Yes, it does. As our kids enter the workforce, it’s worth thinking about what they will learn and how it will shape their perceptions of work.

At a recent event welcoming preeminent women into the International Women’s Forum in LA, the women were asked a “fun” question — what was your first job? We heard paper deliverer, telemarketer, and more. This got me thinking about my first jobs and how they shaped my perception of myself and business…

Office Manager

Around age 15, my first job was managing the “office” for a ballet teacher and her classes. Held in her home (classroom downstairs, she lived upstairs), young girls in tutus came after school for hour-long classes. It was a fun environment filled with children laughing while music accompanied their pliés and twirls. But, the office was a mess: no bills had gone out for months, tracking attendance was sporadic, and the lovely ballerina teacher wasn’t focused on business. So, I did my best to send out bills, collect for past classes, implement a check-in system, and set up accountability.

What did I learn? Keeping track of the money is fundamental, you cannot assume people will pay unless you ask promptly. And, I saw how someone passionate about what they do can lose money!

Door-to-Door Sales

Another early job was selling encyclopedias door-to-door in West Hester, California. Knocking on doors in the early evening to tell people why their kids need a $250 set of books, took gumption and confidence. But, it didn’t even occur to me how hard it would be. As a college Freshman, I could honestly talk about education and the value of having encyclopedias at home to encourage research and study skills. I was the first to sell ten sets!

I learned to speak from my heart when “selling” and that I had to try to believe in what I sold. And, I learned that people are trusting and willing to listen when you have their best interests at heart — it’s not about you or the product, it’s about their pain points and their dreams (in this case, their kids).

Tutor

As a student at USC, I tutored kids in the neighborhood.

I learned how to work with parents and manage their expectations. Every child came to me at a certain level with goals ranging from passing to having the top grade in the class. Multiple factors contributed to the expectations I communicated to the parents such as the child’s studying habits and how much time we had given budget and when the class ended. I guess you could say, I also learned how to upsell my services at this job although it was always for the best interest of my client. Something I still practice at my agency today.

Office Dispatcher

My job was managing a small office of fifteen IT consultants taking incoming requests and sending out the men (all men) to client businesses to install computers and fix issues. So, once again, I saw the value of organization and accountability. I recognized I have good organizational skills and how important it is to be kind and keep the staff happy.

It never occurred to me that I was the lone woman and what was wrong with that. But, the men were all polite and respectful. I got very comfortable being the only woman and it served a good skill in the male-dominated world of advertising.

 

Reflecting on these early days, it’s easy to see how these lessons still ring true while running my own company. What about you? What did your first job teach you? I would love to hear your stories. 🌱