In honor of the Labor Day holiday, let’s use this week’s Roundtable to reflect back on our very first gainful employment. What was your first job?
Throughout high school and a little into college I worked at a bagelry. Due to the ungodly early starting time (bakers’ hours are brutal), it was one of the better paying jobs for kids back then. As much as I hated smelling like bagels all the damn time, I didn’t mind the work. The group of kids working there were great, and we had fun all being sleep-deprived together every weekend. Sure, you always had cuts all over your hands and you had to deal with hangry customers, but I also always had gas money and was done with my shift by the early afternoon. My college years led me though a series of very odd jobs (parking enforcer, the person who glues call numbers onto book bindings, etc.), but those are stories for another time.
M. Enois Duarte
My first job was when I was 13-years-old, which my school set up through some summer program for low-income, urban city kids. It was a humdrum, terribly unglamorous filing clerk job at a government building right in the heart of Los Angeles, basically running around retrieving or putting away paperwork for others with the occasional cup of coffee for my overlords. I have very vague recollections of the people and faces, but remember surprisingly enjoying the work, which I’m sure has more to do with the idea of earning money for myself than the actual labor itself. My fondest memories are the morning and afternoon commutes on the bus. There were four separate buses I had to take to and fro, making my commute just over an hour long each way. Man, there were some interesting characters on those rides, but they made my days pretty entertaining. The money I made that summer also marked the beginning of my home theater obsession. It was the year I purchased a JVC VHS player and a Technics stereo receiver with a dual cassette deck player. I loved my system, enjoying movies in full stereo and blasting my tapes before upgrading to CDs a couple years later.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
My first jobs were work-study at Clemson University. I started off shelving federal documents in the library, and I later wound up maintaining one of the websites for the Department of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and Wildlife. Working for minimum-ish wage ten hours a week funded pizza, comic books, and moviegoing in the late ’90s.
I had two classes left to get my B.S. in Computer Science, and they were offered in separate summer sessions. The campus was a ghost town, those classes weren’t particularly challenging, and I had nothing but free time for a couple of months. I taught myself to code database-driven websites in a then-obscure scripting language, and that unexpectedly made me a hot commodity after graduation. Nearly eighteen years later, I’m still working at the travel startup that hired me, only now it’s owned by one of the largest media conglomerates in the country. When I talk about my first real job, I’m speaking in the present tense!
I wanted my first job to be working at the movie theater that was within easy biking distance of my house when I was in high school. I trekked over there and filled out an application, but never heard back, owing to the fact that my family never had a telephone in the house all through my teen years. (That’s a long story for another time, and made teenage socializing very difficult.) I guess it was a little unreasonable to expect the Sunshine Cinema to mail an acceptance letter to some random kid off the street. I imagine that the manager chuckled and tossed my application in the trash when he saw it didn’t have a phone number on it.
Instead, my first official job was a work-study position in the Media Lab at the College of Communications at my university. This was the easiest and best job ever. I worked the late shift from 5pm to 9pm every evening. All I had to do was show up and sit in a room filled with TVs and video equipment. If any professors came in needing a TV and VCR for a class, which happened maybe two or three times a week, I made them put their names on a sign-out sheet and then pointed to a cart they could wheel down the hall. Then I’d wait around for them to bring it back, and lock up at the end of the night. That was it, the whole job. This gave me plenty of time to do homework. And because the Media Lab had two Laserdisc players that no teachers ever requested, it kicked off my obsession with home theater. I’d go to a local shop called Laser Craze before work and rent a bunch of LDs for the week. I watched two movies a night there almost every weeknight for four years. Also, fun fact: I met the future Mrs. Z at that job.
I’ll toss in a story about my second job, because it’s funny. As my freshman year of college was winding down, I was worried about finding employment for the summer when I went back to Florida. My dorm mate Ted suggested that a telemarketing gig was easy money. He’d done it himself the previous summer and made a bunch of cash, and said he enjoyed it. I think Ted was just naturally more inclined toward sales than I was. I didn’t want to do anything too sketchy, so I landed a job fundraising for the Police Benevolent Association, cold-calling names off a list trying to sell tickets to an upcoming charity concert headlined by Lee Greenwood. I didn’t even know who Lee Greenwood was. (I later learned that his signature song is the Country anthem “God Bless the U.S.A.”) I sucked at telemarketing. I had to call people up right at dinnertime, and most of them did not appreciate me interrupting their meals one bit. I lasted precisely one-and-a-half days before I was fired, having not sold a single ticket. I’m actually kind of proud of that fact, to be honest.
Tell us about your first job in the Comments.
Note: We’re taking Monday off for the holiday. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday.