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What Lessons Did You Learn from Your First Job?

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first jobWhen I turned 16, I got a job as a cashier at a local craft store. This high school job taught me quite a few things about life, including that I wasn’t exactly cut out for a “traditional” job.

The first job you have leaves an impression, whether it was a summer job, or whether it was working in your parents’ business or whether it was something you did after school for three years straight. Hopefully, there were some things you took away from your first job.

Can You Work for “The Man”?

One of the first things I learned was that I found a “regular” job too confining for my lifestyle. I swam and played tennis for my high school teams. I was involved in band, 4-H, and academic team. Arranging my schedule so that I could go to work at the craft store was annoying. And it meant that I had to give up some things in order to go to work.

I didn’t like someone else telling me how much money I could make, and I didn’t like someone else telling me when I had to work. So after a year I quit working for “the man” and began teaching piano lessons to beginners. I wan’t overly fond of teaching, but I did like that I could set my own schedule, by deciding how many students to teach, and when to teach them. Additionally, I set my own rate. I could make as much money as I wanted to.

My experience being somewhat self-employed was much better than my experience of working for someone else. I remembered that, and pursued a career that allows me to work from home, on my preferred schedule, and (mostly) decide what I will get paid.

Think about your first job, and what it taught you about working for yourself vs. working for someone else. While there’s nothing wrong with working in a more traditional arrangement, you might find that you like something else better.

Hard Work is Important

My first job also taught me the importance of hard work and focus. Even though I was a cashier, I had responsibilities, and I was expected to fulfill them to the best of my ability. My hard work meant that I had references from my boss and my co-workers later in life. I also learned that hard work is often rewarded. Whether you are rewarded with a raise, or rewarded by acquiring a new skill, or whether you are just rewarded by being appreciated by a satisfied customer or client, doing your best can pay off — now and in the future.

You Have to Manage Your Resources

When I first began receiving a paycheck, I was giddy. I spent all the money quickly. It seemed as though I had unlimited riches. However, when the money was gone quickly, I realized how easy it is to lose track of you’ve been spending. I also began to understand that you have to make spending choices. You won’t always be able to do everything you think your want to do all the time. You have to decide what’s important to you and prioritize.

Now, looking back, I can see that I learned a lot from my first job. What were the most important lessons you learned form your first job?

(Photo: jshj)

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12 Responses to “What Lessons Did You Learn from Your First Job?”

  1. Christian L. says:

    Miranda,
    I definitely learned it pays to be social at work. Yes, it’s important to get your work done well and in a timely manner, but it doesn’t hurt if you’re friendly to boot. (First job was at a pizza place where I made and baked pizzas.)

    Efficiency was another huge trait I learned. I’d agree that it’s no fun to work for somebody, on their schedule and pay structure. But that’s not always a bad thing.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  2. I learned to show up and show up on time. Many young people today don’t seem to get that. Yes, there are alot of other lessons but you have to show up and show up on time first.

  3. Fabclimber says:

    On my first job I learned that it was important to seek the advice of my boss. A boss who wants to help you succeed can be a very valuable person in your career no matter what path you choose. Depending only on your own judgement may not be best.

  4. J says:

    My first job taught me the value of a good boss, and how much it stinks when the boss is no good.

    Also, don’t show up with a hangover. Bosses hate that.

  5. bloodbath says:

    I learned that I had better pick a money-making stable career and go back to school and stay there until I graduated. So, that’s what I did.

    • bloodbath says:

      I forgot to say, my first job was at a soap factory packaging beauty soaps in fancy boxes by hand and I had to be quick about it or I would be fired. I obtained a degree in Computer Science soon after.

  6. I think the best thing I learned at my first job was that work will give you money, but money wont come without work.

  7. Shirley says:

    My first job taught me to keep a positive and friendly attitude, do a bit more than is required, and always stay busy.

  8. admiral58 says:

    To stay humble when I made more money down the line..

  9. Nancy says:

    The very best lesson I learned from my first job was from my boss, Mr. Ed Curran. He noticed that everything I did was done at break neck speed and I was always the first to start working and never took my breaks. One day he asked me to come over to a window on our floor and told me to look down at the street. He said, “you see that bus down there? If you were to be hit by that bus when you are going home, we will all feel sorry but life will go on. The work will get done. Enjoy life while you work. You will find out when you get older how important it is to enjoy life every moment.” He was so right and for the next 40 years I was very successful working but also enjoyed every minute of my life and still do! Thank you Mr. Curran.

  10. Martha says:

    For my first job I worked at a craft store. I learned many lessons including, working for minimum wage (or slightly above it) isn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and that it’s hard work for little money. I also learned that being nice to the customers was the little bit of effort needed for a promotion and making a bit more money each hour! Plus with my promotion I no longer had to stock the sticker aisle… The worst job in the place!

  11. Steph says:

    I learned that I needed a job that would allow me to be creative but also make a living. That is why I decided to become a chemist. I get to “play” in the lab and invent things while making enough to pay the bills and (eventually) have some left over for the future.


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