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!



  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. Susan Rappoport says:

    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.

  11. pixie says:

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

  12. 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…

  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. 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.

  15. 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…)

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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…

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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?

  25. 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 : )

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