5 Lessons Learned From a First Job
by Mark Lilly for St. Joseph the Worker
Do you remember what you did at your first job? It probably didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. But whether you were mopping, flipping burgers, or doing dishes, those experiences were shaping you in ways you couldn’t appreciate until you were older.
You may have performed grueling tasks, put up with an unpleasant boss, or earned a meager paycheck, but each of those challenges was causing you to grow and learn more about yourself.
As many high school students and recent college graduates prepare to enter the workforce, we’re asking you to share something you learned from your first job. We’re sure the responses will be as diverse as our community itself! Here are just five examples to get the ball rolling:
1. A bad first job can be a great motivator.
One of the best lessons you can come away with from a bad first job is “this is not what I want my life to look like.” This is an especially good lesson for members of the workforce to learn at an early age as it can help steer them not only in their work lives but also in their studies.
Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs were driven to work for themselves because of unpleasant experiences working for a boss. Others have chosen a field in which they get to work outdoors because they didn’t like being in an office. Whatever your case may be, each job that you take will either serve as confirmation that you’re on the right track or help push you in a different direction.
2. A small paycheck is still a paycheck.
Admittedly, the majority of first jobs deliver a less than sufficient paycheck. But does that mean we’d be better off not going in? Not at all! The feeling of receiving that first paycheck for your hard work is tough to describe. Not only does it give us a feeling of accomplishment, but it motivates us to do what’s necessary to earn more. This keeps us consistently moving in the right direction, toward self-improvement and new challenges.
3. No job is too menial.
Most of our first jobs may be categorized as menial or “unskilled labor,” but work truly is what you make of it. Chances are you’ve encountered coworkers in these types of jobs who come to work with the wrong attitude. They may gripe about the lack of meaning in what they do or complain that they’d rather be doing something else. The bottom line is, there’s work that needs to be done and it’s important to do it well and take pride in it, regardless of what it is. There’s always something to be learned from what may seem to be even the most trivial duties.
4. Maintain a professional appearance.
By becoming a part of the workforce, we begin to learn what’s expected of us both in our actions and our appearances. It only takes one time showing up to work underdressed to learn that lesson. You don’t want to be the one person in your work environment who doesn’t seem to care about his/her appearance. We learn how to improve our personal appearance and look professional by interacting and learning with our co-workers.
5. Learn to go above and beyond.
Typically, there are two types of people you may encounter at your first job: the people who do the bare minimum and the people who go beyond what’s required of them. Those who do the bare minimum usually find themselves feeling stagnant and unfulfilled as the years go by. Meanwhile, those who go above and beyond are always learning, developing, and improving. They go on to get raises, promotions, and greater opportunities throughout the course of their careers.
What lessons have you learned?