First Jobs


Are you a student that has just finished a forgettable summer job? Are you currently in a job that…well…you would rather not spend the rest of your life doing?

First jobs teach us valuable work ethics and skills, how to work well with others, and give us that first satisfactory taste of earning a paycheck. Often times those first jobs are not ones that we would want to do long-term. That is fine too, as it can serve as motivation to prepare ourselves for better and more satisfying employment. We all start out somewhere, even today’s successful business executives. An article I was reading this morning on Silicon Alley Insider chronicles how a few CEO’s earned their first paycheck. (Including Wal-Mart CEO, Deloitte CEO, and Goldman Sachs CEO)

Despite the simple and sometimes downright banal nature of the first job (or early in your working career), they usually teach us something valuable that we take with us to future jobs. Career counselors often talk about transferable skills: work skills that are portable from one job to another.

First jobs can often motivate us. The manager at my first job was so oppressive, that I vowed never to manage or treat coworkers like he did. I look back and wonder if some of the work I did was legal for a 13-year-old to do. But boy, did it give me motivation to go out and find another better summer job. And it also taught me the value of money. I knew what I had to do to earn that meager paycheck, so I was a little more careful how I spent it.

If you feel like you are in a dead-end job right now, perhaps looking at some of the early jobs of these CEO’s will provide comfort and motivation. Then make an appointment to see a career counselor to see how you can define and plan out your next steps to your career of choice!

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2 Responses to First Jobs

  1. Holly LaBarbera says:

    Yes! I agree – first jobs provide us with so much more than we may have realized when we were living through them. They provide us with a baseline work ethic, people skills (most first jobs are customer service oriented), and often an idea of what we don’t want to do when we grow up -in turn motivating us to pursue another path. My first job was as a grocery clerk (or “bagger” as we were called!) for the large grocery chain Lucky. I got the job at age 15 and left when I graduated high school. I hated every minute of it, but I learned a few things: how to work with the public and take care of customers, how to cope with a really mean boss who often yelled, how to clean up a big spill the right way, how to make a prom corsage and floral arrangements (I worked in the floral department for about 1 year), how to deal with angry customers, how to take out the garbage, how to negotiate a work schedule change and talk a co-worker into taking over your Friday night shift, how to participate as a team member in a union (all employees were in the local food workers union), and probably most importantly how to stick to something I didn’t really like and use what I learned from the experience to propel me in a new direction after high school. First jobs aren’t all that bad, after all.

    • Holly-Nice first job as a bagger at Lucky’s/Alberton’s/Lucky’s! I think those jobs paid pretty well, especially for age 15. I had a paper route when I started 7th grade, but my first real job I got as a “boatman” at Shoreline Lake in Mountain View. I was near the water (they swore it was clean, despite being on top of a dump), and in the sun all day, which was fun. It was not fun being yelled at by my boss, and cleaning the algae and sludge from the boat ramp/launch. I think I learned what not to do from some of my early jobs. Sounds like you learned some valuable skills (talking coworker into taking a shift on Friday night), and also had fun. Thanks for sharing!

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