As my seventeen year old begins his search for a summer job I got thinking about all the jobs that I have had over the years and what they have taught me. Jobs, I think, are not always about learning how to build things, or add up numbers or serve people. They can be full of life lessons without you even realizing it. Simply having a job teaches you responsibility, time management and economics. It can also teach you how to deal with disappointment if you were to, perhaps, lose said job.
My first job was at the Fish and Chip Shop in the shopping area close to my home. I was probably thirteen years old. The owners were a lovely British couple named Rina and Paul. (I think…c’mon it was 36 years ago). Arriving for my first day of work I imagined that I would be taking orders and serving the much loved fish and chips. Nope. The first task I was given was pulling the bones out of the fish in the back of the kitchen. After a few weeks I was elevated to washing dishes in addition to pulling fish bones. Eventually I got to take orders, but it did take a while. I learnt that you need to start at the bottom.
When I graduated from high school I was pretty sure that I wanted to work in the hotel business and I think I know why. A close family friend was a VP with C.P. Hotels. He and his wife lived in a suite at the Hotel Vancouver and had wicked parties catered by hotel. I assumed that this was were I would end up. With his connections, I got a job as a bus girl at the Banff Springs Hotel. The dining room was huge; like football field huge. Breakfast shift started at 6:00am. Huge tour groups would flood in, eat and then leave to catch their buses. Dirty dishes, heavy bus pans and sore feet became a regular part of my life. I learnt that a lot of hard work is required before those great parties can happen. If they ever do.
Over time I realized that hotel/restaurant work was not my destiny. I took a two year Business Administration program at the local technical school with the hopes of getting into the business world. I was fortunate to get a job with an actuarial consulting firm as their office manager. For those of you who don’t know, actuaries calculate the future incomes of pension plans. There is a lot of money in actuarial consulting and the firm did really well. It was all very L.A.Law. Partners meetings, extravagant Christmas parties and lots of office politics. I learnt that some people really do use the math they learnt in grade 12 to make a living.
In 1995 Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment was where I met my husband. It’s a bit of a funny story. When I started working there I was married. When I left, three and a half years later, I was divorced and the mother of a three year old who was dating a co-worker. Talk about office gossip. I worked in the finance department helping with payroll. My future husband, worked in arena operations. It was a very dynamic place to work. Lots of young, energetic employees, exciting basketball games, concerts and the occasional Russian hockey player sighting. What did I learn from this job? I learnt that if you can open yourself up to new opportunities that great things can happen. Also, that NBA players are very highly paid.
When I went for my next interview I didn’t know that the company I was interviewing with was Starbucks. What a crazy experience. The job was Administrative Supervisor for Western Canada. It was pretty intense. To start, I was trained to work in a Starbucks store and had to complete a certain number of hours as a Barista. Regular trips to Seattle included a tour of the bean roasting plant, meeting Howard Schultz and numerous coffee tastings. I spent the first few months learning the Starbucks language. At Starbucks it was never half way. You were either all in or you weren’t. I learnt that some companies want your heart and sole and if you can’t give it to them, it’s not the right job for you.
My most recent position was with a small business software re-seller. It started out as an admin position but eventually I ended up in the sales department. I loved the company and the people were great, but sales was not my thing. If they didn’t want to buy it, they didn’t want to buy it. Who was I to change their mind? The hours were flexible though and the owners were understanding of the fact that my husband traveled and sometime I just wasn’t available. From this job I learnt that sometimes you can’t have everything all in one package. You have to take the good with the bad.
So what advice would I give my son as he goes out into the world looking for a job. I know that my advice should be “Do what you love” or “Follow your passion”. But the truth is that he just needs to get a job. A job that will teach him that he needs to be on time. Every day. That he needs to be able to follow procedures and rules. Even the ones he disagrees with. That he may not like his co-worker, but he still needs to get along with them so that he can do his job. That the government will take a potion of what you earn whether you like it or not. Really, he just needs to get a job and know what it feels like to work for a living. Or in his case. Gas money.