I’ve talked a lot about managing your career, so I thought it would be interesting (maybe, maybe not, you decide) for me to detail the jobs I’ve held in my lifetime, what I gained from each of them, what I learned, how I grew my income, etc. I’ll be doing this over a series of posts that will last a several months (I’ll space them out). We’ll see how it goes.
Today I want to detail the jobs I held before I started college — basically the jobs I held while in high school. IMO, students simply need to get work experience, ANY work experience, during these years, and that’s just what I did.
My first official job was as a grocery store carry-out boy. I worked at the local grocery store in our small town for several years. It started as a summer job, then I worked 15 hours or so during the next school year. In the following summers it bumped up to 30 to 40 hours a week (the regular guys took vacation) and in my senior year of high school, when my class load was lighter, I worked about 30 hours a week. I stocked shelves, sorted cans (no machines back then, so beer and pop bottles and cans returned for deposit were sorted by hand — it was a huge, ugly mess) and, of course, bagged and carried out groceries.
I learned several things from this job including:
- How to get along with co-workers and bosses. It was my first “real-world” job and I learned the basics of work here.
- How to be on time, do the job that was required, and so on. Again, more basics.
- How hard work (and time) could lead to advancement. I started out as the low man on the totem pole. This meant I was the first to answer the call when a checker said “carry-out please” over the intercom (no one liked this job because it was hot outside in the summer and freezing in the winter.) I was also the primary bottle/can sorter — the job everyone hated. But over time, I did well, others left or were fired, and I advanced. When I left, I was the highest-ranking carry-out boy in the store and my main job was the “plum” position of stocking shelves.
- That I didn’t want to do this as a career. I saw that several people (the “management”) were earning a barely livable wage and weren’t doing tasks that much different than what I was doing. I KNEW I was going to college and DID NOT want to do any job like this in the future.
- That hard work and pay don’t always correlate. This was one of the physically hardest jobs I ever had and was also one of the lowest-paying ($3.35 per hour — which was minimum wage back then.) Again, another reason to go to college and become qualified to do something else. Then, after I had worked so hard for such a small amount and had saved much of it, the bank I had it in failed. Yep, and it was one of the last non-FDIC banks. Ugh.
- The good feeling from a job well-done. I had one of the assistant mangers tell me a few times that I was the best worker in the store and he always wanted to work with me as a result. Of course this made me feel good about myself and my work, though I didn’t particularly like the guy (he was lazy) and was dismayed thinking that I was always going to be working with him (it didn’t turn out that way, though I did work with him a lot.)
Beans of All Things
My second pre-college job was for one (very long) summer that I did in addition to working at the store. I “walked beans.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this horror of a job, here’s what it entails:
- Get up very early (while it’s still dark), so you can arrive at the field just as the sun comes up.
- Get a long pole with a sharp hook at the end.
- Walk acres and acres of beans growing, cutting down the weeds by wrapping the hook around them and pulling up.
- No bathrooms, no water (or much) that was close, and blistering hot days (we usually knocked off by 1 pm or so).
- $2 per hour.
Don’t ask me how I got roped into this job, but let’s say I was naive and didn’t get the full details before I agreed to do it. This was the biggest lesson I learned in this position. Thank goodness I only did it for a month or so.
To read the next post in this series, see My Jobs, College.