Why Your First Job Matters

Think back — what was your first job? I mean your first ever job. A hostess at a local restaurant? Permanent babysitter? Go-to neighborhood pet-sitter? Sunday school assistant?

Mine was an ice cream scooper at a local, family-owned ice cream shop. I was hired at 15 and a half, and worked there seasonally throughout high school, and my first summer after college. Having a part-time job kept me busy and taught me a lot more than just how to serve ice cream and make milkshakes (I was the milkshake-making champ).

My job now, of course, has nothing to do with ice cream, and I haven’t worked in food service since then. (Okay, I tried at another place the following summer, but it just wasn’t meant to be.) But just because my job and career path aren’t inspired by that very first job, doesn’t mean that I don’t remember the things I learned from that job. In fact, everyone should be able to draw upon lessons from that first job, no matter what it was. There’s something to be learned in everything.

Don’t believe me? Here’s my take on why your first job matters.

First, any job teaches you how to save and manage money. For a lot of young people, having money comes with excitement: “I can finally buy that dress/book/movie/shirt/bag/you-name-it that I’ve been wanting!” To a degree, yes, you can. But while spending all that money at once makes you feel important and awesome, will you have any left to put away for savings, or for gas, or for an emergency down the road? The earlier you can start practicing good money and saving habits, the better off you’ll be when you’re older and working a full-time job (or working while in college).

I’ve always believed that everyone should work in food service or retail at some point in life. Why? Customer-facing jobs teach basic public relations and customer service skills. You’ll learn how to answer questions effectively and provide the best assistance when customers need it. You’ll also learn how to handle not-so-great situations and how to divert conflict. You’ll hope it doesn’t happen often, but understanding how to diffuse tension is helpful. Even if PR isn’t your desired career path, those skills will go a long way in almost any environment. Trust me. They will.

RELATED: What I Learned from Working in Food Service

Not everyone is a people person, but it can be learned! Working in customer-facing jobs especially teach you how to be a people-person, and how to be professional and diplomatic in certain situations. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that you’ll like everyone you ever work with, but you have to be able to get along and work well together.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your first job teaches you how to get a job. No matter how the pieces fall, there’s a process to searching for and securing your first job, and every job afterward. From reaching out, to tweaking your resume and crunching through cover letters, to applying, to interviewing and to accepting, each step comes with its own challenges. No two interviews are the same, either. Knowing how to prepare for different interviews is one of many factors to succeeding in your career.

My ice-cream-scooping days are long gone, but the lessons I learned in that job still stick around. What important lessons did you learn from your first-ever job?

This post was written by Kate Robertson, Community Manager at Vayner Media, our neighbor in the Loveman’s Building. It was originally posted on her blog, A Thought and a Half.

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