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What was your FIRST job?

My mother is constantly bringing up the number of jobs I’ve had over my lifetime. I started to settle into my career life around the age of 26 when I was hired for my first television hosting job and spent the next 15 or so years hosting different shows for different television stations and production companies.

But before that. Well that’s another story. The part time jobs I had throughout high school and university ranged from picking strawberries to working in stores to slugging it out in a steel mill. The length of time I worked in these places ran from a few minutes to a few months.

I was particular about my working conditions and left my jobs as I saw fit. Often without warning or notice. Mainly I just decided this blows, and walked out the door.

On one particular occasion I was desperate for a job to buy Christmas presents for everyone in my family. So desperate I took a part time job in one of those mall clothing stores that thinks really bright fluorescent lighting, rolling racks filled with incomprehensibly awful and ugly clothing, and really loud, bad music is the way to go.

I did not agree with them. But I agreed to work there. I could struggle through it.

And I did. For a day and a half. For on the second day they told me I would have to wear a Santa Claus hat throughout my workday.

Now, I could force myself to deal with poor constructed garments made out of completely unrecognizable fibres. But I could not stand around selling this crap while wearing a Santa hat.

I set the hat down on the floor and quietly slipped out the door, never to return. I didn’t even pick up my paycheque, which I imagine would have totalled around $4.52.

But this is about my first job. My very first job.

I was in grade 8 and had a friend whose neighbour  distributed sunglasses. Peepers. They needed workers to take the glasses out of their plastic bags, label them and put a tag on them. We were required to work for 2 or 3 weekends.

I remember 2 things about this job. The room we worked in was the driest dustiest place I’d ever been in outside of a cardboard box.  And, at lunchtime we all got to go to lunch like grown ups. At a restaurant. I ordered chicken fingers.

I will never forget that first job and the first paycheque that came with it. $19. I remember that distinctly because I ended up losing it. Being a stupid kid and all.

So now I ask you … What Was Your First Job?

Judging by what I know about the average Art of Doing Stuff reader, I have a hunch there’s going to be some very interesting responses.

 

Have a good weekend!

 


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133 Comments | Filed Under: Everything Else |

133 Responses to What was your FIRST job?

  1. Lesley says:

    I delivered the Barrie Examiner after school one winter when I was 15. I hated it! It was dark and cold and the bag was heavy. And I was basically a lazy little snot : )

  2. Sigh – nothing interesting about my first job – babysitting, although there was that one family where the dad was rather odd. Not bad, just kinda strange.
    My first ‘real’ job was at the local drugstore.This was about the time Ontario banned the sale of cigarettes in drug stores. The owners got around that by installing a little room behind the cash that had one of those takeout windows to the outside. When someone wanted to buy cigarettes, they’d walk up to the window and press the doorbell which would ring inside. I’d then go into the little room and sell the cancer sticks.
    The most memorable time was when I girl I went to grade school tried to buy them – I knew very well she was underage, but because I couldn’t just say no I had to ask for and check her ID. I’ve always wondered why she just didn’t walk away – that would have had to have been the less embarrassing option, right?

  3. Shannon V. says:

    My first job (aside from babysitting) was in a restaurant making toast, sandwiches, etc on the weekends. Imagine how mind numbing it was to stand there and butter toast over, and over and over. Needless to say, I did work their for a couple of years as we got new owners and they actually taught me how to cook on the grill. Thought I was really something then!

  4. Lindsay says:

    My parents have a 100 acre orchard and my job every year was to sort cherries. Two weeks of hell but I always made more money in those two weeks than any of my friends did all summer. Mostly due to the 15 hour days.

    Also, I was so bad at anything to do with the orchard that my only other job was to count the fruit trees. On a 100 acre orchard. I did this very year. The count never changed. We joke about it now.

  5. Megan says:

    I worked at a fast food restaurant that was owned by a couple with a very cute son. I am now married to their son. Yes, I married the bosses’ son…

  6. Erica Filpi says:

    My 10th grade year I got my first job at Kmart. I bought a dress there, went home, tried it on, and decided I hated it. they refused to take it back the next day, so I promptly told them where to stick the dress and the job.

  7. Keri says:

    My first paycheck earning job was taking tickets and making popcorn at a movie theater- all the movies I wanted to see for free!

    • Karol says:

      Keri, I too worked at a movie theater for my first paying job. I loved that I could watch all the movies, plus have all the popcorn I could eat. But for the $1.25 I was earning per hour (I’m very old… that was minimum wage at the time), the perks were worth more than the paycheck. It was the most care-free time of my life.

  8. Kim Merry says:

    My first real job was working the ticket booth at our local drive in theater. There was a boy a few years younger who would go to each car in line, count how many people in the car and run back to the booth and give me the money. He would then have to run back with their tickets and change. I think I had the better part of that job! I think I made $.75 an hour.

  9. Erica G says:

    I worked at a firework stand! I sold hundreds of dollars of cheap Chinese explosives to people who would let their toddlers run around on the sharp gravel parking lot with no shoes.

  10. AnnW says:

    Baby sitting doesn’t count. My first job was in the summer as a secretary for the Port Captain of the Port of Balboa, Canal Zone. $.85 an hour. I also got to work with the admeasurers who calculated the displacement of each ship and charged accordingly as it moved through the canal. If ships were empty, or too light, they had to take on water to travel through the locks. Ann

  11. Kirsten says:

    I taught piano out of my bedroom when I was around fourteen – and was also a choral scholar at a church from around that time too. One of my students gave me the Sarah McLachlan Christmas CD as a teacher gift (he was also my mom’s boss – daunting!) My first real pay-cheque job was (and is) working as a customer service representative for one of the largest real estate companies in the world (still not used to being corporate and having a corporate email at the age of 20…)

  12. gloria says:

    When I was 16 I needed money so I could buy gear to hike a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. I took a job as a telephone recruiter for a technical school. We had lists of boys in their senior year of high school to call. You’d think that would be bliss to a 16 year old girl. But I got flustered and instead of saying, as the script read, “Hi, my name is Gloria and I’m calling from Tampa Technical Institute…,” I said, “This is Gloria from Tampa Testicle Institute.”

    I don’t know, Freudian slip perhaps.

  13. Leena says:

    I think my first job was mowing lawn of the apartment building we lived in. Then I also worked in a turkish restaurant (or a kebab restaurant as we say in Finland) near the central rail station in Helsinki with bunch of Turkish, Iraq and Iran guys. I was 17 years old and worked mostly on evenings and weekends. The customers were sometimes a bit scary but I loved to work there.

  14. Tracie says:

    My first real job was working as a waitress in an all night diner when I was 15 years old. The owner was Greek and he used to have poker games in the back room where us girls would take turns serving food and drinks to the players. They would toss bills at us for tips, which usually landed on the floor as they were far too engrossed in the game to worry about paying any attention to us. Thank God! Fun times! He left town one night never to be seen again….hmmmm

    • Karen says:

      Tracie – They were throwing the bills on the floor so they could see you bend over to pick it up. Yep. ~ karen

      • Tracie says:

        You know, I would have thought that too, but the buggers didn’t even look up from their game! Oh well, sweet tips anyway! That graveyard shift can sure be an eye-opener, that’s all I’ve got to say…

  15. pixie says:

    Nevermind MY first job, tell me more about your adventures in a cardboard box ;)

  16. I got my first job the summer before I started college, working as a receptionist in the emergency room of a hospital. It was interesting and fun for about three days. My shift was 3-11:30 p.m
    One night I was working the urgent care clinic alone and had a huge line of people waiting to check in. I was barely looking up from my paperwork when I said “What sort of problem are you having?” The man at the head of the line replied, “I’ve been shot!” It got my full attention! I called the ER to come and collect his drunk and bleeding self. Did I learn my lesson, look over the desk and check the condition of people waiting?No chance. I continue checking in the patients. Four more people and the response to my question was “I’ve been stabbed!” The other party from the fight, also three sheets to the wind! The job sucked, but it put me through school and gave me some good stories.

  17. Karen Eggleston says:

    I washed dishes in a nursing home. By the end of the month I had no skin on my hands. Really, just red swollen flesh.

  18. Elle says:

    Ice cream parlor when I was 18.
    There was a “frozen yogurt” craze back then, and we had this machine where we would put cubes of frozen yogurt and the “trimmings” people wanted: candy bars, fruit, nuts etc and then we had to pull a big handle and mash it together. I got blisters from that handle!
    I quit after 3 weeks because I didn’t get paid (I was supposed to get paid every week).

    • elsje says:

      Me too!!! I was 14 and worked in a Ice cream cubicle attach to the tiny shop in the South African Holiday Seaside Town where I grew up… Turning out soft serve Ice cream (a selection of Vanilla, Strawberry and/or Chocolate) with flakes from the most temperamental of Ice Cream machines. Those machines turned out an exorbitant amount of heat – so while I was handing people their refreshing cones, I was dying in my sauna… About 5 weeks in a drunk Hobo walked by, leaned in and grabbed my boob!!! That was the straw that broke the camels back…

  19. Ann says:

    I worked on a tomato harvester…8th grade and great money. The tomatoes would be yanked out of the ground by the harvester and brought up to the belt where a number of women would make sure they were whole and good for sale, at which time they were tossed onto the center belt, where they eventually tumbled into a bin. Hot, dirty work with a lot of women who thought I was a snotty little white girl. Showed them…when they turned over a tomato with a snake curled up in it, I was the only one left on the harvester. The worst part? Dirty nose boogers for two days afterwards.

    • gloria says:

      Har! Great story. I’m embarrassed to admit (but I will anyway) that our family has a term and an acronymn for said dirty nose boogers. We landed upon this less than sterling family tradition while traveling on vacation in a car with no AC. After several hundred miles of hot Florida air blowing up our noses, the kids discovered they had DBs, dead boogers. And so a treasured tradition was born.

  20. Barbie says:

    Kentucky Fried Chicken! You could eat all the chicken you wanted…and my Mom and Dad loved it when I brought all the chicken home every night!

  21. Zala says:

    My first job was emptying and cleaning airplane trolleys for an airline when I was 14. After two weeks I went and bought the right Dr. Martens boot. My mom had to spring for the left one.

  22. Gale says:

    My first job was babysitting, but I also worked two days at a landscaping nursery – cutting long vines into 6-inch sections and bundling them. After the black salamander scared me (and one of the guys working there stepped on it) I decided the little bit of money I was getting wasn’t worth getting up so early in the morning and I didn’t go back. But my first real job was working the candy counter register in a drugstore after school, where I met my husband!

  23. Mati says:

    My very first job was cleaning the udders of milking cows. I was 5 or 6 and I would wipe the poop and crud off then dip the udder in this brown stuff that disinfected them. My family was helping out another family while they went to Disneyland. I remember getting paid $10 for what seemed like a few weeks. I took the money and went to a like a Dollor store and bought Christmas presents for my family. I thought I was amazing and pitched my mom a wooden spoon. I thought I was the perfect gift and that she would think I was the most wonderful kid. My brother who also got to clean udders. Selfishly bought Legos. See I was the better kid.

  24. Kathy W says:

    I used a riveting machine to put handles on a famous brand of luggage. ALL day, ALL summer when i was 17. Loved the paycheck! Hot, noisy place…never went back.

  25. Brenda says:

    Being born and raised on PEI it was ‘digging potatoes’, on a harvester after school & weekends throwing off rocks & ‘bad’ potatoes. My friends did it as well so we had lots of fun…down here we have a beauty contest where the winner is crowned..Queen of the Furrows. Spuds are big here!! LOL!!!

  26. Sian says:

    My first job was in a kebab shop in a shopping centre in the late nineties. I feel sorry for them now, I think the sum total of their staff (mainly school and uni students) were giving away more kebabs to their friends than they were selling. Myself included. Kids are shits aren’t they? That probably justifies the $4.00 an hour I was making.

  27. Linda Adams says:

    My first job was waitressing in the Alexander Hotel Dining Room! I felt so grown up – especially when a friend of the owner gave me a $20 tip for serving his lunch (he was sitting with the owner). I asked her about it – I wanted to return it! She said I should keep it because I got it for being friendly yet professional and since he owned a restaurant too and had told her he would hire 20 people like me – if he could find them! I worked that job two summers in a row while in high school – loved it!

  28. Susan Whelan says:

    Picking strawberries. I thought that was everybody’s first job. The next year I picked strawberries and then tied cauliflower. That has to rank as the worst job ever. Picture early morning, heavy dew, crouching down and gathering an armload of heavy, wet leaves, hugging them to your soaked (flat) bosom and tying them together with binder twine. Thinking about it almost 50 years later still makes me cringe.
    The best job was not paid in cash. The Circle B Ranch was up the road and in return for brushing, saddling and being trail boss, I got to ride any time I wanted. That was just one step closer to a lifelong addiction.

  29. marilyn says:

    aside from babysitting i pumped gas and slugged pop cases at the pioneer when it had a pop shoppe, yea i am that old lol..i loved it

  30. Louise says:

    My first experience earning money involved wearing a sandwich board, dressed as a clown, handing out balloons and sneaking mouthfuls of helium. My friend’s parents’ friends had relocated their hardware store and wanted to attract local’s attention to the location of the new store. Cars kept whizzing by a couple of ridiculously dressed kids standing on the sidewalk, in an industrial part of town but as long as we got to talk like chipmunks, we were happy. I used the $10 I earned to buy a Bee Gees album – life was good : )

  31. Suanne says:

    One of my first jobs was as a Car Hop at a place called, “Mr. Weenie” (totally serious) We offered like, 50 different types of hotdogs. I was one of the initial crew members hired when it first opened. When business was slow, we’d have Root Beer chugging contests between the employees. I remember trading food with a Colonel Sanders place down the street when we got tired of eating the hot dogs. Many years ago, but the place is still in business. They even have teeshirts that say, “I ate at Mr. Weenie”.

  32. Debbie says:

    My first real paying job was as a lifeguard for the Town of Newmarket @ the age of 14. Well actually, before I got to lifeguard at the real pool, I got to sit at one of those wading pools…. in the middle of some park, with no washroom and pretty much babysit… I have no idea how we handled the no washroom part!!

  33. Mary says:

    I parked cars at the State Fair here in MN. I wore a lovely orange vest and had a gorgeous orange flag to wave around so they would know where to park. I was 11…..

  34. Janie says:

    1st real job….waitress for a small diner downtown. Lasted 3 days. Absolutely hated it, never did it again. Best job….clothing clerk at a state school. Took care of clients clothes and went SHOPPING when they needed more. sigh…..

  35. Debbie says:

    Babysitting, delivering the Toronto Telegram (in the 60′s) and my first real job at 16 was in a fast food restaurant. Loved it but after a few months went on to ‘bigger & better’ at Canadian Tire. :)

  36. DzynByJules says:

    Does plucking gray hairs from my mother’s head for a penny a piece count? (as the mother of 7 kids, she had quite a few and I made a killing that first year) Realizing that job would fade fast with her discovery of color-in-a box, I then moved on to drying cars at the local car wash at 13, where I earned enough money to buy my summer pool pass. Good times!
    Jules :)

  37. Diane Stairs says:

    My first job was on the insistence of my friend Hilary, both of us being 15 and in need of new clothes and lots of teenage stuff, at a greasy spoon called The Westway Restaurant run by three Greek Brothers. Oh did those brothers open our eyes to what goes on in the “big” world…but we had lots of laughs, tips (maybe $5 a day, but that was a fortune to us in 1970) and realized that being a
    waitress was something we could tick off our lists….However, over the rest of my high school days and college I waitressed many more times but those times with booze…

  38. Debbie Neal says:

    I was a lifeguard at a country club that my parents belonged to. The 2 best things about it were that I could drink all of the “freezes”- sherbet shakes(lime, orange, etc), that made those hot days go by easier and kicking my brothers out and telling them to go home when they got obnoxious!

  39. Mary Kay says:

    My very first business experience was picking green beans on my grandfather’s one acre garden. Does it still qualify as a garden or is that now considered a small farm??
    Two of my cousins and I would spend two weeks at my grandparents house enjoying this little enterprise: Grandpa got free labor picking his green beans. He then would load up his old wooden wheelbarrel (he painted it red – he loved the color red) with the beans, a scale and some brown lunch bags and send us out into the neighborhood to peddle the beans. Upon return each day we would then receive our lesson in economics: Grandpa got half of what we made to pay for the beans we then would split the balance between the three of us.
    I grew up hating green beans but I now like them as an adult but love them for the lessons I learned from my Granfather. He was a very successful businessman and I admire and miss him.

  40. Cydney says:

    Alright, my first real job was selling roses on Yonge Street in Toronto. I was 15 and they used to close Yonge St. at Gerrard In the summer as a sort of pedestrian mall. I sold the roses for 19 cents a piece, but usually I got 25 cents. Ten cents went to the guy who supplied the roses (we met him behind Sam the Record man in the parking lot) and at the end of the night (usually around 1am.) we would meet him again and give him his cut. It was decidedly weird (I could say he seemed a bit like a pimp), but I made enough money to finance my trip to Vancouver. I can’t imagine what the hell my parents were thinking letting me do it, but it was the seventies when they just opened the door and let you out into the world.

  41. Nan Tee says:

    My first job was dishwasher at my high school. I only lasted half a semester. It was not exactly bad, but scraping food off the trays was gross. I think my check was $90? Good times. :)

  42. Celia says:

    Besides babysitting? I mowed lawns. Not exactly glamourous but I took advantage of my neat-freakness and inner-artist! Our neighbours never had cool looking patterns on their front lawns…I tell ya! 8-)

  43. Jill says:

    My first real job was at a restaurant that was attached to a hotel. It’s where I learned to set a ‘proper’ table and fold cloth napkins. But the most interesting part of my job was taking room service trays up to the hotel rooms on Sunday mornings. People would try to be all professional and serious about giving me a tip, while standing there in their pajamas, with bedhead, and miscellaneous clothing and toiletry items strewn about. And then there were others who were rude and mean, and had obviously trashed their room. I learned a lot about human nature at that job.

  44. Langela says:

    Other than a paper route and babysitting, my first real job was waitressing on Saturday mornings at a local diner. I was 14. The owner was a witch and would sit at the counter and talk about me to the customers–while I was right there in earshot! No fond memories of that place.

  45. NormaJo says:

    Car-hop at A & W drive in root beer stand. Remember how the trays attached to the car window? I sucked at it, trays would fall off and I couldn’t remember what they ordered. Didn’t last long.

  46. Deet says:

    I started my non-illustrious resume working at the age of 14 waitressing tables at a Catskill Mountain resort in New York. I couldn’t carry the heavy trays of food, I did dump wine on a guest, I lasted one dinner and they fired me. (and it was illegal for me to be serving the wine in the first place.)

  47. Nicole says:

    The only reason I had a shred of a decent job as a teenager was all thanks to that bad ‘N’ word. Nepotism. I was a “certified barista” at one of the ‘big’ coffee shops. Yup, already way back then they were giving silly names to positions that really came down to slinging coffee.

    I learned, if you could swing it, the benefits of nepotism were endless. Once I got the job, I held onto it like my life depended on it knowing a chubby, braces sporting, glasses wearing teenager usually had as good a chance at a ‘front lines’ job like that as, well, as … I got nothin’ – I’m terrible with metaphors, but it wasn’t good.

    ANYHOW … I love this topic mainly because I think you and my mom would get along like a house on fire. She is the bravest woman I know in terms of starting and leaving jobs. She’s had over 65 jobs in the course of her 57 years and she just published a novel called Cover Letter Queen where she weaves a tale about a fictitious 40th high school reunion around the telling of all her real life jobs.

    My favorite line that I have to share because I think you will enjoy it was when she did wire tap transcription for our country’s finest and her co-worker said to her ‘Carol, mother****er … is it one word or two?’

  48. Jodi T. says:

    When I was a freshman, I worked at a Renaissance Faire as a Turkey Leg selling wench. I was GREAT at it ;). The best part about the whole job was when it rained (it was only open in Spring, and that’s about the only time TX gets rain). Most of the customers left, and while we waiting for our bosses to tell us we could go, we’d run around in the downpour, in our long skirts and peasant blouses, and be stupidly silly. It was great. Not to mention, there are some VERY interesting people at these types of faires. VERY. INTERESTING.

  49. Molly says:

    I was a dock attendant at a marina. I pumped hundreds of gallons of fuel at a go and was supposed to sell “fish mounting” to the tourists, so proud of the beautiful creature they’d killed. What they got was painted styrofoam, loosely the size & shape of what they’d caught. What we got was some pretty tasty smoked fish. What I liked best was helping out the pelicans who had run afoul of said fishermen’s gear.

  50. CarolP says:

    I was 14 and worked behind the candy bar at our small town movie theatre. I was paid $3.85 (minimum wage) in cash – each week it was counted out into my hand by the octogenarian owner.
    Behind the snack bar, there was no cash register – only a drawer for the money – so I had to do all the math in my head. Most of it was easy as everything ended in multiples of 25¢. Except the chocolate bars – they were 65¢ and that just messed with my head!

  51. Ruth says:

    I never worked while I was attending school, so my first job was secretarial work for the government… back when they called us Secretary rather than Administrative Assistant, and we did considerably more work for less money). I was 17, could not pay taxes, but I had completed high school and community college and somehow managed to convince them that my age and lack of actual experience had nothing to do with anything.

    I worked in that capacity for 1 1/2 years, then left for greener pastures… I was – by then – a ‘proud’ taxpayer.

  52. Kristen S says:

    My first job was at 14 being an “order taker” at the local Chinese Food restaurant. I took the delivery orders, got yelled at in Mandarin and my butt grabbed by the old cook. My boss was this terribly mean woman who had a big hairy mole smack dab in the middle of her face. I got paid cash under the table, and it was nothing close to legal. Sometimes I still have nightmares of that hairy mole…

  53. Rebecca says:

    My first job (other than babysitting) was at a corner auto shop helping the mechanic who owned the place do “stuff”–mostly I was small enough to get my hands in places in the cars that he couldn’t. Also, I cleaned the place, helped him with his books and he thought it was amusing for me to bend over an engine with my heinie facing the street (said it brought in more customers)! I was in 9th grade at the time. If someone did that to a 14 year old girl NOW–we’d call them a pedophile and abusive! Times change. lol

  54. Rachele says:

    My first job was as a pharmacy technician at a huge place that filled prescriptions for nursing homes and such. I worked on the floor filling bubble packs with pills. Scattered about the room were these big manual laminating machines that sealed the packages, and I had to hang almost my entire weight from the bar to get it to come down. I was still a bit scrawny in high school. My arms got wicked strong in those couple of months. I liked my second job better, even though it was temporary and often disgusting – maintenance work at an amphitheater. Some concerts were worse to clean up after than others. I remember Jimmy Buffet’s fans being particularly awful – lots and lots of vomited up nachos on the lawn the next morning. I signed up to work parking before and after shows, and between I could go in and see the concert if I felt like it. I was outside with all my friends most of the time, totally unsupervised. The boss stayed in the office and got annoyed if I finished my work too fast, so I learned the valuable work skill of slacking off, I mean pacing myself.

  55. Diana says:

    The summer I was 15, I worked at an amusement part. 2 days a week I worked at mini-golf, where in addition to the millions of mosquito bites received, I learned that blue is the most popular golfball color. 2 days a week I hung out the cool guys and sold tickets to the go-karts. And 2 days I worked in an arcade and also sold tickets to the haunted mansion. To this day, there are certain songs that totally bring me back to that summer – “Jack and Diane” by John Cougar, “Hot in the City” by Billy Idol, “Hold Me” by Fleetwood Mac, and “Caught Up in You” by 38 Special. Needless to say, I did not select the music that was played throughout the park!

  56. Jamiek says:

    My first job was given to me by my mother during the early 60′s when I was in elementary school. I was delegated as Diaper Pre-Washer; which meant dunking my baby brother’s diapers in and out of the toilet until all the crap was off them. I was paid a nickel a week for doing that (along with making my bed). I’m sure she must have been breaking some sort of child labor law back then.

  57. jackie says:

    Like you, I had a plethora. First one was dull, so I’ll tell you my best quitting story. It’s as apathetic as yours. Went for an Orange Julius from my retail clothing store job. Loved the drink. Told my coworker I wanted another. She said to go. I said my break was over. I decide I might as well quit so I don’t have to bother with “rules”. Got me another one. Didn’t taste as good as the first. Lesson: Grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s rather bland.

  58. Ana says:

    My first job was as a cashier at TJMaxx. It was my town’s alternative to bagging groceries at the local store. Fourteen years later I still work for them at their Corporate HQ as an executive assistant. After years pursuing a degree in poetry (useless) and sowing my wild oats, I came back to TJX. I thought it would feel like a step back, but actually it worked out really well. I like saying I’ve been working for the same company since I was 16! However, there are songs that are “TJMaxx” songs that I heard over and over again on the store PA that I now can’t stand to listen to EVER!

  59. kelly says:

    I was in 10th grade and my friend’s uncle was hiring holiday help at an old, very old mercantile store in the women’s lingerie department. I was 15 barely had breast myself and I was asked to help women fit bras… Thankfully they quickly realized their mistake and I spent the rest of my time there steaming nighties. It was a cool old store though!

  60. Sarah In Illinois says:

    My parents owned an auto parts store. My first job was to clean and face shelves and to file invoices (1992). I think I made $2.75/ hour.

    Twenty years later…

    I am the manager of the same store. However, my parents have sold the business and I am working for the new owner. With a bit of a pay raise. ;)

    I did do an intership in college with a construction company $7.00/ hr. For 7 weeks, then came back to the family business when my requirements for my degree were satisfied.

  61. Ron says:

    My first job at about age 12 was sweeping floors & stocking shelves at the corner store for $0.25/hr.

    Then I got on at Dominion Stores for $0.50/hr. Shortly after I arrived they were unionized and my pay increased to $0.75/hr. Eventually got to be head of part-time at $1.25/hr. Most important part of my job as head of part-time was making sure that everyone punched out in the first half of the quarter hour so that they didn’t get paid for the quarter hour.

    Spent two summers at army cadet camp (Ipperwash & Petawawa) – $100/ 7 weeks and worked one summer as electricians helper for my electrical shop teacher wiring an addition to a school.

    Finally got in at the local paper mill where the big money was and made enough money to pay for my first year at University of Waterloo engineering.

    Made enough money (barely) on each co-op work term to pay for next semester at university until I graduated.

    Was glad to be able to support myslf while at university. My dad always asked me if I needed money but I wouldn’t have felt right accepting. After all, at age 15 he was riding the rails from southern Ontario to the prairies with his older brother looking for work during the fall harvest.

  62. Sarah A. says:

    My first job was working at a Girl Scout summer camp as a counselor. During a day off, about half the counselors decided to go for a hike in the woods. Turns out the compass was broken and we ended up getting lost for 5 hours as it was getting dark. Finally, after cutting our way out of some dense brush with pocket knives we came out to the highway (a WAYS away from the camp, and we had to hitchhike back to camp. I’m pretty sure we should have had badges taken away for that one!

  63. Ellen says:

    Cleaning motel rooms, at the tender age of 13! The owner went in first, ostensibly to leave the clean sheets for me, but I now realize it was also to pick up the tips & check that there was nothing a 13 year old girl shouldn’t see. I was young & naive & never gave it a thought… I was paid the same wage as the grownup woman who had done this before – $1 an hour! I hated cleaning toilets, & sometimes skipped that, but there were complaints when I did. I also spent a summer running a kids day camp – I can hardly believe that now. And I worked once at the Toronto Ex making change for slot machines- numbingly boring, but I got into the Ex for free everyday!!

  64. Trissi V. says:

    First job was being a peer leader for a class at UT El Paso. The Prof never showed up, so me and my peer leader partner ended up teaching the whole class.

  65. Sandra says:

    Around age 12 I was finally old enough to help inventory my Grandfathers restaurant supply store. My sister, cousin (both 13) and I soon tired of the task and while store employees diligently counted, sorted, arranged and, well, did their job, we filled empty tea cups with cola,mixed the knives with the forks, played hide and seek etc. At the end of the first day we were each presented with $50.00 cash! WHOA, suddenly the guilt set in and over the course of the next few days we worked really hard to remedy the damage we had created… that being said, we had no problems going into the German Deli next door and systematically breaking every single one of the “Zit” candy bars … “Zit” bars and teenagers should not be expected to get along. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I had the nerve to tell my Grandfather of my misdeeds. (of course he knew all along). I inventoried that ginormous store for many summers earning around $250.00 for one week of work.

  66. Jake says:

    My first job was a gofor, you know, go for this go for that. Me gofor at one end of a humungus design office (full of men) and Jen at the other end. I managed to start a cat fight with her over the best looking guy around and provided the best entertainment those guys had all month. She was also responsible for introducing me to a 20 year habit of tobacco, what a b**ch. Fun job though.

  67. Leslie says:

    I was hired as the cook at a children`s Dude Ranch at the age of 15 — not just ONE of the cooks — but THE cook! We fed 100-120 kids every day and I got really good at slinging pancakes and burgers, and learning how to stretch a large tin of tuna into far-too-many sandwiches. (Think watery and thinly-spread goop…) Between meals I would sometimes be required to lifeguard the pool, supervise the trampoline or do some lame craft-making with the kids. At times I even had to lead trail-rides of 10+ kids and their horses, which to a horse-lover sounds great — but I was no horse-lover. I was terrified of the big beasts, and I couldn’t control a horse to save my life! It was an interesting and unforgettable summer — one that included an almost-severed finger (thanks to the meat-slicer), a broken toe (thanks to “Sugar”, my not-to-be-trusted filly), and of course, the words to every campfire song ever created…after all, who could forget the lovely lyrics to “Little Rabbit Frou-frou” and “Alice the Camel”?

  68. Jeannie B. says:

    When I was 14, I got a job in a record bar at the back of a drug store attached to a big hotel. At 6 p.m. the pharmacist went home and the prescrption area was closed. One evening, a man came in the hotel entrance, came over to me and asked for something that I couldn’t pronounce. After him repeating the word a few times, i went up to the front of the store and to the older cashier, who had a long line of women buying perfume and beauty products, I said in a loud voice, “Millie, there’s a man who wants to buy PROPYLACTICS.”. I had no idea what they were, but everyone else did. They were in a locked drawer. Millie said to me afterwards, ” I can’t believe he asked a young girl like you”.

  69. gloria says:

    Just wondering. After reading all these stories (thanks, Karen, for even more reasons to avoid housework), I’m amazed that there’s any unemployment in this world. If pre teen kids are willing to pick tomatoes, be a diaper pre-washer, or a car park attendant, then why are so many adult people out of work? I don’t get it.

  70. Donna T says:

    Very first job… I was 8 yrs old and got to steer a tractor through the fields as the big boys moved irrigation pipe in the summer. 50-cents an hour was BIG money for an 8-year old in 1953! Other than picking berries and beans, my next “real” job, at age 18, was washing dishes in a roadside cafe. My boss was a sweaty bald old Greek guy who munched on garlic cloves and smoked a fat horrible cigar. He used to lean over me at the sink to see if I was scrubbing the dishes properly…his breath was so bad it gagged me. He also had a mean temper and chased his screechy nagging wife out of the kitchen with a meat cleaver more than once! Did I mention I was married and pregnant at the time? Oh yes… I only last a month… they guy was just too stinky!

    • Gayla T says:

      I thought I was te only old lady who hangs out here but I was also i years old in 1953. Actually, the only other young chick, right?

      • Gayla T says:

        OOPS! I missed the 8 and got the i. Maybe I should just quit and go to bed. I’ve taken a lot of pain meds today and it seems to be showing. LOL

  71. West Coast Nan says:

    My first job of any value was as a chambermaid at the local TravelLodge when I was 14. Weekend mornings would find me knocking on doors and stripping beds, cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming carpets. I was good at it. I worked there 4 summers and as I got older and started socializing with friends alcohol became a factor, a big factor. When I came in to work hungover I really appreciated people who checked out early. I would close the door and lay on the stripped bed for 20 minutes and then hop up and whiz around cleaning like a mad woman. I made more per hour than any of my friends because it was a union job. Good times, good times, and I retained the cleaning bug for life, although now I choose not to see as much dirt as I used to…

  72. mrsblocko says:

    I was a receptionist at a dentist office. Not the funnest job ever if you don’t enjoy listening to people scream. (Which I don’t btw.)

  73. Scouty says:

    My first real job was waitressing at a greasy spoon in our small town. It had the best food – all home cooked, it sold homefries instead of french fries, yum! All the dishwashing was done by hand in a sink that was so deep and big I could barely reach the bottom. After the lunch rush, the sink was piled high, it would take all afternoon to wash and dry those dishes. I still think about how good that food tasted.
    One evening a polite gentleman came in and sat at a table. My boss could tell that he was moving through and on tough times. She made a plate of food for him, he ate it all. She then made up some sandwiches for him to take with him and didn’t charge him.
    It intrigued me how she could read people. She knew right away what this guy needed and what she would do to help. I was only 14/15 yrs old at the time, learning the ways of the world.

  74. Amy says:

    I got my first job when I was sixteen. I worked at the local tux rental shop and spent my time measuring men/boys, hemming pants/jackets and restocking the tuxedoes when they returned from the cleaners. The worst part of my job was having to unpack all of the dirty tuxes that would be returned after a weekend of partying. They were GROSS!

  75. Pat says:

    My first job (outside of babysitting) was making gift bows in a drugstore in my hometown. I had a spindle that held a sharp, pointed plastic tack. I made a lot of bows, and I loved it! I also sold one of my art prints to one of my high school teachers.,Later, I became a cherry picker in Switzerland where I spent a lot of time looking at the scenery. After that, I worked in the laundry department of a beautiful hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. I put the clean, wet shirts on a cool machine, buttoned the shirts, turned it on, and the machine’s metal plates would spring out and stretch the shirt while warm air blew through it, drying the shirt perfectly. I actually took a picture of the machine.

    And, now, I’m a seamstress. Ah, fate…

  76. Carole McGinnis says:

    McDonalds…and when you had to add up the receipts. No computers or adding machines. I was saving to get my first pair of contacts, which my parents wouldn’t pay for since they bought me glasses. I did get the food at 50% off so that was cool.

  77. Tanya W says:

    My first job was in a fabric shop in my senior year of HS. I would straighten the bolts of fabric and cut yards of fabric for customers. I remember my fingers being super dry from constantly touching cloth!

  78. Laura says:

    At 16, I began working at a tiny little market near the river in my hometown. I was to be at work at 4:30 am every Saturday. My job was to sell breakfast biscuits to all the fishermen who’d come in, along with dipping my hand into a giant wire box of full of jumping, climbing, arm-clinging live crickets, so that the fishermen would have bait for the day. Sometimes I dipped minnows. It was terrifying every time, and so I never accurately measured the crickets or fish…I just dumped whatever amount seemed correct into the container. It was glamourous, for sure.

  79. Heather says:

    I took my first job (if you don’t count baby-sitting) in seventh grade. It was at a sprout factory — it was dank, fairly dim (a few fluorescent lights here and there), smelled strongly of bleach and, wouldn’t you know, it all sorts of sprouts. I made boxes for shipping, stuck labels on lids of sprout containers, stuck stickers on the bags for bean sprouts, and helped soak big bags of alfalfa seeds. I remember getting my first check — $30! — and feeling so proud of myself. It was the 1990s and I think I may have used some of that money to buy one of my first CDs.

    After that, I spent the rest of my teenage years working as a dishwasher then a waitress at a few restaurants. My favorite was the Swiss-American one (my hometown was settled by Swiss immigrants — we sold a lot of knockwurst and rosti potatoes, but mostly American food) where I always made more money in tips if I wore my hair in two braids. :)

  80. Kate S. says:

    My very first job was babysitting a little boy named Donnie. He was in second grade, I was in seventh, I was cool and popular, he was a complete glasses-wearing, sci-fi fanatic nerd. I’m ashamed to say I was embarrassed to know him. But now I wish I knew him still today so I could apologize for behavior that I am sure was heinous.

    My first job to be proud of came in eighth grade when over a particularly enterprising year, I made several hundred dollars selling the artwork I created in art class (a.k.a. my homework) to less artistically talented students to hang in their lockers. I’m still surprised how successful that venture was. Nine years and $40K later I have a Masters in art and I’ve not created or sold a piece of artwork in eight years. Awesome.

  81. Carol Ann says:

    From my daughter’s blog:

    Office assistant (Rhodes College work/study – Menial tasks at a continuing education facility, during which I fell asleep in the supply closet. To be fair, this place taught classes like “Make a Scrapbook of Your Pet” and “Italian Renaissance Paintings in Which the Subjects Are Clothed”. Also, it was finals. FINALS. I only fell asleep in the supply closet once. I swear.

  82. candace says:

    Video rental store. There was a porn section closed off like a dressing room. We had a game where we would throw stuff up at the ceiling fan in hopes of getting something to fly into there and startle the dirtbags. Succeeded often! Oh, teenage years.

  83. Marion says:

    My first job was working as a cashier at a local hardware store. I hated working the register and eventually talked (weaseled) my way into working in shipping. For some odd reason they eventually trusted a 17 year old girl to help place orders. It was the best job I ever had because my best friend in HS also worked there. I still stop by every time I go to visit my parents.

  84. Pati Gulat says:

    My first job was as a Secretary’s secretary when I was 15 for the Air Force Personell office when my dad was stationed in Izmir, Turkey . I was the one who told the kids they couldn’t apply cos they were under 16 !! I lied about my age to get the job then proceeded to type everything wrong and hide the wrong stuff under all the stuff I did right ! LOL ! I was there all of a month and a half ….

  85. Kelly M says:

    Other than chores and babysitting, my first job was for the State of Alaska repairing and shelving books at the state library. If I’d had the personality to keep an insanely boring (except when I hid in the stacks reading) job, I’d be retired with full medical benefits and a big-ass monthly retirement check! But I went to college instead.

  86. paula says:

    my first real job was at shoppers drug mart as a friendly cashier. i was so lucky making over minimum wage by about 20 cents…$3.85! anyway it was boring but the last year i worked there a cute new store walker was hired. he was kind of a jerk though and was annoyed at me because i couldn’t remember a customer’s purchase – someone he had been watching and thought had pocketed some batteries or something. fast forward 26 years later, that store walker is now a seasoned cop and we’ve been married for 23 years! best job ever ;)

  87. Jessi says:

    When I was around 10 or 11 I cleaned in our small-town beauty salon once a week. I primarily unwraped papers from the rollers used for perms. It was the 80′s…lots of perms going on! Inevitably the big sink full if rollers/papers was accompanied by wet goopy towels and bowls of mixed dyes and various other smelly concoctions….not to mention the HAIR. Oh dear lord the hair. I made $3 per cleaning session.

  88. Evalyn says:

    Between my Junior and Senior years of high school I worked in the school library repairing books for $1.40 an hour. My most favorite job – ever. I had the library to myself, virtually no supervision and all those books.

  89. Shauna says:

    I sold shoes at a local shoe store. Similar to that of Al Bundy in the show Married With Children, only ours was in a strip mall, not an actual real mall. Our best selling items were old lady nursing shoes and uber country cowboy boots. Everyone ran to the front when the cowboy boot looking customer came in because the boots sold for WAY more than the nursing shoes and we worked on commission. It was a fun job. The manager liked me and these other two workers, so he always scheduled us on his Monday night shift and ordered pizza for all of us. We had a blast those nights.

  90. Lita says:

    Iwas the only non-Thai person working in a small Thai restaurant in San Antonio, Texas.

    Later that year the owner entered me into a Thai beauty pageant at a Thai community festival as her restaurant’s representative. Again, the only non-Thai person around. I stuck out. I did NOT win. Talk about awkward teen years.

  91. Annie says:

    My first non-babysitting job was working at an ice cream store. I got the job because my friend worked there and I think I made it for a couple of weeks, maybe a month. I remember eating so many of the little chocolate wafers we were supposed to use for mouse ears on the Mickey-Mouse-ish Sundaes that we had to tell customers that we couldn’t make that particular item anymore. Why did I leave? I hated mopping.

  92. Auntiepatch says:

    My sister & I (twins) worked in the apricot sheds the summer after we turned 12 cutting and laying apricots on drying trays. We were paid .50/box and lasted 2 weeks. The work wasn’t bad but the flies, the high temp., and the weight of the boxes was too much. Our next job was working as a ushers in the local walk in theatre. It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter and we could watch the movies for free and eat all the popcorn we wanted.
    One night when my sister was working the aisles and I was working the snack bar, an elderly man bought a large coke and a large popcorn. He then walked down the aisle to the expensive seats without waiting for my sister’s assistance. The movie had already started and it was dark. He sat in the only seat in the house WITHOUT a back, flipped over backwards, and threw popcorn and coke all over the other patrons within three rows! My sister got him into another chair and raced up the aisle to the snack bar and got him another coke and popcorn. After returning to the snack bar, she told us what had happened and almost laughed herself to death. She could see it coming before she could get to the man but she just wasn’t fast enough. She still laughs when she tells anyone about it. The old guy wasn’t hurt and he became a regular who always asked for Kathy’s assistance in finding a suitable seat.

  93. carolyn says:

    Besides babysitting, my first job at 15 was selling custom leather jackets out of a van at the local Sunday fleamarket. Well, sort of. The man we worked for sold custom leather jackets, but we sold the other crap he brought to supplement the jackets. He did sell some of his surplus leather stuff, but mostly it was polyester “dress” shirts and men’s underwear. You know, the 6 pairs for $2 crap. He was a complete jerk, but my friend and I felt so grown up working there. We arrived at 6:00 in the morning to help set up the tent, and left after we helped pack up after the 5:00 closing. The best part – we made $20 each! I ended up quitting to get a more regular gig at McDonald’s …

  94. Shirley says:

    My first high school summer job in the 1960s was at the Entomology Laboratory in Belleville. I worked for a doctor who studied aphid reproduction, and my job first thing every morning was to count and smush all the baby aphids that had hatched over the previous 24 hours. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of baby aphids per day, all summer long. To all the gardeners out there, you’re welcome!

  95. Sarah says:

    My dad started his own company when I was 14 or 15, so naturally I was an integral member of our cute little assembly line (Dad, Mom, me). Eventually I was put in charge of some menial data-entry task.

    My first real job (one that earned me more than just an allowance) was at a pie pantry. At the end of the shift, employees could take home day-old pies. Well, they weren’t all TRUE pies, but they were still DELICIOUS. I ate pie everysingleday.

  96. Kristin says:

    Local ice cream shoppe, with a greasy diner. I was only 14, so I needed a gig within biking distance. They started me out bussing tables & washing dishes, then I was taught how to run the fryer for the frozen french fries & onion rings; sometimes I’d get to make a grilled cheese. At the front counter, we’d take walk-up patrons & scoop cones (real, hard ice cream). During training, the boss taught us portions by having us weigh cones & cups to make sure we weren’t over-serving! We also had lovely booths with vinyl seats (some with duct-tape repairs, of course); sometimes I got to wait tables! Nobody liked to let me make the sundaes, though, ’cause I’d work so hard to make it look perfect the other orders would all melt before they got to the table. I still remember exactly what that place smelled like…

  97. John C says:

    When I was 17, I was a Junior Forest Ranger…and I still have my yellow hard hat.

  98. Rebecca says:

    A paper route, I shared with my brother.

  99. Kathy says:

    After babysitting for $.25 an hour, I got hired to teach swim classes at the local pool. I had to take a class to get qualified and that probably cost more than I made as an instructor. But it was really fun working with the minnows, tadpoles and other little kids. When they make the big leap from sputtering to actually relaxing and letting themselves float, it’s a big thrill as the teacher. I still remember that, 50 years later!
    The funniest job experience what when I worked for the company that had the license to produce the Peanuts toys and gear. It was Christmas season, and I was in customer service, with both Neiman Marcus as a client and a little tiny college in the boonies. I got a call from Neiman M. that their order arrived with only one giant Snoopy, now could I do that to them!!!? They had ordered two dozen, and had customers waiting! Oh, no, the next call was from the little college, which had ordered one, and was wondering what to do with the truck out front with 24 giant snoopies in the back!! And these were giant! About the size of a 10 year old! The keypuncher had transposed the orders!!!

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