First Jobs: What do you remember?

What do you remember about your first job? My first job was as a sales clerk at our local JCPenney store in the early 80’s. I remember when I interviewed and was hired, the manager said, “I have just the place for you!” Waiting to hear what he said, I heard “the lingerie department!” I was a little shocked, but that is in fact where I was sent and worked for several years. We had a big, 2 story Penney’s that was an anchor store in our mall. I worked at least several Christmas Eve’s right up until close (6pm) when I had to rush off to church to meet my family there for the 7pm service. I think I preferred an opening shift rather than closing because at closing we had to empty our cash drawers, count it, put in a record of our count, and take the cloth bag of money to receiving which was upstairs.  Still, I learned a lot about inventory, mark-downs, sales, and customer service. We also had our share of kooks that would call the department to “discuss” lingerie.

My youngest just finished his third week of work at his first job. He is a stock boy at one of our local grocery stores. Last night I surprised him by showing up in the store where he worked to pick up a few items. He just happened to be the first person I ran into upon entering the store and was less than thrilled to see me! I got, “really mom, you had to come here?!” Yes, I told him. This store is the only place I can get my decaffeinated tea bags! I was amused. He was not. But, by the time I finished, I had run into him at least twice more and he was smiling by the time I left! The next time I see him “at work” won’t be so awkward!

First jobs are important.  I believe that they tone set for expectations that can influence the rest of your working life.  Obviously, one of the most anticipated benefits for young people is to be paid some money for their hours worked. This naturally leads to the application of any money management discussions that might have come before working commenced. Most of us work to pay our bills. When you are a young teen, you do not have many of those, but enough to get one started saving and making decisions on what to spend some of your hard-earned dollars on purchasing. In this day and age, most likely that is going to be smart phone bills, gas money, and paying for dates and/or entertainment. The expectation in our house is that most of the money earned will be saved.

But, there are so many more intangible benefits to holding a job. They include being told what to do by someone other than your parents, being held accountable to the expectations set forth at the place of employment, being prompt, working when scheduled, and learning to interact in a polite, socially acceptable way when customer service is the priority.

Yes, as adults, we work our whole lives. But, I  do think it is important to have a first job when you are young enough to help you form some idea of what you’d like to do (or not  do) with your life. There is incredible value in that experience. So, while we don’t expect our youngest son to work a lot once school starts in a few weeks, we do expect he will continue to work, learn to manage his money, and look towards his future, just as our other two sons have done.

What did you do for your first job? What do you most remember about the experience?

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