Lessons Learned: My First Job

Every Friday I post about one of the lessons I’ve learned so far in life, both financial and about life in general. We’ve all learned valuable lessons along life’s journey, sometimes the easy way and sometimes the hard way. Hopefully someone will read what I learned and avoid having to learn the same thing the hard way. Check back every Friday for a new lesson learned.

My First Job
I’ve mentioned before that during high school and through most of college I worked a part-time job at our local Wal-Mart. I started right after I turned 16 years old and met the age criteria for most retail stores. A good number of my fellow high school students worked there as well, and I was always amazed at how quickly they came and went. They would work for a couple weeks or months, then get tired of working and quit. They saw it as a pretty lame job with nothing to learn from. A lot of them messed around a lot at work, didn’t take anything seriously, and eventually got fired. Maybe that’s just how “average” high school kids are, though certainly not all of us were like that.

I never really understood that. I’ve always believed that you can learn something from just about anything, and I applied that belief to my part-time job. I think working retail is one of the best things a young person can do. You learn how to deal with customers, how the supply chain works, how to deal with other employees, how to prioritize your job duties, and a wide range of other things that you can apply in your future. The thing is you have to actively seek out a lot of that knowledge. My managers were always eager to talk about how and why things worked, and they were always pretty surprised when I’d ask them about these things. I guess a lot of people just never think about the inner workings of their job or company. You’d be surprised at all the intricacies involved at a retail store, from the best methods of stocking shelves to the most efficient way of unloading a truck and getting merchandise out on the floor.

I worked at Wal-Mart for five years, until I landed an accounting internship during college. I always knew that my job at Wal-Mart was temporary, and so did my managers. But every now and then they would try and talk me into going into management. If I didn’t already have other career ambitions, I would have seriously thought about that.

No Such Thing as a Dead End Job
The point is that I don’t believe in the concept of a “dead end job”. If you take your work seriously and learn as much as you can from it, other opportunities will open up for you. It might be a promotion at the same company, or maybe the added skills and knowledge will assist you in landing another job elsewhere. Like most things, you can only get out of something as much as you put into it. If you go into a job with the assumption you won’t learn anything or get anything out of it, you probably won’t.