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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  1. MJ says:

    At 12, my best friend and I decided the way to eat all the Krispy Kreme donuts we wanted was to sell them. We’d get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings and pick up our donuts from the KK guy. Figuring no one in our own neighborhood would buy them, we headed to the rich people’s neighborhood, with a well practiced story of how we wanted to earn enough money to buy Christmas presents for poor kids. Until one man said, “That’s not true, why are you really doing this?” and we told him the truth, we wanted to eat Krispy Kreme donuts and earn a few bucks. He bought our entire stock that day. We figured, while we’d had good luck for a couple of months, it appeared our luck had run out. Thus ended a brilliant career or two in sales.

  2. Danee says:

    My first real job after babysitting was working in a small town pizza place. I was 15 and my best friend who was older, already worked there. She’d been coming by my house after work and always smelled of garlic and tomatos so when a spot opened up she put my name forward. The owner was the junior high math teacher from our school (Mr. Dominique the pizza place was Mr. D’s Pizza. At school everyone feared him (he kept a paddle with holes in his desk for kids who cheated or disrupted the class and he used it often) at work he was a doll! It was a town of 1800 people and the school had 500 kids in K thru 12th grade so needless to say we knew everyone who came in, who their grandparents were, most of them were related to at least one of us girls who worked there, or if they weren’t related we had dated them or their brother or cousin. It was THE place to be after a game.

    Recently my home town (thanks to my best friend Chris) started their own FB page and I scanned in a foto of us girls at Mr’ D’s, There were hundreds of responses to it, another friend put another one up jokingly called the “Mr. D’s drivers Ed car” since he taught us all to drive in it and in the foto it’s parked right outside the pizza place. There were so many people talking about being there and us and what memories they had of the place. Amazing to think how many lives we touched just by making a pizza. My best friend Chris ended up marrying the son of the man who was the manager, they’re still together 30 years later.

    Mr.D is gone now and the pizza place has been sold a few times, I think there is a hardware store there now, I live in europe now, in Spain, my favorite pizza is still one that I made there as a “mistake” since we took the mistakes home at the end of the night. My pizza? It’s a double layer pie, crust, sauce, cheese, another layer of sauce, ground beef, crumbled bacon, and greek peppers, then the last layer of cheese. At home we were vegitarian, Mr. D was my meat haven!

  3. Leslie says:

    Planting peach pits in our nursery fields. I was almost 2. I only have a vague memory of being trained to do this, where we were on the farm, and what everyone else was doing … my father strung out lines of twine to keep the rows straight, even and parallel, then he carved a trench with a hoe; my mother dropped the peach pits into the trench; and I covered them up with soil. I didn’t get paid.

  4. Jessica says:

    I bought a book on pressing flowers when I was on a grade 5 school trip. I spent the next summer raiding flowers out of any garden I could get access to – gardens of relatives, family friends, occasionally the front yards of strangers when I was sure no one was looking. Then I pressed them, arranged them on paper and framed them. Someone (an aunt maybe?) suggested I try selling them, so in grade 6 I got a booth at the craft sale at my Mom’s work, and sold my pressed flower artwork to lawyers on their lunch break. I made about $200 the first time I did that…not bad pocket money for a grade 6 kid.

  5. Diane says:

    My first taxpaying job was at the Golden Arches as a french fry cook. My arms were continually covered with tiny grease spatter burns when the frozen fries hit the grease. It was truly an art to mix the older fries with the newer ones that had been added into the pile and manage to not oversalt them. After we moved, I got a job at a fancy-schmancy department store. I worked from 5-9 p.m. each night in the luggage/housewares department. Most nights not a single customer walked through. When it got really bad, I would sneak over to the refrigerated Godiva chocolate case and eat one. I would play a game. If I made it to 7:00 p.m., I would eat one. When it was five minutes to 9:00 (closing time), I would have another. I also read a lot of cookbooks while I was standing around…

  6. Brenda J. M says:

    At 14yrs (back in the 1970s) I worked alone for 8hrs every Sunday from 4-12pm in a doughnut shop at Vic.Park & Sheppard in Agincourt.
    I was paid a whopping $19.98! Not even a $20.bill. (they were sooo cheap). To support my poor income and smoking habit I added a carton of cigarettes from the stock, to my jean bag each week, which worked out well.
    We were allowed to take home a doz, day-olds; so I adjusted the pumps on the jelly fillings and filled-up fresh,doughnuts to take home. I could only ever fit 6 in a box; perhaps a bit too much filling. But they did sort of explode on your face which was a blast.
    Yea…. I did that for a year; a coffee-jerky. Still love coffee though, hate smokers & cigarettes and once in a while, I sort of cloud over and day-dream of a really overstuffed jelly donut. Ahhhh memories are sweet.

  7. Aimee says:

    I was a Smiling People Greeter at TGI Fridays. This is what they call their hostesses, or did in the early ’90’s. That experience resulted in my declaration that I will never, EVER work food service again, unless my life – or my family’s lives – depends on it.

  8. kelliblue says:

    Aside from the typical babysitting jobs, but not nearly as ‘upscale’ as Burger KING, my first real job was at ‘Burger CHEF,’ a midwestern/regional burger joint. Horrible brown & orange polyester uniforms (w/groovy hats to boot), but I worked with a lot of my friends, and have some great memories of the silliness that went on there. :) Plus they had the best ice maker machine in the world…the ice had almost a ‘chewy’ consistency, and I became an addict! In all the years since, have never yet found anything similar…it’s gone now, replaced by another burger joint, Hardee’s.

  9. Laura Bee says:

    Other than babysitting from age 12…most memorably the two brothers, the oldest only a year or so younger than me ! He was a terror! $20 a day from 8am to 6pm all summer. Except for the one week I went with my mom to drop my sister to a friends cottage & I accepted the invite to stay~whoops! ….when I was 14 I got a job at Markville Mall on maitenance for $4.00/hour. Wiping tables in the food court, wiping the rails all around the second floor & wiping the leaves of the plants at the main entrance & all along the river that flowed through the mall & around the fountain at center court. Boring. Hanging out with my mall rat friends, buying tapes & too tight jeans was the best part. Washing the little metal ashtrays was the worst! Tagging along with security guard on his last round one night and getting kissed in the dark electrical room was in retrospect the creepiest. I was 15 & very naive. He was 20something & married.

  10. JBess says:

    When I was 14 years old: I worked every morning as a hotel maid, every night as a pastry girl, rode my bike nearly 17 miles a day to get to each job, and still had the energy to get drunk with my friends at night.

    I remember being hungover as a maid and trying to clean, but being unable to tear my eyes from the television in the room, where I would have MTV quietly on (no MTV at home.) And once, when working as a pastry girl, I was ordered to scrape mold off a pie and serve it. Good times, good times.

  11. Kari C. says:

    Technically, my first job was babysitting as a teenager. But, my “real” first job that I started right after graduating high school was as a file clerk in a hospital medical records office. I liked the actual office work (I’m an organizer at heart) but I didn’t much care for dealing with some of the doctors and their huge egos. I was often yelled at if the coffee wasn’t to their liking or if my chart-pulling took longer than they wanted. I was also sometimes hit on by a couple of the doctors EWWW! I went on to become a registered nurse, working for about six years before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

  12. trinity says:

    I worked part time at a family owned custom picture framing shop. Working with customers, cutting glass, mats and sometime I even got to cut the moldings with this big chopper apparatus. We had to cut the mats using large metal rulers that were clamped in the right spot with C clamps. I LOVED it and I loved the family. One interesting observation that never failed was that this precious painting done by that dearly beloved Gramma and had been in the attic for years had to be completed tomorrow and they screeched at the price. The postcard they found on the street today could be ready any old time and the sky was the limit as to how much they would spend.

  13. Alixandra Key Bouchard says:

    My first job, I sold ice cream during a parade at a booth when I was about six. After an hour, it started raining and they couldn’t sell outside anymore. I made seven dollars. And at the time, I felt like I got away like a bandit with my seven dollars and the ok to get back to having fun.

  14. Tricia Rose says:

    I was a child swimsuit model when I was seven and the owner took the photos himself – I still have the book of me looking slightly ill-at-ease. I got paid quite well and was allowed to keep one swimsuit. So began my life of posing…

  15. Claudia says:

    My first job was in a small shop that sold garden supplies. I filled seeds (e. g. lupines, pansies, and even ground poppy seeds for baking) in paper bags, sweeped the floor and filled in where there was need. Sometimes, we had cooked seed potatoes (untreated, of course) for lunch. Once, my bosses’ grandchild was there, who desparately wanted to see “Ghostbusters” (yep, it’s that long ago…), but was too young to go alone, so I got the chance to see that movie, too. Heh. That was one well-paid job 😉

  16. Heather says:

    I was 14 and was a buser (person who clears dirty dishes off tables) at a restaurant where my older sister was a waitress. I was paid in cash as I was too young to actually work there. My favorite part of the job was it was connected to the NFL hockey arena. The restaurant was only open on game days and closed just after the game started. So, I got to watch hockey FOR FREE!!
    Unbeknownst to me the cooks at this place were selling drugs out of the back door that connected to the arena. One day we were raided. I was interviewed by the police where I was a panicked mess because I thought I was going to jail for only being 14 and working there. I spilled the beans, and by spill I mean historically sobbed out the truth. Luckily no jail time for me and after there were new owners and I was one year older I got the job again. That was the beginning of a 6 year commitment where really the best part was free hockey games and rubbing elbows with the hunky players (sigh…double sigh, some were so dreamy they deserved an extra sigh).

  17. Amy says:

    I also did babysitting, but my first other job was at the local mall wrapping Christmas gifts in the tiny gift shop that also served as a customer service booth. The mall had a deal that if you spent a certain amount you got a free gift-wrap, so we wrapped a lot of leather jackets and other more pricey stuff. But being the customer service booth, we also answered the phones in the mall for people who were lost, which was great for a teenager who knew the place inside and out, except when other teens would call and try to joke around.
    Next job after that was in a one-hour photo store. Never thought I could stand the smell of the chemicals, but I got used to it. It was actually a neat job that I would take again, except those place pretty much don’t exist any more. I got to develop my 19 rolls of pictures from my study abroad trip for about half retail price. Good deal!

  18. Alex says:

    My first job was with a dinner theatre – I loved it! I was the lead actress of the low-budget show, and even though the job also entailed cooking and serving dinner for 40 every day, my crowning moment was getting to kiss the main man every night in the final scene. Each night it got spicier until the final night, when we totally let loose on stage – except that was the night my then-boyfriend decided to come watch the show as a surprise! The boyfriend is long gone, but the ‘main man’ has been my best guy friend ever since – and no, we haven’t kissed since that final night :-)

  19. Kay says:

    As a 16 year-old, mowing the lawn at the local cemetery and ballpark. Good times. Haha.

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