My First Job

Posted by

I was in grade 10. It could have been grade 9.

My entire grade was taking a summer trip overseas. I wanted to become a million by the time I was 18, so the clock was ticking. Tick. Tock. Instead of having fun with my friends, I had bigger aspirations for my summer. I wanted to buy an electric bass… and a stereo. I had to earn the money to get the sugar. I worked in a cosmetic factory. It sucked. My job – day in and day out – was taking this round piece of white plastic, dabbing the center with some glue and using wax paper I would push into place the mascara. From there, I would screw on the see-through top, place them a box, get the right count, tape up the box and put it on a palette. I don’t think it rained one day that summer. At least, it didn’t feel like it did. I wouldn’t know. I was stuck inside a dirty warehouse all day that was filled with people who had no passion, desire or drive. They just did their jobs. Collected their money. Time to make the donuts.

The food sucked too. 

I wasn’t a brown bag lunch kind of guy (I’m still not). We’d hit up some greasy spoon or grab something quick at the corner donut shop. It was in a part of town that had lower income apartments and random businesses. It was a long haul to a cruddy fast food joint. It wasn’t even worth the trip. I hated the work and only semi-appreciated the minimum wage. It wasn’t about the work… it was about the means to the end. By the end of the summer, I got the electric bass that I wanted… the stereo too. I had even made enough money, to put some of it aside. You can bet that I appreciated ownership of the bass and stereo.

Hard work.

It’s all about the hard work. Not just at the job – each and every day – but about putting in the hard work. Always. Luck is a lot of hard work. You can chastise Malcolm Gladwell all you like, but he’s right in Outliers about the 10,000 hours. It may not be an exact number, but it speaks to the time and dedication it requires to be successful. We hear about the random stories or the lottery winners and we’re fooled into believing that luck has something to do with success. I didn’t want to work in that warehouse. While that was my first job, it wasn’t my last hard job. I must have a thing for hard jobs. I worked at a frozen yogurt place (part-time) one summer in high school. The customers were borderline disgusting ("can you put in a few more strawberries?" – I would try to explain to them that there is a formula to create the best tasting result. They would fight me on it. I’d put in the extra strawberries and they would return it and say that it was too tart). During the day, I was a counselor at a day camp, working with ten 9-year-old boys. It was a great summer, but it was hard work. We forget about how good hard work is. It keeps us engaged, it keeps us motivated and – sometimes – the lesson is bigger. I love hard work, because when it’s the stuff I’m interested in, it pushes me to be better. I love hard work, because when it’s the stuff I’m not at all interested in, it pushes me because I never want to do that kind of stuff ever again.

I can still smell that mascara. I’m not going back there. I’ll just keep on working hard.

What was your first job?

BTW, this post was 100% motivated by Ashton Kutcher‘s awesome speech at the Teen Choice Awards 2013. Watch this… and show it to your kids:


  1. There’s something to be said for learning the value of hard work and to appreciate the rewards we (might) reap from it. And when you’re young and have all the time in the world, it’s a lesson worth learning.
    As I get older, though, I can’t help but to focus on the quality of time I spend on this Earth. I mean, sure, you can’t appreciate the ups if you never experience the downs, but I refuse to work at something really hard unless I really enjoy that thing in-and-of-itself. I can make more money than I do now, and I’ve turned down the jobs that would offer me that, but I’m not willing to spend my time working hard at something that I hate.
    There’s more to success and rewards than monetary or material compensation. And I’ll take “peace of mind” over “a piece of the pie” any day.
    It’s like the man said: “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

  2. 1973, gutting a building in Old Montreal for $60 a week and a free lunch at the greasy spoon on the corner of St Francois Xavier and St Paul (I think). Oppressively hot summer, absurdly low wages and slave like long hours. I still look back on it with the broadest of smiles.

  3. My first job was probably a paper route in my neighborhood when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I was given some papers to fold, bag, and deliver. I also had to go out and collect the money. I got frustrated that I wasn’t able to collect all the money, but my supervisor had told my Mom that I had far exceeded her expectations.
    As a teenager, I had a lawn mowing job that I didn’t like. I wound up giving that up.
    My stepmother helped me get a job at a pizza place, working for someone she had gone to high school with. I was 14 years old. It was my real first job, and I wound up working there for 4-5 years, even during my first year of college. Learned so much!

  4. Great post mitch…..
    10,000 hours doesn’t really matter in my opinion and doesn’t say anything about life and success, what matters is that you find a passion in life and just enjoy.
    I think we place too much emphasis on becoming rich and successful, just look at the U.S. housing mess, if more people focused on finding their passion instead of chasing someone else’s dream of becoming rich life would be amazing!
    I think housing has caused a great deal of stress in many people’s lives including myself and actually thinking of renting instead of owing a home. In fact I no longer wan’t to own anything at all. I’m about two years away from this and when it happens it will be the most liberating day of my life. I no longer have to take a job I don’t like just because I have to pay the mortgage and taxes etc, instead I will focus on my passions.

  5. First job? Ten years old (1981).
    My father first informed me as I was going to bed Sunday night to wake up early the next morning for so I could go to work.
    “But I’m ten! Where will I find I job?!” I complained.
    “You don’t have to find it. I already made arrangements. Be there by 8.”
    And with that he gave me directions so I could walk myself.
    I was to be a farm hand making cardboard boxes for tender fruit, cleaning the barn, helping the workers in whatever way possible. Meantime, all of my friends were playing ball and swimming and goofing around while I worked. All of them.
    The farmer promised my dad I would get a measly $1.25/hr. Then, to add insult to injury, his foreman subsequently decided I wasn’t worth the extra $2/day and cut me back to $1/hr.
    I was so mad I vowed I would never be disrespected in the workplace again. I earned that quarter back and then some by the end of the summer. I learned more that summer about work and responsibility than many people learn in a lifetime.
    Best thing that ever happened to me. Thanks, Dad.

  6. My first job was in a garden center, walking around a table potting plants one after the other, I would come home covered in mud having earned £20. The greenhouse was so hot during the summer when the sun would beam down on to the glass panels and scorch my 15-year-old skin. Safe to say I left after 3 days and the boss refused to pay me- I learnt a lesson that sometimes you have to give up on jobs where you aren’t being treated fairly. I hope that place aren’t still employing child labour- they definitely need reporting!!

  7. First job at the age of 13, I got paid a whopping $1.00/hour working in a local hobby shop. There were weeks I made 4 bucks and other weeks I made 40 but it didn’t matter because of what I learned about inventory management and customer service while working there. After the hobby shop, my next job was typing names and addresses on little tiny cards day in/day out. Again, didn’t pay much and it only took me four months to move on but it sure drove up my keyboard skills and taught me the importance of accuracy. One mistake and the proof reader brought the card right back at you to do over. I really learned how much time you can waste with do-overs. First jobs should always teach you something that sticks with you.

Comments are closed.