First jobs are usually never easy. You don’t have any work experience and need something to help move yourself up. Most of the time, first jobs aren’t glamourous. They involve lots hard work and leave a person with some idea as to what they do and do not want. The great team at The Ladders asked me to share my experiences of working that first job people often reminisce about.
Late summer night.
My clothes were soaked. I leaned down into my bed and didn’t have any immediate plans of getting back up. Work was tough.
Back in the spring of my junior year of high school, I started looking for a part-time job for the summer. Like most teenagers, I wanted a job so I could have some extra cash to spend on various things I wanted. The job search was tough. I had spent several weeks applying to different places only to be told I didn’t have enough experience for the cashier/server positions. Discouragement set in quick. The saving grace was a “Now Hiring” sign at the famous town barbecue restaurant.
I went in and applied. Short on cash and summer fast approaching, I was determined to get the job. The manager I talked with gave me a handshake and said he would be in touch by the end of the week. When that phone call never came, I became determined to follow up until I got a definitive yes or no. So every Monday afternoon for several weeks, I came in and asked about the position. Every week I got to meet the different managers and supervisors. After several weeks of diligently following up, I got a response:
I was hired.
The job position? Dishwasher. It wasn’t the most glamorous job compared to my lifeguarding peers but I didn’t care, I finally had a paying job! The restaurant didn’t have a dishwasher during the daytime so when I came in at 5:00pm every evening, I was greeted with a mountain of dirty dishes that took anywhere from 1.5-2 hours to finish. Grease, dirty water and who knows what got splashed onto me during every shift. At first, I hated the job. I hated how after every shift, my clothes would be wet from dirty water. All of my clothes started to smell like sausage and brisket. I wanted to quit but knew I needed to make some money. It was my first experience in hard work. I decided to push on and keep going.
Over the next few months, I got to know many of my co-workers more. People from all walks of life. In the cashier section, there was a woman in her thirties who was juggling the job, kids, and going back to school. Many of the meat market people had been at the restaurant for several years. A few of my peers from my high school starting working at the restaurant. Break times morphed from bland 30 minute periods playing on my phone to having lively conversation with the other people I worked with.
Wanting to build up my savings as much as possible, I volunteered for shift pickups whenever the managers asked. I started working the several different catering events the restaurant did. A joke I made about being a landscape manager morphed into me getting to trim and clean the front outside area in preparation for a 4th of July celebration. I began working more with the general manager and got more responsibilities.
The actual work was still less than ideal but the people I got to interact with were great. A stark contrast to the menial work and equally menial environment other teens endured in their first jobs. The people I worked with made my first job at the barbecue restaurant not so bad. I actually liked going into work because I knew I would get to interact with great people.
I worked that first job of mine from the summer before senior year of high school all the way through my first year of college. A lot of things were picked up from working that first job of mine.
Taking initiative: If I had never continued following up, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. I wouldn’t have gotten more responsibilities and I wouldn’t have been able to work with the general manager and seen what his workday was like. Never underestimate the power of following up and more importantly, speaking up.
Good things are around the corner if you keep your head up: I hated getting splashed with grease and dirty water every shift I worked. Like many teens, I could have quit my job at the end of the summer but I didn’t. I knew the extra money would prove valuable so I kept working. This lead to me getting more responsibilities and leaving a job with good references for my first time internships during college.
Company culture is so important: Who knew I would learn the importance of working with good people when I got a dishwashing job? Company culture is important. You can’t create good work if you don’t fit in well with the people who work at a place.
Though the additional responsibilities I picked up from the job, I felt okay putting it on my resume when applying to my first office internships during college. Leaving the double doors for the last time, still smelling like barbecue, was bittersweet. It had been my first experience into actually working. My first experience of sticking with something for the greater good. The lessons learned from my first job are still something I carry with me to this day.