There are a lot of things I won’t forget about my first job as a grocery store cashier.
Unfortunately, the memory that sticks out first in my mind is that of a thirty-some-year-old man coming through my line at 7:15 in the morning, high as a kite, buying vidalia onions and Tide Simply Clean and Fresh laundry detergent. Needless to say, the rest of that shift was spent brainstorming with my fellow co-workers about what he *thought* he was buying and considering how likely it was that he truly needed onions and laundry detergent at 7:15 a.m.
Though my job has given me several priceless memories, much like this one, it has also taught me countless lessons along the way. And while the stories will be dinner-table conversations for years to come, the lessons will actually help me through my future careers and life experiences.
If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Twelve More Times
Much to my dismay, it’s actually not easy to get a job at 16. A lack of work experience was the biggest challenge. Having straight-A’s is great and all, but it doesn’t exactly show how well you can take someone’s order or bag their groceries. I filled out thirteen applications for any and every job I could think of. After waiting for about a month, I got two interviews. The first, for another grocery store, went well, I thought. But, I never heard back. The second was for a position at Staples. The “interview” lasted a total of three minutes and eighteen seconds: the time it took for me to walk into the store, for the manager to figure out I was only 16 (as clearly stated on my application), and for me to return to my car. Apparently, they don’t hire for the position I was applying for until you’re 18, a fact not given to me at any point in the application process. A week later, I interviewed and was hired as a cashier at a different grocery store.
It took me about six weeks to get a job: apply, interview, and be hired. This time-frame seemed too long to me at the time, but it really made me think about how many people (adults with at least a high school diploma) claim it’s too hard to find a job, or that they’ve been searching and applying for years. I was able to get a job at 16, with no work experience and no high school diploma. Of course, this isn’t a job I could fully provide for a family with, but even working only three days a week, I was able to bring in quite a chunk of change to help out.
When I graduate from college, I’m sure the job-hunt will be at least ten times harder, but I learned a valuable lesson by already going through the process: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
And again. And again.
You’ll learn a lot in your first few months on the job. Bring a notepad, write everything down, because trust me, you won't remember it all the next day. You’ll annoy everyone, including yourself if you have to ask how to do every little thing over and over again. Pay attention, you’ll get the hang of it.
This goes for anything in life. Pay attention to those around you. You’ll be a better friend, employee, and co-worker if you do.
Stuff: A New Perspective
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to having a little extra spending money when I finally got a job. However, I had to learn what that money was truly worth - and I did. My first paycheck - a scanty $66 - went straight to the bank… for about three days before I needed the newest best-selling novel.
After a while, the paychecks got larger, and so did the responsibility. I gained a new perspective on worth; one where things cost time and energy more than a simple dollar amount. If I decided there was something I wanted to buy, I’d put the price into the amount of time I’d have to stand on my feet and deal with explaining to middle-aged women why I can't accept a coupon that expired two months ago. So, say I want a $100 purse. That means working for about 14 hours. That was about two weeks worth of work, as I was only working weekends so as to not interfere too much with my school work. I'd ask myself if that purse was worth a two-week paycheck. Sometimes it was, but most of the time I realized I’d rather save my earnings for something more necessary.
Learning to find the true value in stuff is something that will help me throughout my life.
Check Yo Self
Self-control is a tough lesson to learn, but I’d say I pretty much mastered it by having this job. There are people who will get on your nerves. There may be a lot of people who get on your nerves. You may be serving them, bagging their groceries, or you could be working with or for them. Whoever it is, I learned to control myself (my face, mostly) no matter who I was dealing with or what the situation was.
In life, it’s important to check yourself - your attitude, your approachability, your mindset - so you can make sure you don’t wreck yourself into a misunderstanding with a friend, boss or co-worker.
Judging Someone Isn’t Always Bad
Working as a cashier, it's important to be aware of your surroundings. That means reading people and attempting to know their next move. *Judging* has a bad connotation. It makes it seem like you’re looking down on someone or finding that they are somehow lesser than you are. However, it can simply be being aware of who exactly is around you.
Hard Work Is Hard... But It Pays Off
Being a cashier may not be the most difficult job, but it definitely has its challenges. People are rude. People are narcissistic. People don’t care that you’ve been standing for eight or more hours. People are hard to deal with, so pretty much any customer-service job won’t be a walk in the park. But, the lessons you learn while forcing yourself to deal with those people make the hard work worth it.
If you’re young and don’t have a job, consider trying to get one. It’s not all about the money, some of the best things you’ll learn are priceless. Like today, for example, a 5 or 6-year-old boy informed me that the long airheads are better than the bites because you can “stretch those things like a mile almost.” Who knew?
Having a job in addition to being a full-time student hasn’t always been fun, but it’s always been worth it. Some days gave me a story to share, but every day gave me a lesson to take with me.