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What can You Learn from Your First Job?

Hopefully by the time you graduate from University you will have gained work experience related to the field you want to go in to. But any work experience you have can be useful. We should all learn at least one thing from our first jobs – even if it’s that you never want to do it again.

Bored Worker

Too often I’ve heard people say “it was only admin” or “it was just in a shop” when talking about their first jobs, almost as if it should be ignored because it’s not worth mentioning. But whatever your duties were, from stacking shelves to cleaning toilets (yes, I have done both), you will have learnt something. Employers love people who are passionate and eager to use their talents in the workplace, no matter where they got them. For them it’s not about whether it was your first or last job as long as you’ve learnt something of value. For example, Doug McMillon’s first job was an entry level assistant in a Walmart warehouse. He’s now the CEO of the company. Try telling him he didn’t learn anything from his first job.

“Teamwork wins and hard work pays off,” he told CNBC. “If you don’t take care of the basics like showing up on time and striving to exceed the expectations of your leadership, your career doesn’t move.”

(Source: Fast Company)

I don’t know about you but I worked my first jobs for one reason and one reason only; money. I wasn’t thinking about developing my skills or learning about the work place, I just wanted the cash, mainly so I could go out and have fun. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn anything but sometimes it’s hard to identify what. Often it takes someone holding a mirror up to your experience in order to understand it.

Take my first job; washing cars. My first ‘client’ was my dad. Whilst I had other chores to do round the house, my dad wanted the car clean just for him so paid me a small amount to wash it on the weekends. Now initially I thought, “This is great, I’m getting paid to do chores!” The first time I washed it I sprayed some water, ran a soapy sponge over it, washed it off and held out my hand for the money. My dad walked round the car, running his finger over the panels and wheels, showing me his blackened fingers and told me to do it again.

That first weekend I learnt the importance of taking pride in your work so you do a job right once, instead of slap-dash several times; I’ve kept that in my working style. I was interested to know if others had similar experiences so I put a message out to my network and people helpfully came back with some first job stories :

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Start identifying your skills now and this will help when answering questions on application forms, looking to see if you match the skill-set for a new job, and when faced with those difficult questions in interview.

If you do this (and take the opportunity to collect your experience points on the way) you’ll find that your first job might not have been that worthless after all.

 

photo credit: Steve Koukoulas via photopin cc

JP Profile

Jerome Price is the Online and Digital Content Manager in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

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