Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tell Your Teen This When They Start Their First Job

I've gotten older. I get that. But hey, what's this unfair stuff about my babies growing up too? You can stomp your feet while dabbing your eyes with tissue and sneak into their bedrooms to press down their heads as they sleep (just me? ok, never mind) to keep them from gaining inches, but you can't stop the job that hormones are programmed to do: make them grow.
And since we're speaking of jobs, do you have anyone in your house starting their first one? You do?? Well, I can only say that I wish someone had told me when I was 15 what I have learned about jobs since then. The things your boss needs from you can be a mystery when you start working.
I had my first job at 15, it was in a nursing home as a dining room assistant. I liked it, it was fun, and on the nights that the red-headed woman worked, she would set aside a slice of cherry pie for me. My boss, on the other hand was awful, but I liked the pie-lady, and ever since then I've worked part time, full time, 3/4 time, only on weekends time, but I've always worked. Not only because money is a necessity but also because there have been jobs, like my first one, that I've either really liked or the people I worked with were the reason I stayed.

Thinking about the jobs I’ve had and the things I did while in those jobs sometimes stops me in my tracks. Did I really do that? Why did I think that was going to work? Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I should have left after that first five minutes. Like after they asked me to open up the store BY MYSELF at 5:20 a.m.
Did I know better, or had I known better, would anything have been different? 
Bottom line is there are some basic work skills that your boss or clients expect you to have. Surprise, right? Well, it might be to your teens. So, let them know what they are. You can't prevent all schooling learned from hard lessons, but you can take the sharp edge off of at least one or two experiences:

First, the obvious things:
Clean appearance, appropriate clothing, teachable attitude, decent and respectful toward others, no gossip. Right up there with these traits are: plays well with others, respect for the chain of command. Throw in not pilfering and minding your own business and you’re a good catch.*(Imp note added: see below)

Second, don’t be a pot stirrer.
Show up and do your work, ears away from the gossip telephone game. If you end up working for someone you really can’t believe is in management, still do the same. Go to work, do your job, if there is no request to violate your morals, values, safety, then do your job.

Third, do not make up answers.
When someone asks you a question, if you aren't sure about the answer, say so. You don’t have to say, “I don’t know,” but you can say, “Let me find that out for you.” You don't want to be the one responsible for paying for a family of eight's meal when they came in and wanted to know if kids eat free on Tuesday and your 'Uh, sure' is Uh. Wrong. Ask your manager, they're the one who knows about free fries with every 23rd burger, and what not.

Fourth, learn to manage your time.
Oh lordy lordy lordy, learn to manage your time. Decide how many minutes you need to get the job done that you're asked to do while there. You don't want to come in at 1:00, laugh play chat and then look up at the clock at 2:20 and go Holy Cr*p running to the point of your deodorant quitting on you, to stock the shelves your boss needed you to do over four hours, not two. Nose to the grindstone.

Fifth, your time belongs to your boss.
Remember that your employer is paying you for your time. This means that while on their clock, you will do their work. Nothing else. No turning yourself into a baby deer on Snapchat. I know it's fun, but it has to wait. *why is this one in italics? because my keyboard isn't cooperating. bad job, keyboard*

Sixth, learn something new every day.
This makes you look really good. It also makes work more interesting if you ask questions. You don't have to sound like a parrot paraphrasing everything your boss says, but ask about it. People like to talk 'shop.' That's what old folks call work. Just this little feather in your cap called 'interest' will make your boss big puffy heart you.

Seventh, let positive be your cheer!
No matter what is going on, pesky friend problems, an English class that just won't quit, save the grumbling for later. Bring a positive attitude to work. You're not a Kardashian, you have to earn a living. Try and smile, even if you don’t love your job–because it’s your job.

Eighth, look like you're revved and ready to go.
Roll up your sleeves (that's an expression from the ages) and walk in straight spined, with energy, and on each day you work even if you have to knock off a Starbucks to do it. Try to not let anyone hear you complain or whine, either, because honestly, who likes to be around that?

Ninth, keep dissatisfaction to yourself and don't tell it to a customer.
When dealing with difficult co-workers or supervisors, let your lips say “yes” but your mind whisper “pumpkin head!” At review time, let your supervisor know of any changes you'd like to see them consider. NO guarantees but that is the appropriate place for something like this to be brought up.

Tenth, be a young adult.
You will be a legal adult in a few years: don't wait until then to think on your own. Be self disciplined, self motivated, and self directed. Work without supervision, I mean, come on, how old are we now? Even if mama still calls you her baby, your boss won't see you through those same eyes.
I've got to leave for my own job in a few hours so let's wrap this up,

What I want to tell you is to Behave. What employers truly hope for is to get their money's worth: your time, and they're paying for it. You are known by the quality of your work, and one day, on a college application or for a job application while away at school, you're going to have to put down the name of someone who's worked with you as a reference. Your boss at your first job may just be that person whose name you fill in on that line. You want their words about you to be the ones that make the reader say, "Hey, we want this kid."

This list might just help you keep on collecting that biweekly check. It would be awesome to maybe stick to two or seven of these, right?
So, dear teens, make good use of time while at your job. And don't think I don't see you now, so I'm going to suggest you turn off your phone and get to work.
* * *
*ETA: A friend of mine, whose opinion I respect, has these important words to add. I feel what she contributes here is far more important than the tongue-in-cheek tone I've set this post to. *Thank you, Rebecca Weinberger:
"Rebecca Weinberger It would be great if this included things like how to respond to sexual harassment and exploitation and wage theft. What to do when your boss does ask you to violate your morals or safety. How to document this and support unions and know how to use HR while knowing they are always there to protect management. We rarely talk about the realities of what work really looks like in this system and this article looks like it's setting people - especially young women - up for victim blaming when these things do happen, as if being well dressed with a good attitude is enough."

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I'm most proud of with Jack is that he held down a hard job from the time he was 16 until he left for college.

    2.5 years with a boss many other people thought was "impossible to please" but what that translated to was "the boss requires you to work hard."

    When Jack moved to Oregon, he asked his boss if he could come back over holidays and breaks and pick up shifts. Then, a week before Jack came home for Christmas, he followed-up and requested work for the month he'd be back.

    Seriously. My boy. He's a man now. A hard worker. And simply awesome.
    (I hate bragging, but I know you get it. It's NOT bragging. It's love that has to find its way out to other moms who understand.)



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