From helping out the family business, to working in a fast food restaurant, or volunteering as a tutor, everybody remembers their first job. Whether you started working just to have a little extra cash as a teenager, or jumped into your first “adult” job post-college, it’s a rite of passage. Suddenly, you have obligations, a schedule, and coworkers — and you have less free time. Even if your first job was/is not your dream occupation, there’s always something to take away from a work experience.
Whether it be hard skills such as coding or how to work a register, or the equally important social skills that go along with being a “co-worker” for the first time, people often don’t realize the valuable lessons they learned in a job. A recent article in the Washington Post outlined why more high schoolers and college students are working while studying than in previous years. Today, employers want to see that applicants have been working for as long as possible — they know the value that comes with working throughout getting an education.
According to the article, a first job is where young people “learn the importance of showing up on time, keeping to a schedule, completing a list of tasks, and being accountable to a manager who might give them their first dose of negative feedback so they finally realize they’re not as great as their teachers, parents, and college acceptance letters have led them to believe.” Having a job from a young age shows employers that you’re well-rounded and ready to take on new and challenging tasks.
Many successful founders, business people, and entrepreneurs had less-than-ideal first jobs and cite these early experiences as influential to their success. John Zimmer, the founder of the popular ride-sharing app Lyft, worked as a hotel phone operator for his first job. Before founding communications giant Slack, Stewart Butterfield made money by designing websites for colleges. Sheryl Sandberg taught aerobics during high school, long before she became the COO of Facebook. We all have to start somewhere, and the best thing to do is learn what we can during our first jobs.
We at LAMA, the Q&A app, have been asking our users and founders what they learned from their first job. The answers have been surprising and inspiring. We posed the simple question, “What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?” and hundreds of users responded. We want to share some highlights of users who have found success by utilizing skills they learned during their first jobs.
“So my first job, when I was 14, was literally digging dirt. We had to dig dirt into massive one ton bags, 11 bags in total, for 60 dollars. This is back when I was still living in Lithuania, where they love having cheap labor. I learned that you can always find way to earn money, even if it’s the most difficult job. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty for some extra cash, especially if it’s going to help your business or startup. There’s always ways to make money.”
While many people may hate their first job, Jonas chose to make the most of his time digging dirt for quick cash, and it has influenced the successful career he has today.
Jonas isn’t the only LAMA user who detested his first job. Justin Manes, the founder of RallySite.com, says that, though he hated it at the time, working in a gas station actually taught him one important lesson…
“My first job was at a gas station, a full service gas station. What I learned from this job, and I didn’t even know it at the time — I just couldn’t wait to move on — I really learned how to deal with people, and I think especially the smarter or more of a technician you are the more important it is to learn how to deal with people.”
As Justin mentioned, we often don’t even realize the impact of our first job until years after we’ve moved on to the next position. Sometimes, however, we’re immediately aware of the important lessons being learned in an employment position.
LAMA user Valentina D’Avino says that her first job working at a Chanel boutique in Milan taught her an important lesson that would prove to be valuable when she founded her own online jewelry boutique, called VD Italy.
“My very first job was in the Chanel Boutique in Milan, where I was an assistant store manager. I learned a lot, I learned how to create a customer experience. The most important thing I learned was to think outside the box, because even if you studied marketing at university and you think you know how to sell things, working in a retail environment shows you that marketing is not just ‘selling more.’ It’s about increasing the value of the brand. At the beginning it was very strange for me, but it was the first time that I learned how to think outside the box and understand unconventional ways to do marketing.”
Valentina’s first job was a perfect way for her to learn more about the world of jewelry and retail, and it directly influenced where she is today.
Imaginix Games is a competitive social gaming and eSports platform. It’s a space for hardcore gamers where they can play, compete, watch, and follow live gaming tournaments. The company’s CEO, Anthony Redoblado, started his career in a place we all know: McDonald’s. Today, he remembers just how important the position was for his future success and work ethic.
“The first job I ever worked at 16 years old in 1997 was at McDonalds. A lot of people tend to start there and for me it meant a lot because it was very systematic, and I worked my through doing everything in the whole restaurant. One of the lessons I learned at McDonalds was: the harder I worked, the luckier I got. I ended up getting employee of the month, and I got promoted. They were able to count on me, so I showed up and worked hard, ten times harder than anybody expected me to. Somebody was watching and somebody noticed, and now that’s how I do everything today, 20 years later. Work harder than people expect you to, because people will notice, and you’ll get all sorts of opportunities.”
These stories show the variety of first jobs our users have had, and the lessons they learned. From McDonalds and digging dirt, to working in the opulent Chanel boutique in Milan — these stories prove that there’s always something to be learned in every opportunity. By taking lessons and growing throughout our academic and professional careers, we’re setting ourselves up for success down the road. We all have to start somewhere!
If you’d like to share your first job experiences with our growing community, download the LAMA app and share your answers today!