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What Lessons Did You Learn from Your First Job?

When I turned 16, I got a job as a cashier at a local craft store. This high school job [3] 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 [4], 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 [5].

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 [6])