Recently, the team over at The Ladders reached out to me and asked if I would share my experience regarding my first job and the lessons I learned along the way. I was more than happy to oblige because the challenges I faced one particular summer most certainly helped to prepare me for future positions but more importantly, it taught me the value of hard work, sacrifice and great rewards.
Being the youngest of four children and the only girl, I learned early on to be adaptable, resourceful and resilient. Although my parents provided a stable, loving and financially secure environment, things were not handed to us. We had to work for everything we received and that began as early as middle school. If I wanted to go to the movies with my friends, I had to babysit and come up with the cash myself. If I wanted to meet my friends at the local pool, I rode my bike over and brought a lunch I packed myself (the snack bar was simply unheard of). Good grades were the expectation, there was no tv during the week, and we were kept very busy in a plethora of extracurricular activities because “hanging out” was never an option.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school, I never saw the beach or pool once…no exaggeration. I had failed my math Regents exam and although I technically did not have to go to summer school, my parents signed me up because they wanted to ensure that when I retook the test, I would achieve a much higher score. So, every morning from eight to nine thirty, I attended math classes. I would race home afterwards, change my clothes, and dash out the door once more to get to my job at a local children’s boutique. I would work until six every evening, go home and eat dinner and repeat the process the next day. I also worked at the boutique on Saturdays to earn extra money. I loved my job at “Duck, Duck Goose,” It was there that I learned the importance of excellent customer service, the art of visual merchandising (I especially loved decorating the windows), and how the owner would order the clothes and accessories. I soaked it all up and by the end of the summer, it was my goal to someday be my own boss. I knew then and there that I wanted to own my own business…to make decisions and be in charge, to chart my very own course. The best part was the fact that I earned $2000 that summer and I put that money away for a trip to London and Paris the following spring.
My high school offered a trip to the students every April and I was determined to go. That spring, I boarded a plane for the first time and traveled to England and France for ten days. I saw things that most people will never witness in their lifetime and I was keenly aware of that. The most satisfying aspect of it all was that I paid for it by myself. As I got older and worked in different positions, I learned that there would be many ups and downs as I went along but if I focused, set specific goals and mapped out a way to attain them, there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. I tell and re-tell this story to my children quite often. Although I realize they are from a different time and generation (much to my chagrin at times particularly with the over saturation of social media), I want to instill in them a sense of independence, a strong work ethic and an unwavering sense of perseverance. The best things in life don’t magically land on your lap. You must earn them and only then can you truly appreciate them.