Getting Your First Job

I did a lot of different jobs before I was 15 at my house for a small allowance. I also cut grass and did odd jobs in the neighborhood to make money. My grandfather was building a house when I was about 10 and my father and my uncles all were involved. I wasn’t asked if I wanted to help, it was just expected. Mostly, I was a “gofer”: “Frankie, get us some more nails; bring the studs over here; clean up this area; tell your grandmother to get lunch ready and et cetera”. I was expected to watch how things were being done and expected to do more whenever I was asked to help.

I got my first paycheck job was when I was 15. I spent the summer working for my uncle Donald working on stainless steel tanks. They were all different sizes and I was basically a helper doing whatever I was told to do. I was also living with him and my aunt Shirley because I wasn’t old enough to drive to the job site and I was also his helper while he was building his house. I didn’t apply for these jobs. My mother and my uncle talked about it and it was a done deal. I didn’t go to a training program, but I learned construction skills as most apprentices had learned in the past by working with others that had the skills.

I continued working for my uncle during the summers and learned a lot of manufacturing and plumbing skills. I also worked in a restaurant during the school year where my mother worked as a waitress and my cousin got me a job at Cherry Hill Hospital working in the kitchen and serving food to the patients. The summer before I went to college, my dad got me into the Laborer’s Union # 172. The reason I am mentioning all of this is because of the pattern. My family made sure I knew how to work and helped me find jobs. As a freshman in college, I was able to get a good paying job in the plumbing department at the school because I had real plumbing skills that I learned from my family members. I was mentored in the process of working independently and specifically shown what the proper procedure was that I should be using.

Things have changed a lot since I was a boy and students find it much more difficult to get a job when their parents don’t own a company, can’t get their children into the company they work for or because regulations make it almost impossible to allow students to work. Vocational / technical programs provide the opportunities to learn marketable skills and realistic expectations for a work site. Companies have allowed parents to bring their children to work and most schools encourage participation, but parents can do more. I believe that parents should actively talk about the jobs that they and other family members have. I believe it is important that they hear the good and the bad points of a job. What does a boss expect on a job. What causes someone to get promoted and what causes a person to get fired. They also need to hear that workers will not always like everything about the job that they have, but sometimes they need to do a good job when they don’t like it so they can be considered for something that they will like a lot more later on.

Students need to do their own research about their dream job. They also need to be realistic about the requirements necessary to acquire that job and honest about how competitive they are as a candidate. They need to look for entry level jobs and experiences that create a positive work history. It is still true that it is difficult to get the job you want without experience. However, how do you get experience if no one will hire you? Internships and volunteer experiences are also a possibility.

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I have a BA in Psychology and a teaching certificate as a Special Education teacher. I have a MA in Student Personnel Services and I recently retired from my position as a Guidance Counselor. I have been active on advisory boards concerning disability issues for over 25 years. I also have over 25 years of business experience in Human Resources and Operations Management.

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