First Job Lessons

by Krantcents · 19 comments

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It was a long hot summer in New Jersey and I just graduated high school.  I was looking for my first job because I needed to earn spending money for my first year in college.  I was willing to take anything, but I was seventeen with no experience.  I worked for my parents since I was seven years old, but that does not count.  I lived in a rural area and did not have a license yet.  What do I do?

When do most teenagers look for summer jobs?  They either have part time job or find a summer job in the spring.  Why didn’t I do that?  Was I the typical lazy kid?  I attended a prep school in upstate New York, so I had a late start.  Most jobs for teenagers were already taken while I was away at school.  Now what?  I saw an advertisement for a Fuller Brush dealer.  I was desperate so I applied!  I had some door to door sales experience selling candy for the 4-H Club for three years after all!

What came next surprised even me.  They called me and set up an interview.  I must have passed because they offered me a job.  At seventeen, I was the youngest Fuller Brush dealer in the country.  I was scared to death, but I needed to earn enough spending money for my first year of college.  I accepted the offer and started  training the next day.  I got a sample kit and learned how to overcome people’s objections.  I opened a bank account so I could pay for the product.  After a few days with the sales manager, I started in my neighborhood.  My neighborhood was filled with neighbors living on 10 or 20  acres  where just walking next door took awhile.  What do I do?

I still did not have my driver’s license!  I also needed to start my job!  I went to a community of smaller homes about a quarter of a mile away and started selling door to door.  My sales manager went with me, but it was hardly easy.  Either the people were not home or they never even came to the door.  With my sales manager’s help I made a couple of sales.  It was your typical hot, humid summer day, so I worked from 9 AM to 12:30 PM and went to lunch.  I went home, showered and started over again around 1:30 PM.  I worked Monday through Friday selling products.  Saturday I delivered the products and collected the payments.

I already paid for the products when they were delivered so I immediately had my 35% commission.  At the end of my first week in my territory, I earned approximately $75.  Not too bad, considering the minimum wage was $1.10 an hour.  I remember my sales manager bragging at a sales meeting how high my earnings were on a per sale basis.  Each week I learned how to overcome objections, and sell more products.  By the end of the summer, I earned more than enough spending money for my first year in college.  Goal accomplished!  Was that all I learned?

That summer was transformational!  I learned a great deal from my first paid job.  First I had to overcome my shyness.  Going from home to home and trying to sell products to strangers is trial by fire!  It turns out most people are pretty nice and I learned how to talk to different kinds of people.  I learned how to establish goals (sales and others) and accomplish them.  Trying to do this job during those hot and muggy summer days was tough enough.  No car or driver’s license just added to it.  Some people would say why did I even take that job?  I was desperate!  I became an entrepreneur at seventeen years old and ran a profitable business.  Not bad for a first job, if it stopped there!

My first paid summer job ended just before I left for college.  What came next changed my life!.  I kept my checking account and put myself on a budget.  My allowance was ten (10) dollars a week for dating, laundry, haircuts and Sunday night meal.  Not much, even then!  This made me save, find free things to do for dates and I even supplemented my income occasionally with paid experiments and ironing.  Did the job teach me these skills or did the situation allow me to find these solutions?  I think it was a little of both!  Don’t feel sorry for me!  These experiences and the skills I learned or honed made me a very successful and accomplished adult.  What did you learn from your first job?

Photo By:  andrew.wippler

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retirebyforty May 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm

That’s a great first job! I worked for my parents when I was growing up. We put up pizza fliers on the doors for a few years. It was a lot of walking for little pay. It was a good exercise though and we moved on to do other things. Eventually my parents invested in a small restaurant and I learn working for yourself is much better than working for someone else.

krantcents May 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm

You learn so much without knowing it at the time. For m, it shaped my life.

MoneyCone May 3, 2011 at 3:35 am

Great story KC! I can’t recall where I’ve heard Fuller Brush… I think it was in one of Napolean Hill’s self help books!

I think how you managed the job was awesome!

krantcents May 3, 2011 at 4:52 am

Thanks, I didn’t realize how much I learned until much later.

Barbara Friedberg May 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm

This reminds me of my job selling Avon door to door at age 16. There was no experience like it!!!

krantcents May 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

You are so right!

Darwin May 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I wonder what kinds of jobs my kids will have. I did everything from mowing lawns to cashier work to splitting wood. All gave me some different experiences and perspective.

krantcents May 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

If it is possible, have them try something they have some interest.

Buck Inspire May 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm

It’s a little fuzzy. What pops up is being a telemarketer for water purifiers. Overcoming shyness, speaking, selling. Important lessons. What I learned? I’m not a good salesman!

krantcents May 5, 2011 at 12:21 am

Some of life’s best lessons are hidden or just influences you. Remember, sales skills are used in persuasion too!

Ash @ Sterling Effort May 5, 2011 at 12:07 am

I don’t feel sorry for you at all! That sounds like a great learning experience. It’s great that you were able to focus on the positive aspects and make it work well for you. I’m trying to think what I learnt from my first jobs. I worked in food factories and a warehouse. I think the only thing I learnt was to focus on my qualifications so I didn’t have to do a low paid, mind-numbing job for the rest of my life. Hah, I say the ‘only’ thing. That’s a massive thing, really.

Thanks for the enlightenment! :D

krantcents May 5, 2011 at 12:27 am

First jobs, like first girlfriends tend to have the most impact on people. The coincidence of the money I earned from that experience taught me a great deal about personal finance. Living on that meager budget drew on skills, I had or acquired, influenced my entire life.

ann @ merchant services May 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Learn from your experience, this is always what they say. And perhaps at that time, the jobs are not really meant for you. You have learned that it is not easy to find a job.

krantcents May 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I learn from every experience and try to apply what I learn to my future.

Marie May 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Robert Kiyosaki (the Rich Dad, Poor Dad guy) advocates taking jobs to LEARN, not EARN. I want money if I am going to work for someone else, but it is always good to try to get in positions where you can do things you havent’t done before and reflect on what you have learned! Sounds like you stumbled onto that at a good age.

krantcents May 11, 2011 at 12:34 am

I am always learning from everyone and everything! Money comes later.

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