Balancing act: First 'real' job teaches lessons, offers a few surprises

Published: Tuesday, July 29 2014 8:00 a.m. MDT

Every job we hold during our long years in the work force teaches us something. My 16-year-old daughter is about a month into her first "real" job, and so far it has been a great experience for her, complete with many positive lessons.

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Every job we hold during our long years in the workforce teaches us something.

Often the lesson is as simple as, "I definitely don't want to do this for the rest of my life." But other times — hopefully most of the time — the lessons are more positive.

My 16-year-old daughter is about a month into her first "real" job, and so far, it has been a great experience for her. Not only has she learned new things, she's also earned some money and built a little more independence.

In other words, she's meeting the goals she talked about in a column I wrote before she began working at a sandwich shop near where we live.

However, she's also found that her "real" job has held a few surprises.

For example, she said she expected every worker at the shop to focus on just one job, but they actually pitch in wherever they are needed. She was glad to be a part of that kind of collaboration.

She also was surprised at how quickly she built camaraderie with her co-workers, and the pace of the work is a bit faster than she expected.

"It's busier than I thought it would be," she said. "I figured it would be (busy) around lunchtime, but it's even more than I thought."

As a result of that pace, she has been more tired than she expected to be after a five- to six-hour shift.

"I didn't really think about it beforehand, that I might be more tired," she said. "I don't feel like I should be as tired as I am, since it's not actually a full-time job, especially because a lot of it is just me standing behind a register, talking. ...

"It's taught me that you need to get a good night's sleep. And that it is really hard work. I don't think you realize how hard it is to have a full-time job until you start having a job."

That revelation was exciting to me because I figure it will translate into a little more appreciation for dear old dad. It also makes me feel like I'm not crazy for being exhausted at the end of a day spent sitting in front of a computer. It's surprising how tiring that activity can be.

My daughter said she was pleased that she has quickly learned different tasks but also mentioned that they are not all easy for her. For example, she has worked as the shop's cashier for many of her recent shifts, and she said that has been difficult at times.

"Probably the hardest thing is when someone orders something or wants something on their sandwich and I don't know where the button for that is," she said. "Then I have to take out a pen and write it down. And sometimes I miss it, so (the people making the sandwiches) have to add it on after."

It's also difficult to take orders when people speak softly, she said, and that usually leads to her repeating orders back several times.

"Probably cashier has been the most difficult thing I've done so far because it's not just putting something together, it's finding out exactly what needs to be done," she said. "And you're interacting with people, rather than just their food."

I was in the shop while she was working cashier one day last week and I was quite impressed by her efficiency and skill in taking people's orders. She was pleasant and friendly, even though it was a busy time. I'm guessing that's why her managers have asked her to fill that role lately.

And speaking of those managers, she said she has been impressed by how much they know and how well they can do everything associated with the business. Watching them has helped her to better understand how to interact effectively with people in a work setting as opposed to at home or at school.