Career Advice

Work Lessons from a 14 Year Old's First Job

Lisa Johnson Posted by Lisa
min read

My 14 year old has a job. At McDonald's. And the kid is loving it. Maybe that is what McDonald's is referring to in their advertising: the 'loving it' refers to the joy a 14 year old has when earning his/her own income for the very first time. Listening to my child tell me about how a shift went has reminded me of lessons we all need to remember:

  • People who work hard and who are reliable get more opportunities (mostly).
  • You need to be flexible and willing to try something new when starting a new job.
  • If you don't know, ask.
  • No matter what you do, there will be somebody who won't be happy. If you have done all you can to help and they are still unhappy, it's not you; it's them.
  • When you commit to do something, do it.
  • People are unpredictable. You will deal with people in bad moods, who are unstable, who are stressed and frazzled.  Always remain professional and polite – you have no idea what is going on in their lives, and they don't need you being rude back to them.
  • The customer is rarely right. But you must smile at them anyway.
  • When someone says, '...and this is the walk in freezer. I have no idea why they call it a walk in freezer, so don't ask' (true quote), try not to laugh out loud.
  • You get paid. The money never goes far, but you should take pride in earning it.
  • Be proud of the work you do. Someone has given you the chance to prove yourself, and when you do a good job, you are showing them that they made the right choice.
  • Be grateful. You were given a chance.  Not everyone gets that.

There are a whole lot of things that my child is learning in a first job. How to manage time. Why being reliable is one of the most valued attributes an employee can have. How to stand there and get abused by aggressive adults who have CLEARLY forgotten that people working the register at the fast food joint deserve a modicum of manners (and respect).  How money doesn't go far at all. I am immensely proud of my child.  Working hard preparing for the interview, turning up for every shift, and taking all the criticism (constructive and otherwise) on the chin.  Keeping smiling in the face of rude and aggressive customers and delighting in using fledgling Mandarin language skills with a lovely, older customer with no English speaking skills. Learning tenacity and taking enormous pride in dealing with an anxiety disorder in a situation that gives ample opportunity to freak out under pressure. Most of us have forgotten what it was like to get our first job.  It's a wonderful reminder to remember those very first lessons and to be grateful for the opportunities we are given.