08 Aug How My #FirstSevenJobs Impacted My Career
Over the last few days, the #FirstSevenJobs hashtag began trending on Facebook and Twitter and as I read through exciting and unique roles that others have had, it got me reminiscing and evaluating my own past. From hot air balloon chase crew member Kane Jamison, to paper warehouse clerk Pamela Lund, spiral ham slicer and glazer Damon Gochneaur, sales associate Rhea Drysdale, lifeguard Karianne Stinson, hip hop DJ Joe Youngblood, horse stall cleaner John Doherty, and many more, it’s fascinating to learn more about the employment beginnings of others and to see where they currently are in their careers. As I enjoyed perusing these lists that friends shared, it got me thinking in more detail about where I began, where I had been, where I am now, what I learned along the way, and where I strive to be. Every experience we have at a job leaves an imprint on who we become and the work that we do. In hindsight, it’s quite remarkable how certain exposures and responsibilities on the job formed future skill sets and provided a better understanding for business and other people as a whole.
MY FIRST SEVEN JOBS:
1.) Dry Cleaners: At 14, I got my first job learning the various aspects of the dry cleaning business. I greeted customers, took in, tagged, sorted, and returned cleaned articles of clothing, and checked pockets for items so that they did not end up going into the dry cleaning machines. Understandably, tagging clothes and checking pockets was the coveted work station. It was amazing how many customers would forget to clean their pockets out before sending them off with us. Policy was that we were allowed to keep anything $20 or less. While pocket surprises were gum, candy, paper notes, lint, paper clips, and coins, I made out pretty well most days. On one occasion, I remember finding five folded Benjamins in a pair of slacks. In awe, I inspected them since I had never seen that much money before and proceeded to call the owner to inform him of our find and that we had it saved for him.
Lesson: As a young person at the time, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction into customer service as I was getting exposed to a variety of people and situations, and learning how to properly handle each. While most customer interactions were handled with mutual smiles, like any business, problems are inevitable and I learned to identify and resolve them on the job. Given the pocket picking aspect of this job, each time I dug into one, it provided a number of opportunities to test my honesty in instances of temptation. While these “bonuses” would have been a huge help to my family and I, the risk was not worth the reward. Do the right thing and rack up karma points. That’s rewarding enough.
2.) Tim Hortons: As an avid coffee consumer since I began sneaking sips at an age too young to admit, my love affair working in this aromatic and delicious industry began at 15. While this was my second consecutive customer facing role, I decided to switch industries to experience and learn more about food and beverage. Plus, a lot of the cool kids from school worked there and like any teenager, who didn’t want to fit in? Especially with an unusual name. From initially taking and filling orders from customers from the main counter, to brewing fresh coffee, cleaning iced coffee machines, and cleaning the dining area while adorned in a hair net, I soon excelled to running the soup and sandwich station during my shift, to working the drive-thru, and occasionally filling donuts with jelly with the bakers in the back.
Lesson: This job was all about efficiency and being a valuable asset to the team. Being a popular local coffee, donut, breakfast, and lunch chain, my coworkers and I were tested each shift. We had to provide top notch customer service and work together in a quick manner while accurately filling orders to get the line inside and in drive-thru moving along under goal times. From greeting the customer, taking an order, then having individual members of the team helping fill the order, and get it to the customer, our funnel was a multi-faceted operation. One of the things I enjoyed more about working here was the relationships I built with my coworkers and our customers. While the food and beverage business is full of challenges, it provides a solid family like bond between everyone involved. Each shift, you have your station, your responsibilities, and your piece is vital to the overall success.
3.) Advanced Auto Parts: I’ve had an admiration for cars since childhood which later evolved into a multiple year auto-crossing endeavor, so moving into a role as an auto parts specialist seemed like a natural transition. While I greatly enjoyed learning even more about cars and their respective parts from my supportive team members, the job provided me with a broader view of the people, behaviors, and for the first time, where I stood as a woman in a predominantly male industry. As the only female staff in the store, I encountered plenty of delightful customers, as well as ones who were visibly surprised by my presence behind the counter, and other times by some less than delightful customers who unleashed derogatory remarks, told me I had no place being there, and that they didn’t want me touching their vehicle. The first few times, my team stood up for me and then I realized I could and should stand up for myself as well. This was unacceptable and overtime, I learned there is a graceful way of handling challenging customers. If you are voluntarily coming in to the store and need me to help you change your battery, alternator, starter, headlights, or windshield wipers, I would hope you would entrust the establishment to hire competent and able staff to complete the task.
Lesson: By this point in my life, I had witness some of the less attractive qualities people can possess, however, not to this extent. This role in particular thickened my skin, taught me personally and professional stand tall, and helped me acknowledge the authority I possessed.
4.) Hostess: What can I say? I loved the food industry and providing customer service. I briefly worked as a hostess and occasionally helped with serving food at a sports bar and restaurant. While working at coffee shops and auto parts stores prepared me for this job and kept me on my toes, nothing quite compares to working in a restaurant. It’s a faced pace, team oriented environment that is an entirely different brand of customer service.
Lesson: This role was a tremendous learning experience in human relations, strengthening my communication skills, and further boosted my confidence and strength during challenging interactions. A busy restaurant has an incredible energy to it, however, it can also result in tense situations if wait times are long, if orders are incorrect, and so forth. It’s always a battle for balance to keep the team running efficiently and keeping patrons pleased.
5.) Bubble Tea Cafe: I began working here during my senior year of high school and remained for several years into college. This cafe was my second home, or quite possibly, my primary home, depending how you look at it. I was here more often than not, either working, studying, or hanging out. It was the quintessential job of my youth. As assistant manager, I gave this business everything I had, which was exciting as that was what my coworkers did as well. There was a bond that we had with one another and this cafe unlike any I’ve experienced before. Business boomed early on and it was such a thrill to experience growth such as this within a relatively brief period.
Lesson: Being smaller than restaurant’s and chain cafes I’ve worked at prior to here, I learned more about the importance of growing and supporting small businesses, had the opportunity to see how a smaller kitchen functions, and ultimately, my dedication paid off as I was given keys to the store. During my time here, I gained a considerable amount of responsibility and authority, which was both a privilege and an honor. This was also about the time when I realized I had an interest in advertising. During my free time, I would paint and draw, which my managers noticed and invited me to create ads in local university magazines for us.
6.) Starbucks: From the year I began working here as a barista, and still to this day, I stand behind what I once read in Newsweek in that Starbucks is one of the best places to work in the U.S. Here, I truly saw how a food and beverage company functions at this level. Training was exemplary, staff education about coffee, roasting, pairing, and products was in abundance, it was a hard working, encouraging, process filled, seamless giant, and I enjoyed every moment of it. While I saw this at previous jobs, the level of care for staff at the corporate level was quite amazing. Benefits, even for part time staff members was almost unheard of at the time, except here, which was appreciated greatly by every employee.
Lesson: While I learned many lessons on how to develop, maintain, and grow a team and store, that’s only a part of the larger entity, the biggest takeaway was understanding the importance of and improving my attention to detail. Processes are in place for a reason, to give us the best change of success, especially within a large global brand as this. While the process from ordering a coffee, to preparing, and serving it is simple, Starbucks showed me that it can be much more than that. Strive for more, better, bigger, and test. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried, and there’s no shame in that. See how your employees and customers feel about new offerings. Each test is a learning experience and that knowledge is valuable to any business. There’s a way to do more and still create a seamless process, even when creating a venti, 8 shot, upside down, caramel sauce, sugar free vanilla, 98.5 degrees, whipped cream, breve latte.
7.) Physical Therapist Aide: While the food and beverage industry was prominent in my work life up to this point, this was my first career bound role as I was working towards applying to grad school in effort to become a physical therapist some day. I graduated university with my Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and worked as a PT Aide to learn more about the inner workings of a medical practice, where my previous experiences with human relations and customer service lent a big hand. It was equally exciting and challenging to work with patients as we created a plan to rehabilitate them and improve their mobility.
Lesson: Hands down, the biggest takeaway from this job was the level of responsibility, strategy, and problem solving that was involved. In my opinion, caring for the health and well being of others is the highest level of responsibility and coming up with a plan to rehabilitate an individual post-op or injury is no easy feat, but it’s a rewarding one. In addition the to medical knowledge and experiences during my time in this role, I was able to dabble in marketing yet again as I expressed interest and was assigned with the task of developing a marketing plan and executing it, to acquiring more patients.
While I no longer work in food, beverage, auto, or medical field, each role I possessed, all of the knowledge I gained, provided an excellent collection of experiences that helped me improve my communication, develop problem solving skills, and discover what I am truly passionate about, where I excel, where I don’t, and ultimately, moved me to launch a business I can call my own.
What were your first seven jobs and which did you most enjoy? And what was the biggest lesson you learned at a past job that helped shape you today?