in the grocery business, you have to come out of your comfort zone and interact with people. Being around all different types of people and interacting with them on a day-to-day basis, it’s part of your job to keep their day going smoothly and make their day better when they leave the grocery store. A small act of kindness goes a long way. It could just be a simple, ‘Hello,’ or smiling face that makes their day. Even carrying out their groceries may seem simple, but it’s that interaction that makes it all the better.”
Why did you stay with FireLake Discount Foods for so long? What do you like about working in the grocery retail sector?
“I love interacting with people. Even after working at FDF for more than nine years and McLoud for 2 1/2 years, a lot of people that get used to seeing you — regulars, if you will. Some customers started shopping at the McLoud store, and they would see me there and were always happy to see me. They get to know you as a person and ask about your family, and it’s just a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve come to know them on a personal level.”
Looking back, do you think you would have believed it if someone had told you that you were going to be working at FDF and FireLake Express Grocery 10 years later?
“At first, I never would have thought I would’ve stayed at the grocery stores. I needed a place of employment to pay my bills and support myself, but in the end, I got another part of my family. They may have started out as acquaintances, but I have made some of the best friends a girl could ask for.
“Having compassionate mentors who have seen me struggle, be it professionally or personally, helped me build myself up into a more confident person. I will forever be thankful for them.”
You recently started a new position in the CPN accounting department. Having started at an entry-level position, what’s your advice for people who are trying to pursue a similar career path?
“I would say that goals are important. I’ve always wanted to go as high as I possibly could in any place of employment I’ve been. I always strived for a Monday through Friday job to be home with my children as much as I can, and enjoying the younger years as much as possible while still providing an income for my family.
“No matter where you go you have to start somewhere and as long as you have a goal in mind, if you stick with it and learn as much as you can, you can do anything you set your mind to.”
FireLake Discount Foods is now available for online shopping and pickups at firelakefoods.com. To learn more about employment opportunities at more than 30 CPN governmental departments and commercial enterprises, please visit firelakejobs.com.