Lessons learned at first jobs can be invaluable. My own first job lasted just a day, but made me appreciate hard labor. From a young age, I always wanted to earn money and I found ways to do that, whether it was with a Kool Aid stand or creating carnival games that I charged my neighbors to play. When I was 14 years old, I remember being very excited to find a classified ad to pick cherries – with no age requirement. So, the next day, I gathered my brother (who was one year older) and my two younger sisters (who were 12) to embark on this money-making venture.
My mom packed us a lunch and we took the bus to the farm. Times certainly have changed (I think someone might have called Child Services today!), but I think my mom wanted to teach us the value of hard work. We arrived at the farm with visions of dollar signs in our eyes, since you got paid per pound for cherries picked. Unfortunately, that vision turned to dread as the hours of picking cherries turned into just a few dollars for each of us. Who knew that cherries weighed so little and picking them would be so difficult?!
A few years later, I was ecstatic to be hired at my first “real” job at Arctic Circle, a popular fast food restaurant in Utah. I was proud to be wearing that white uniform with the red and white striped apron and thought I was doing a great job assisting customers. So when the manager barked at me to work faster, my adrenaline kicked in and I never slowed down when I was on the clock. Also, we were told to upsell the customer by asking if they wanted cheese or tomato on their sandwich – that 25 cents, or whatever was at that time, contributed to our sales increases and employees received recognition for those increased sales. It was a proud day in my fast food career when I was named ‘Miss Tomato’ for selling the most tomatoes. However, the phrase that resonated with me, and that I have continued to use throughout my career, is “time to lean, time to clean.” Whether you’re working in a fast food establishment or in a professional environment, there is always something to do and to think like an owner, you should be earning your pay.
I was recently talking with some other PECO team members about their first jobs and lessons learned. Tony Haslinger, our SVP of Construction, explained his family’s influence on his career. His dad was a businessman and worked his entire career for a construction company. Tony thought he would follow in his footsteps, so his father got him on a labor crew when he graduated from high school. It was excellent hands-on experience and he learned a lot – but it also did wonders for his college GPA as he quickly realized that he didn’t want to dig ditches and carry masonry all day long. This hands-on lesson led him to complete his degree at Purdue.
Cassandra Burnham, my Content Marketing Director, told me about her first job at a pizza parlor where she was hired to answer the phone, take orders and run the register. At the end of her first day, as they were closing shop, the owner handed her a mop and pointed her towards a very dirty men’s room. Cassandra didn’t think she’d signed up for that but needed the money, so despite her disgust, she did it. In fact, she did it so well that the owner made a big deal over how no other employees had ever done such a good job. She hated that part of her work, but she did it every night for over a year. When she was injured in a car accident, they held her position for her for several months because she was such a hard worker and willing to do whatever they asked (and this was the kind of job where they didn’t usually do that – they’d just hire another high school kid). She ended up working for that same man as he sold and opened several other businesses for many years. She learned that hard work, doing whatever was needed to get the job done (and doing it well) is valued and incredibly important and that every job – even the gross ones – matters.
What was your first job and what lessons did you learn from it that you use in your job today?