5 Life Lessons I Learned From My First Job

pizzaMy first job was flipping crusts in the air, oiling pans, and rattling off toppings on the phone to customers hungry for pizza. It was a good enough job for a sixteen-year-old—hustling around, mostly brainless, flexible schedule—and nothing overly exciting or interesting. But what it taught me was monumental. In fact, that first job of mine, I’d say, taught me a few of my most important life lessons that I still carry around with me today. Starting with…

YOUR SERVANT IS YOUR MASTER:  Those who wait on you, own you. If you don’t treat them well, you’ll be eating pizza à la body fluids. Be good to others. Period.

LET FREEDOM RING: I didn’t realize just how independent and headstrong I was until that first job. Those first few shifts when I was alone, without siblings or a list of irritating parental directives, doing something I could quite easily ace (I mean, how hard is it to keep the pizza line moving?) filled me with a new confidence. I could do something for myself, ON MY OWN. All of a sudden, I started picking up as many shifts as possible and thus began my workaholic nature. Which brings me to my next lesson.

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Holy crap, I got a paycheck. Someone actually gave me dollars to sprinkle olives on crust. Blew my mind! So I promptly bought glittery lip gloss and Victoria Secret bras, or CDS and books. BOOKS and BOOKS. (Clearly that love never died.) I went to the movies with friends. I felt like a queen of my domain. All of that immediate gratification made the teen hormones pump faster in my veins! But then I also learned…

DON’T BE A FOOL, STAY IN SCHOOL: I would absolutely study my butt off in college, so I didn’t HAVE TO sprinkle olives on crust. Because, yeah, snoozefest-o-rama and sneakers that curled at the edges from all the grease = grossssss.

Which brings me to my last lesson of…

THERE’S NO I IN TEAM: We need all kinds of people in the world to do all different kinds of jobs. Kind of like an ant farm. Some carry food back to the ranch, others build the hills, some protect the queen. But they’re working together to keep the community alive and thriving. We need pizza parlors (at least I do), and every other job you can think of. And, most importantly, I am not above working hard for my money, no matter what form that may take. I AM NOT ABOVE ANYONE. I respect what others bring to the table as I hope they respect me.

So first jobs are essential, painful as they may be, and come to think of it, all jobs are. The experiences and wisdom they bring shape us. Just think. I’d never be the writer I am today without those many nights of endless pepperoni. I’m grateful.

What did you learn from your first job?

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Heather Webb

Writer, Editor
Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

10 thoughts on “5 Life Lessons I Learned From My First Job

  1. I worked in a pizza place during college, and learned some of these lessons. Pretty much all of us working there were college kids. So I didn’t eat there again afterward. I saw too much. But I also learned the value of an education. I knew I didn’t want to work in the food-service industry.

    But now that I think about it, my actual first job (the pizza place was about my third or fourth) was one that foretold of my future as a writer. I was the janitor of a fairly large women’s fashion store in a mall. I got up early, put on my Walkman, and vacuumed the whole 3,000 square feet of carpet. Six days a week. During all of that mindless blur of noise (and music) I was able to disappear into solitude. I’d pull apart song lyrics, or review the goings-on of the book I was reading. I’d imagine scenarios with the people I saw. Anything to pass the time. But in hindsight, I realize I was telling myself stories. Something I’d always done, but not at a certain time daily, and while making minimum wage. I suppose I was making more while storytelling then. 😉

    Fun stuff, Heather! Shall we go out for a pizza in Salem this fall? Or maybe not.

    • HA HA! Pizza in Salem– only if there aren’t any teens working there. And wow, you were a janitor at that age? I could see why storytelling would be necessary. You were a dreamer/creative even then. I made my stories with the shenanigans that went down behind the counter and with angry customers. lol. Glad those days are over.
      Great to see you here at The Ball as always. 🙂

  2. I sometimes wonder how people make money off teenagers, given the amount of food they can put away. I remember my first food job — tourist cafe. We’d gorge on Napoleons that (in our humble estimations) weren’t pretty enough to sell.

    • I agree. I think of all those dudes that would eat chicken right out of the warmer at KFC (another of my illustrious jobs). They must have spent a fortune on employee meals.

  3. Yes to all of this! I will definitely say that working in the restaurant biz reinforced my respect for people that work in that biz, and it’s helped me be empathetic to people in all jobs—you just never know why they’re having a bad day, or if it’s even their fault (so often waiters get blamed for problems that have really originated elsewhere down the line). We all need each other, and we’re all trying to do our best and do our job and enjoy life in the process…

    • Totally, Natalia. That whole “having a bad day thing” was something I learned while working at McDonald’s. Some lady came storming in and threw a full a tray of drinks at me and then slammed her hamburgers down all over the counter. I was like. Wow. It isn’t me. It’s SO HER. Maybe she had just caught her husband in bed with her best friend. Ouch

  4. I can totally relate. The lessons learned from my first job (cashier/waitress at a casual seafood restaurant) have carried me through life. I believe the experience made me a better person. Great article. 🙂

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