01 Apr What did you learn from your first job?
Whether you started your first job in primary school, high school or as an adult, it’s likely that it left a significant impression on you.
We may not think about our first jobs every day, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t shaped our lifelong attitudes towards work.
Typically, our first jobs aren’t anything glamourous. Stacking shelves and flipping burgers may not pay well or give you any street cred, but humble, decent labour is priceless considering the experience it gives us.
That experience can come in good and bad forms.
On the one hand, a minimum-wage job can teach us many things you won’t learn in a classroom.
I worked in a small local restaurant in my first year out of school. That meant I had to train my brain to recall every little task that needed doing at one time.
On a busy night, I’d have to repeatedly answer the phone, deal with customers at the counter, serve diners at their tables, chop vegetables, sweep the floors and take out the rubbish.
None of these tasks were difficult, but when everything is happening at once, you certainly learn how to keep tabs on everything that needs doing.
Ultimately, I loved it, not because the work was particularly enjoyable, but because throughout my stint at the restaurant, I was supported by wonderful bosses who actually had my best interests at heart.
They worked hard for six days a week, running their own restaurant, but they never let the stress or pressure become an excuse to treat me unfairly or pay me less than I was owed.
This shouldn’t be considered unusual, but unfortunately, dramas over pay, workplace politics and general mistreatment are rife in sectors heavily occupied by minimum-wage workers.
For a workplace to impose these issues upon fresh-faced employees is totally immoral, and it has a significant long-term detriment when those employees move to other industries.
If your first impression of work is being subjected to bullying, getting paid below your entitled rate and getting no credit for a job well done, your motivation to do your best is going to be low.
Fortunately, not every employer of first-timers takes advantage of their inexperience. It’s important that employers see the value in treating all employees with decency and respect, no matter what they earn.
When they graduate to better things, these employees with have a healthier impression of typical workplace activity, and will be able to identify an unhealthy culture more effectively.
How did your first job shape the person you are today?