Landed My First Job Essay
When it comes to work, our parents tell us it can kind of be a drag, there are good days and bad days, days will be long, be sure to fall into a career you love and so on and so on…
But when it comes to landing our very first high school job, we are not thinking long-term. We are thinking "I'll finally have a paycheck, I'll make new friends and I'll get free (or heavily discounted) stuff."
In other words, anything with the word "job" associated with it sounds exciting—until it isn't (well, at least in my particular case).
The Job Hunt
Having your first part-time job requires a work permit for anyone under 18. Most people who start working before the legal age usually begin at 16 or 17. I was 16 and a junior in high school when I first got behind a counter for pay.
My parents never pressured me to start working, but as I noticed more and more of my peers scoring their first-time gigs, the concept kind of sounded fun—almost like a hobby, even.
You see the same people at school day after day, which can get a little tiresome. Why not mingle with a fresh set of folks? New friendships can develop—heck, even new crushes. And I liked the idea of being able to potentially say, like, "Oh yeah, I work at *insert place of employment here*."
Luckily (or maybe not so luckily), my mom always had her rotation of regularly visited food joints, grocery stores and shops, and it just so happened she was pretty friendly with the owner of an ice cream shop 20 minutes from our house. After some back and forth discussion, my mom said the owner *Wayne wanted to meet with me about potential employment. The place is a well-known chain, so it sounded kind of exciting to have my first job be somewhere common that everyone would know.
Wayne and I chatted after school one Tuesday afternoon, I filled out an application and the rest is history.
And So Began My Life As a "Trainiee"
My first day on the job was basically the last day of my social life.
The excitement leading up to throwing on the heavily soiled, thin, two-piece known as my uniform faded incredibly fast.
The good news: There was a really cool girl on staff with me named *Cathleen who I became friends with in no time, and there were a few troublesome-yet-entertaining boys from my school who worked there as well.
The bad news: Everything else.
Once I filled out any additional necessary paperwork and threw on the ever-so-unflattering ensemble, I was also handed a name tag with big bold letters that read "TRAINIEE." Not only was "TRAINEE" spelled wrong, but the said title implied that I had not passed the necessary "training" required to make minimum wage. Yes, you read that correctly. I did not make minimum wage. This was not an internship. This was a legitimate part-time job that required me to do everything any "non-trainee" had to do—I just had the luxury of making $1.75 an hour less than them.
As if the absurdities weren't already enough, within a week of employment, I was scrubbing floors and getting my bare hands into the depths of the toilets to make sure they were crystal clear. I mean, there are photos my best friend would take while cruising through the shop's parking lot, capturing me on my hands and knees, not missing a single little crevice in this terribly dirty tile. Sure, ensuring ice cream was appropriately applied to a cone was part of the schtick, but that wasn't necessarily any easier because Wayne was sure to catch our every move on video tape.
If a cone was filled even a centimeter over the "guidelines," we were taken into the back room of the store for a talking-to. One thing that cheapskate clearly didn't need to spend money on was glasses, because he sure had a way of spotting everything on video, eagle-eye status. That being said, you can only imagine how things went down when we took advantage of the discount we were allotted as employees. We were only allowed a very specific serving of toppings—and again, if the ice cream went even slightly over the cone, another talking-to came in no time.
Aside from the grueling work responsibilities, the hours were bewildering. By law, minors can only work a certain amount of hours per week. You better believe on a weekend, we did not get out of our chilly little shack until anywhere from midnight to 1:30 a.m. I was always so grateful for shifts I covered alongside Cathleen because by the time we'd get off, we would at least have each other if we still had the energy to hang out.
Sometimes It's Okay to Be a Quitter
With vacations and other time off included, I probably worked at this place for a total span of six months. Sounds like an eternity, right? Sure felt like one, too.
While times with Cathleen and some of the other employees made for good laughs, I finally got to a point where I craved greener pastures. Everyone says the grass is always greener on the other side, but I knew for sure nothing could be worse than this. And so the day came—I quit.
I don't remember if there was one specific moment that set me off. I do remember that I just started senior year at this point, and I kind of wanted to shed myself of this horrible job cloud looming over me. I finally got my license and I kind of felt like a different person.
I left Wayne a note one day at the beginning of my shift that simply stated I was putting in my two weeks notice. He approached me once he got in that day and I straight up said, "I think I want to do something else." He asked why, and I said, "Well, I'm not even making minimum wage here." He shrugged in agreement. I mean, what else could he do?
As soon as we were clear on my future intentions with the store, he immediately took away all my pre-scheduled shifts. It was an immature move on his part, but quite frankly, it was a blessing in disguise. By that point, I was totally O-V-E-R it!
In a way, I felt like this so-called "job" was holding me captive and the day I was able to say goodbye felt incredibly freeing. As for my next "career" move, I knew I needed a moment before hopping back into the workforce, and that was okay.
The only time I reflect on this miserable era in my life is basically to laugh. And that's kind of all you really can do in these instances.
Do I regret working under these undesirable conditions? Absolutely not. I wanted a job at the time, I had some memorable (for better or worse) experiences during my time there and it really allowed me to appreciate future job opportunities that came my way once I decided to get back out there.
I feel like having a terrible first job is kind of a rite of passage in a way. You'll always remember that experience and then someday, when you're legitimately doing what you want in life, you can look back on your humble beginnings (always thinking with the glass half full over here 😜).
But on the flip side, do I regret quitting? No way. I was being treated poorly and unprofessionally. I gave the experience adequate time to really make up my mind, and then came to the conclusion that this situation was only bringing me down.
Why I stayed so long is the better issue to address. When you're in the midst of your first job, you don't necessarily know any better. I got pretty comfortable quickly and having Cathleen by my side definitely softened the blow of my intense work conditions.
Bottom line: Don't stress your first job. You may love it, you may hate it, but just know that these are only temporary conditions and you should never feel obligated to stick around. Trust me, 10 years from now, your first job—along with a slew of other silly high school sagas—is something that will totally not matter. So go on and live your best life, girl. It's only just beginning.
*Names have been changed
If you're anything like me, you've probably experienced THESE eight scenarios that demonstrate first job expectations vs. realities.
Posted on: September 23, 2014
Just started in financial services or looking to break into the business? We asked some industry veterans about their first job, what they learned and what they know now that they wish they’d known then.
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“One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Pete Mugleston is a financial advisor for OnlineMortgageAdvisor.co.uk.
“I joined a small brokerage in Nottingham on a graduate scheme designed to train and develop mortgage and insurance brokers. The team was really warm and welcoming, and when I started everyone was on hand to help me through my training. This was surprising as I anticipated more of a fiery and competitive atmosphere – a mostly sales environment where I would be fighting over the same leads as them.
“I’m glad to say this has been my experience throughout my career in independent businesses and high street banks. Generally, you find like-minded peers and colleagues who have all gone through the same process at some point, are extremely willing to help anyone with questions and are generous with their time.
“I was impressed by the level and depth of training in my first job. I relished the opportunity to be taught more about sales and finance as, at the time, I felt these skills would set me up for the future, whether it worked out in that company or not. ‘That’s where the money is’ I thought, and having left a safe desk job to become a self-employed trainee on £100 a week, it was a bit of a leap of faith. But I look back on it now as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“The boss was old-school, turning up unannounced, always in a three-piece suit with pocket watch and an iron fist, listening in to every phone call with intent, ready to reprimand anyone who didn’t perform to his standards. He struck fear into most, but I look back now with fond memories – he wasn’t afraid of being the bad guy to get the job done. I didn’t much enjoy the hairdryer treatment, but thankfully that was rare!”
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“I never really understood what I was doing.”
John Harlow is a director of Harlow Insolvency.
“It was 1983 and I had been temping for several months, taking whatever work was going at the time. I had just finished a ‘tour’ on the bin-lorries and went into the agency one hot summer’s day with a pocketful of maggots and asked if they had something more suitable for my qualifications. Thus, I found myself working for Nottingham Health Authority.
“I was later interviewed for and landed my own job, but confess that I never really understood what I was doing and nobody really explained it, although they all thought I was doing a splendid job. This was in the early days of computers and one of my monthly tasks was literally cutting and pasting updated figures onto long reports on endless reams of green-lined paper.
“I was later tasked with costing a hospital menu on a very early PC for the purpose of tendering for the catering contract. This enabled me to claim expertise in computing when I eventually moved on to my next job, which was my first in insolvency. The hospital closed soon after I left, although I’m sure it had nothing to do with me!”
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“I remember spending hours at the photocopier.”
Jason Blackman is the finance director at RehabWorks, an occupational health, case management and rehabilitation business.
“I joined Streets chartered accountants in Cambridge (previously known as Whitmarsh Sterland). The atmosphere was buzzing, with many trainee accountants in the office. It was an excellent introduction to finance, although I remember spending hours at the photocopier for the first few weeks.
“The firm supported study leave and ensured there was a good mix of work. Working for a chartered accountancy firm enabled me to develop an excellent skills base, which has certainly helped my progress to finance director. And, because it was a medium-sized firm I got exposure to everything, from preparing accounts for a sole trader to auditing companies with a turnover in excess of £60 million.
“It also gave me great exposure to different products and services because I was involved in auditing companies from healthcare businesses through to flower wholesalers. That kind of diverse background and broad understanding of different industries is more valuable than ever in my current role where I’m dealing with FTSE-100 companies.”
“I searched for a good scheme for two years.”
Philip Roy is an audit specialist at Nationwide Building Society.
“I lived in Papua New Guinea until the age of three before moving to Thailand and then the UK. When I arrived, aged ten, I didn’t know a word of English.
“By the time I graduated – and decided to pursue a career in financial services – it was the back end of the financial crisis. All told, it took me two years to find and get on a graduate scheme I was happy with. It demanded a lot of hard work and determination, but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every moment of it.
“After two years I’m now an audit senior with a focus in treasury. I think I’ve developed significantly as a professional since joining Nationwide. I feel lucky to be on a graduate scheme that really supports individuals’ career goals and provides opportunities for career advancement.
“The reason I chose to pursue internal audit is because it gives me exposure to many different business areas, which keeps things interesting and varied. As with any role, communicating and collaborating effectively is the key to success.”
Ready to make the break into financial services? See what roles we have in accounting and finance or banking. Or, if you need some pointers about which roles to apply for, read our piece on five great entry-level jobs in finance.
by Zak Harper in Finance