My first part-time job: the local library
My first part-time job started as a summer job helping at the local library. I lived in a small town in Missouri, and we had a historical library that was built using Carnegie dollars back in the early 20th century. It was a great small town, old feeling building. I hadn’t spent much time there, but somehow my dad had the idea that they might be willing to hire me for the summer. I honestly don’t quite know how it came about, but he helped me get an interview with the director of the library. Looking back, I was only 13 years old at the time because it seems like it was the summer after my 8th grade year.
I would ride my bike to the library each day that summer in sometimes sweltering, moist heat, and I would spend my days sorting and shelving books, helping patrons find books, checking in and checking out books, and all the other things you imagine librarians doing. Through that experience, I learned how to deal with adults, both customers and employers, I gained some additional layers of responsibility, I came to understand the value of large print books and audio books, and I discovered that genealogy is a big deal for small town libraries.
My second part-time job: the local downtown law firm
I don’t remember how long I worked at the library, but it seems I may have worked there into the school year. At some point, I upgraded to working for the local downtown, small town law firm. I don’t remember if that shift was my idea or if that was also an idea hatched by my dad. One of the law firm partners was my best friend’s dad, so maybe it came about through the friendship, but there also may have been some dad initiative mixed in there as well. It seems like I started working at the law firm the summer after my freshman year, so i would have been 14 years old. I was young for my age in school, one of the youngest in my class.
At the law firm, I was responsible — along with one of the lawyers’ sons, with whom I alternated work days — for all filing and file tracking and for running all the errands to the court, the recorders office, the title company and other downtown venues with which the law firm did business. I was routinely called into attorneys’ offices and given photocopy projects or simple research projects and errands. Yes, I was a “gopher”, but I was hanging out with real lawyers in a real law firm and getting paid to do it. I had always considered being a lawyer, and from that experience, I learned many things, most of all that law firms are very quiet, sometimes serious, and professional places.
I worked at the law firm for a few years, and I had some great experiences there, including meeting then-governor John Ashcroft and wandering downtown shops with him as he shook hands on a campaign stop. I remember being aghast as he jaywalked from one corner of the downtown square to another, violating all downtown square walking traffic protocols I had learned as a young law firm employee, to get to a group of people and shake hands. I was even made an appearance in the background of a photo of him in the local newspaper the next day.
My third part-time job: the local weekly newspaper
In my junior year in high school, I took journalism class in high school and found traction for my love of photography and writing. That year, I approached the local weekly newspaper to see if they would hire me. Again, I think that whole process was actually initiated by my dad. I don’t remember making the initial contacts to get the job, which leads me to think that he did. I interviewed with the publisher of the newspaper, and he hired me to help at the newspaper to shoot, develop and print photos and to proofread and assist in the layout of the newspaper.
I ended up working at that weekly newspaper — the top weekly newspaper in the state of Missouri at the time — for the rest of high school and into college until my senior year in college. It was a great job that gave me lots of experience and connection and responsibility, and I owe much to the people who helped me along there and coached me and held me responsible and taught me the value of doing a good job, all in the context of the small town newspaper in which they (and eventually I) held much pride.
What trends can I draw from these part-time job experiences
Why do I write all of this? There are trends in these storyline that I notice:
1) My dad acted as a catalyst in contacting employers and connecting me into my part-time jobs
My dad was influential in the process of opening the doors necessary to help me get those jobs. Those employers likely did not have an opening for a high schooler. My dad talked to someone and convinced them to meet with me and consider opening up a position for me. His relational way and his initiative made all the difference in my getting those jobs.
2) The people who hired me for a part-time job were willing to train and coach me
Those employers were willing to hire me (some, at a very young age) and to find a way to use what skills I did have and to train me and coach me in the rest. I learned much through those years, and you can chalk that up to the leadership and staff at those companies who were willing to take a risk on me and deal with my failures and error and help train me into a young adult with better skills for tomorrow.
3) I was willing to hustle to get the part-time job and ultimately do the work to keep the job
I wanted work, I wanted the pay, and I was willing to work and learn and figure it out. I can tell you — I was not always a responsible young man, and I disappointed many times. But I still wanted those jobs, and I was willing to dress nice, figure out how to get there (even before I could drive), show up, and do the work day after day.
The 3 key elements involved in my early part-time job development
The trends I can quickly identify in my teenage part-time jobs are as follows: The relationships with the employers and the job positions themselves were opened up through initiative and interaction on my behalf; employers were willing to take the time and provide the resource to hire and develop young people; and I was willing to put in the work to show dedication and desire on my part to show up and do the work.