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What was your first job?

What was your first job?

It’s summertime, which means that a lot of students are getting their first jobs.

What was your first job, and does it relate in any way to what you do now? How did you come to get it? What did you learn from it?

Of course I babysat, pet sat, picked berries, and did housecleaning and car washes for people to earn money, but the first job I actually received a paycheck from was a summer job editing a catalog mailing list for a tool company. If I remember right, I was about 14.

The job involved taking inches-thick printouts (the kind on the green-and-white paper with holes along the sides) and highlighting duplicate addresses or addresses that were clearly suspect.

We also had to highlight addresses (in a different color) that didn’t fit a standardized format for abbreviations. So if an address said “123456 north Fifth Av., Phx, Ariz.” we had to highlight it and note that it should be “123456 N 5 Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85240-1234”.

For 8 hours a day.

This was REAAALLLY boring.

But, it was indoors (important when it’s 110 outside) and it did pay. I was grateful to get the money, and the job.

I got the job through my dad, who was a manager there. The company had a program where teenaged children of employees could work there during the summers, so there were about 6 or 8 of us who participated each summer.

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It later morphed into a year-round “temporary” data entry job, at higher than minimum wage, for 4 of us.

It doesn’t relate directly to what I do now, but I can trace an indirect path involving access to computers. I can see growing connections between every job I’ve had.

I learned several things from my first job:

1. To be very patient during boring tasks (keeping the end — my paycheck — in sight.)
2. To work hard and remain cheerful.
3. To ask for what I wanted (more responsibilities, more hours, more money)
4. That it’s good to get to know your boss a little and be on good terms with them. (I still send a Christmas card to one of them, more than 25 years later.)
5. That it’s easiest to get a job if you know someone who works there already.

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  • I’ve had so many different temp jobs while I was in high school and college, I’ve lost count. My first paid summer job was as a greens maintenance person for our township. That pretty much mowing lawns and weeding the public areas in our township. What I learned from that is that having people pick up after their pets should have been mandatory a long time ago… Another thing I learned, and witnessed many times since, is that it is important to look busy, even though you’re not doing anything. These people who did this as their job were pretty expert in this.
    At 18, I became a part time mailman, every Saturday morning I got up at 5:20 and got home at 2pm. I did this during holidays as well, as my saummer job, etc. It paid well, and it taught me that people love their mail, and always have the same jokes (‘you can keep those bills!’ ha ha ha…).
    My college jobs ranged from mixing dry soup ingredients (this place loved me, they would call the temp agency specifically asking for me) to stuffing envelopes at the college I attended.

    No matter what I did, including assembling school furniture and grinding bouillon, I learned something new at every job, and that also meant learning about people and how some people take pride in their work, no matter how trivial, while others just try and make it through the day, look at the clock, and wait for their paycheck. I am not one to make judgments on this one way or the other, it’s just something I learned. Once I started my working career, I’ve seen this in some form everywhere I went. I was able to turn my hobby into a career, without formal education in the field in which I am now employed, but I’ve always given my everything no matter where I worked. I can’t bring myself to do anything else.

  • My first job was as a paperboy at age 14. I had to deliver the papers on my bike, and collect from the customers once a week. Some people made ducking me on collection day an art form. I would never stiff a kid out of the $1.50/week fee. Next, I moved on to landscaping, which allowed me to get an early tan each Spring. I’ve also worked at a miniature golf course and a batting range/go-kart track. I learned many things from my first jobs, like patience, how to treat people, and a good work ethic. Some of my best bosses were the ones that I had early on, before my “real” career even started.

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