Balancing act: First 'real' job teaches lessons, offers a few surprises
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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.
In fact, working with good people has been one of her favorite parts of the job. That makes perfect sense to me. Co-workers and managers have had a huge influence on how much I like various jobs. I've been lucky in this regard throughout my career, and I hope my daughter has similar good fortune.
I'm also glad her job has solidified her love of working hard.
"I really enjoy that it keeps you busy for most of the time," she said. "If you don't have any people there, there's always something you can be doing to help get ready for the next day, or to clean. ...
"On the 24th of July, we were really slow, so we got everything done and had nothing to do. That was the worst. So probably I'll want to keep looking for (jobs) that will keep me occupied, where there will always be something to do and for a good purpose."
That's a great lesson to learn, I think. My favorite jobs have also been those that kept me hopping, and it's always, always better to be busy than bored.
My daughter also mentioned when starting this job that she was hoping to gain more independence and improve her money-management skills, and her excitement when she received her first paycheck was fun to see.
She immediately planned how she was going to handle that check, indicating how much would be set aside for a contribution to our church, how much she would need to pay back money she owed us, how much she would keep out for spending and how much she would put in a savings account.
"I think already that I've become better acquainted with getting large amounts of money at a time and dealing with those," she said.
She followed through on her plan as intended. And, to reward herself and take advantage of one of the first times we let her drive on her own, she stopped after work one day last week to buy herself a smoothie with her own money. I'll always remember seeing the smile on her face as she parked the car back at home. She looked like she was taking her first steps into adulthood and thoroughly enjoying them.
I'm sure I'll always think of her as the curly haired little girl who had me wrapped around her finger from the moment she was born. But I also can't wait to see what she accomplishes as she continues learning and growing, both at work and in life.