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