Landed My First Job Essay
When it comes to work, our parents tell us it can kind of be a drag, there are good days and bad days, days will be long, be sure to fall into a career you love and so on and so on…
But when it comes to landing our very first high school job, we are not thinking long-term. We are thinking "I'll finally have a paycheck, I'll make new friends and I'll get free (or heavily discounted) stuff."
In other words, anything with the word "job" associated with it sounds exciting—until it isn't (well, at least in my particular case).
The Job Hunt
Having your first part-time job requires a work permit for anyone under 18. Most people who start working before the legal age usually begin at 16 or 17. I was 16 and a junior in high school when I first got behind a counter for pay.
My parents never pressured me to start working, but as I noticed more and more of my peers scoring their first-time gigs, the concept kind of sounded fun—almost like a hobby, even.
You see the same people at school day after day, which can get a little tiresome. Why not mingle with a fresh set of folks? New friendships can develop—heck, even new crushes. And I liked the idea of being able to potentially say, like, "Oh yeah, I work at *insert place of employment here*."
Luckily (or maybe not so luckily), my mom always had her rotation of regularly visited food joints, grocery stores and shops, and it just so happened she was pretty friendly with the owner of an ice cream shop 20 minutes from our house. After some back and forth discussion, my mom said the owner *Wayne wanted to meet with me about potential employment. The place is a well-known chain, so it sounded kind of exciting to have my first job be somewhere common that everyone would know.
Wayne and I chatted after school one Tuesday afternoon, I filled out an application and the rest is history.
And So Began My Life As a "Trainiee"
My first day on the job was basically the last day of my social life.
The excitement leading up to throwing on the heavily soiled, thin, two-piece known as my uniform faded incredibly fast.
The good news: There was a really cool girl on staff with me named *Cathleen who I became friends with in no time, and there were a few troublesome-yet-entertaining boys from my school who worked there as well.
The bad news: Everything else.
Once I filled out any additional necessary paperwork and threw on the ever-so-unflattering ensemble, I was also handed a name tag with big bold letters that read "TRAINIEE." Not only was "TRAINEE" spelled wrong, but the said title implied that I had not passed the necessary "training" required to make minimum wage. Yes, you read that correctly. I did not make minimum wage. This was not an internship. This was a legitimate part-time job that required me to do everything any "non-trainee" had to do—I just had the luxury of making $1.75 an hour less than them.
As if the absurdities weren't already enough, within a week of employment, I was scrubbing floors and getting my bare hands into the depths of the toilets to make sure they were crystal clear. I mean, there are photos my best friend would take while cruising through the shop's parking lot, capturing me on my hands and knees, not missing a single little crevice in this terribly dirty tile. Sure, ensuring ice cream was appropriately applied to a cone was part of the schtick, but that wasn't necessarily any easier because Wayne was sure to catch our every move on video tape.
If a cone was filled even a centimeter over the "guidelines," we were taken into the back room of the store for a talking-to. One thing that cheapskate clearly didn't need to spend money on was glasses, because he sure had a way of spotting everything on video, eagle-eye status. That being said, you can only imagine how things went down when we took advantage of the discount we were allotted as employees. We were only allowed a very specific serving of toppings—and again, if the ice cream went even slightly over the cone, another talking-to came in no time.
Aside from the grueling work responsibilities, the hours were bewildering. By law, minors can only work a certain amount of hours per week. You better believe on a weekend, we did not get out of our chilly little shack until anywhere from midnight to 1:30 a.m. I was always so grateful for shifts I covered alongside Cathleen because by the time we'd get off, we would at least have each other if we still had the energy to hang out.
Sometimes It's Okay to Be a Quitter
With vacations and other time off included, I probably worked at this place for a total span of six months. Sounds like an eternity, right? Sure felt like one, too.
While times with Cathleen and some of the other employees made for good laughs, I finally got to a point where I craved greener pastures. Everyone says the grass is always greener on the other side, but I knew for sure nothing could be worse than this. And so the day came—I quit.
I don't remember if there was one specific moment that set me off. I do remember that I just started senior year at this point, and I kind of wanted to shed myself of this horrible job cloud looming over me. I finally got my license and I kind of felt like a different person.
I left Wayne a note one day at the beginning of my shift that simply stated I was putting in my two weeks notice. He approached me once he got in that day and I straight up said, "I think I want to do something else." He asked why, and I said, "Well, I'm not even making minimum wage here." He shrugged in agreement. I mean, what else could he do?
As soon as we were clear on my future intentions with the store, he immediately took away all my pre-scheduled shifts. It was an immature move on his part, but quite frankly, it was a blessing in disguise. By that point, I was totally O-V-E-R it!
In a way, I felt like this so-called "job" was holding me captive and the day I was able to say goodbye felt incredibly freeing. As for my next "career" move, I knew I needed a moment before hopping back into the workforce, and that was okay.
The only time I reflect on this miserable era in my life is basically to laugh. And that's kind of all you really can do in these instances.
Do I regret working under these undesirable conditions? Absolutely not. I wanted a job at the time, I had some memorable (for better or worse) experiences during my time there and it really allowed me to appreciate future job opportunities that came my way once I decided to get back out there.
I feel like having a terrible first job is kind of a rite of passage in a way. You'll always remember that experience and then someday, when you're legitimately doing what you want in life, you can look back on your humble beginnings (always thinking with the glass half full over here 😜).
But on the flip side, do I regret quitting? No way. I was being treated poorly and unprofessionally. I gave the experience adequate time to really make up my mind, and then came to the conclusion that this situation was only bringing me down.
Why I stayed so long is the better issue to address. When you're in the midst of your first job, you don't necessarily know any better. I got pretty comfortable quickly and having Cathleen by my side definitely softened the blow of my intense work conditions.
Bottom line: Don't stress your first job. You may love it, you may hate it, but just know that these are only temporary conditions and you should never feel obligated to stick around. Trust me, 10 years from now, your first job—along with a slew of other silly high school sagas—is something that will totally not matter. So go on and live your best life, girl. It's only just beginning.
*Names have been changed
If you're anything like me, you've probably experienced THESE eight scenarios that demonstrate first job expectations vs. realities.
I'm about to reveal something that might make some of you hate me. I am a recent (ish) graduate ... and I have a proper graduate job. But please read on before you judge me. The job didn't fall into my lap. I didn't get it through wealthy family connections. In fact, it came about after months of tears, frustrations, sadness and plenty of moments when I thought: "I'm giving up now."
I graduated in 2009 with a decent 2:1 in broadcast journalism. Only problem was: I didn't want to be a journalist any more. Unsurprisingly, this posed a problem. I had a vague plan to investigate PR or marketing, but with no qualification and no relevant experience, it was tricky. I was unemployed for four months, claiming jobseeker's allowance. However, this was a picniccompared with the hellish call centre I forced myself to work in for six months just so I could be in work. I would sit at my desk being sworn at over the phone and fantasise about being made redundant.
Of course, after a while something had to give and, after one too many mornings sitting in my car feeling sick at the thought of going to work, I formulated a plan. I would get a part time job – doing anything – and use my free days to do volunteer PR or marketing work for charities who were in desperate need of people to work for free. I was lucky enough to secure a part-time job relatively easily, 24 hours a week over three days. I used great websites like do-it.org and vinspired.co.uk to begin volunteering with my local YMCA, assisting their fundraising manager.
It was easily the best thing I have ever done. This work, while not thrilling, turned out to be harder than I thought and it looked great on the old CV. Working three days a week was fantastic, and my volunteer work was interesting and rewarding. After just two months, I got an interview for a PR team assistant at a company in London. I was convinced that this was it! I'd always been good in interviews – my downfall was my applications because of my lack of experience.
So off I went, full of hope. The interview went well, and I spent the whole of the next day staring at my phone. At 4pm the email came through. "We are sorry to tell you that unfortunately you have been unsuccessful at this stage ... "
WHAT?!! I lay in bed, crying, convinced that this was it, and I'd never get another interview. How wrong I was …
Because from that point on, an endless stream of applications, interviews, tests, assessments, second interviews, second tests, etc, began. Since that fateful July day that marked my first "real job", interview I have had no fewer than 12 others. Maybe that's a good thing – at least my applications were up to scratch – but when you've reached the final three for six different jobs and spent most of your paltry part-time wage on travelling to London, Reading, Tunbridge Wells, Leeds and Sheffield (for one of those jobs I had to go back three times) then it quickly becomes horrific.
I've taken spelling tests, grammar tests, maths tests and psychometric tests. I've presented to camera, written news articles, prepared a sample PR strategy and been asked how I would maximise the profits of a cinema in one day. I've been asked what animal best describes my personality and what I would say if the interviewers told me I hadn't performed as well as they had expected. Over one three-week period I had seven interviews. But always at that final hurdle, I would be pipped by someone who "met more of the desirable criteria". I literally wanted to scream: "What more do you want from me!"
I cried countless times. I got to the point where I'd run off a job application with one hand while cooking dinner with the other. I became so bored at jumping through covering-letter hoops that I would write three lines saying they wouldn't find anyone better for the job. Believe it or not, it worked.
And then it came. I'd had an interview for a marketing officer job in Leeds. I had just got home. While I was idly browsing "flats in Leeds" online, my phone starting ringing. A Leeds phone number. And while I stood in my kitchen staring out the window, the caller delivered the life-changing news: "We would like to offer you the position."
I started on Monday, and I think I am really going to enjoy it. So please, everyone out there – don't give up, no matter what. However many times you have been rejected, however often you have cried and felt like not getting out of bed because it's all so pointless, there is a job out there for you. And a handy hint – make sure you know, off the top of your head, what animal best describes your personality.
Charlotte Frenchman is the (new!) marketing officer at AutoDrain, a vehicle de-pollution specialist. Charlotte is also on Twitter: @c_frenchman
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