What Did You Learn From Your First Job?

first-jobRemember your first job? I do. And I remember learning something very important from it.

I got my first “real” job when I left home after high school to go to college. My parents couldn’t afford (didn’t have enough money) to help me, so I worked my way through college (paid for my education by working).

I went to class in the morning and, occasionally, in the evening. Every afternoon I went to work in a small manufacturing company where I was responsible for the mail room.

I did the things you might expect. I went around to all the offices, picked up the day’s outgoing (being sent) mail, and made sure it was ready to be picked up by the mail truck. After the incoming (received) mail was delivered, I distributed (took it around) it to each of the offices.

Most of my time, however, was spent preparing the day’s promotional (advertising) mail. Each salesman scheduled multiple (more than one) mailings to each of their customers. For example, they would send one promotional piece the first month, a different one the second month, and so on.

Every day I would take the envelopes for that day from a large file cabinet. I put the appropriate promotional pieces into the envelopes, put postage (money charged for sending a letter) on them, sorted (organized in groups) them according to their destinations (where they were going), and put them into large mailbags.

The flow (smooth steady movement) of mail was important to the company. And I was responsible to see that the flow was not interrupted (stopped).

Several weeks before Christmas, I went to see the office manager, to tell him that I would be gone for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We didn’t have school during the holidays, and I planned to spend them with my family.

George invited me to come into his office and sit down across the desk from him. He listened attentively (thoughtfully) to what I had to say. When I finished, he was quiet for a short time and then asked, “Where do you plan to work when you return after the holidays?”

I must have looked puzzled (confused), so George explained. “You may get time off during the holidays, but we don’t. Our work continues. If you leave, I’ll have to hire someone to take your place. I can’t do that and then ask him or her to leave when you come back. So you need to decide if you want to continue to work here.”

Happily, George and I were able to work out a compromise (a different way to solve the problem). I worked until the day before Christmas, took the train home so I could enjoy Christmas with my family, and returned to work a day or two after Christmas.

George taught me an important lesson: when you are given a job, you are responsible to do that job. You’re a part of a team, and when the team works, you work. You can’t come and go whenever you want to.

What did you learn from your first job?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site.

Today’s photo comes from www.definitelyfilipino.com.


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10 Responses to What Did You Learn From Your First Job?

  1. Marcos says:

    Hi everyone

    I have had a difficult times when I got my first job and a learned that relationship is the key to grow in whatever job when you need work with a team. You need first know who will be your friend and who will be just your co-worker.

    Have I nice day

  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone.

    Thanks Warren for sharing and giving us an example on how to tell someone an episode of the past.
    And congratulations for what you did back then (as many others) working and studying at the same time.
    I was thinking that probably that position does not exist anymore. Who knows? perhaps there are still a bunch of people doing that somewhere.

    I am not sure of being able to remember what I leaned from my first job, which was at a restaurant during the summer holidays.
    It could be how to set up a table I do not know.
    You know, fact is that I have always been a really good and reliable worker even before the working age.

    Working as a factory worker, probably one of the most important thing I learned so far, is that money you get is not the most important thing on the workplace.
    There are other things more important, such as: safety, getting back home with all the fingers, the quality of the environment you are in. Things like that.

    It is always sad when someone loses its life on the job. It comes to mind a guy age 26 died just last week on the job at a nearby town.
    Or that terrible man made disaster in Bangladesh a couple of years ago where more than 1000 people (mostly young) lost their lives in a collapsed factory. So sad.

    So, to recap, first thing on the job is: not to get hurt. all the rest comes after that.


  3. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Yes, Marcos. You’re right. The most difficult part is to find out who is who in your job. There are those who pretend to be your friend but they don’t. They just want to get benefits from you. But there are good and real friends even though they are the minimum. I had some bad experience with co-workers. But time went by and I forgot.
    Good luck for you, Marcos.

  4. Bolor says:

    Thank you Warren,
    I’ve always liked to read your articles.
    Well, I am still working in my first real job since my Universtiy graduation ( except part time of jobs) .
    I’ve been working here for a year and 6 months.However, I learned a lot of things while working here, it now seems there is nothing left to learn.
    What I realized the most is job is the really different from what you studied at University.
    And co-workers are the one of the most important things in work place. Being around the nice coworkers makes your job bearable and fun.
    Actually, I’d like to change my job or pursue to study as a master degree. But something is stopping me. Maybe I just used to that job. I am 23 and I dont wanna work here for all my life.
    People need different experiences and different adventures, am I right?


  5. Veroushka says:

    Hi, Warren. I think the must important that I learn on my first real job is to be patient. My boss was a Bipolar, is so difficult to deal with him. I never know when he is on the mood to treat me good or when he started screaming without any reason.

    Thank you for the examples and multiples ways how to improve my English. I just start with your Podcast and I love it.

    Thank you.



  6. emiliano says:

    I agree with your manager, George, absolutely. It is my way of thinking and doing
    but it is not the way of several other people.
    Recently the person who looks after Cuca and me, at home, take more the two months
    to go to her country.
    It has been with us for a long time so it was very difficult to say her the same that
    George said to you Warren. I have to ask another person to come home and take the
    work Isabel was doing.
    Yes, it has a difficult time for us, but I am not willing to repeat this situation again.
    Despite our knowledge and good confidence if this woman wants to go again to her
    country for a long time, like before, I´m goin to say her the same George said to
    That´s my point of view since the moment I have been working.

    What I learn doing my first job it was just to be aware of doing things the best form
    I could, even that my time was paid by the company and I cannot afford to waste any
    time doing different things that the one I was paid for.
    That subject has been always very clear to me along the years I have to work
    which ever kind of work I did.

    Thank you Warren, nice from you just sharing you experience with us.

  7. soraia says:


    I like so much your podcast and I study english for 2 years and thank for help us
    I learned very things in my first job, to be responsable, to be polite and I believe the
    biggest lesson of the all is to believe in the people if to believe them will do things that neither
    them believe be can of to do.
    I am 34 years old I began to work with 18 years old and I work in the same cia until today or be
    I continue working in the my first job.

  8. john says:

    hi jeff and lucy first let me tell you a thing your podcasts are going great i love your explanation in each podcast i,m a regular listener to your podcasts but i have a question where do i find materials to grow my even basic grammar plz answer this plz and at the end you rock

  9. peter says:

    Hi warren ,
    U know , I got nostalgic
    Ur post took me back
    It stirred up a lot emotions inside me
    It brought up a lot of good memories
    I vividly remember that I was fresh out of high school when I landed my first job as a busboy in an Italian restaurant within the walking distance of my folk’s
    Back the I was still living with my parents.
    You know ,back then ,I was trained for nothing :))) so I was glad that I finally got a job that was conveniently located close to my place of residence. Needless to say that the job pays a measly ,lousy minimum wage of 7.50 per hour. Not paid my phone bill and would leave some weak around money. I remember working there over one year or so. I started out as a busboy but after 6 months the boss moved me to the omlet station where I would interact directly with the morning customers. My wage bumped up to dazzling 13 per hour. :))
    My boss was very kind to me.he walkways said abd I quote ” Peter ,You are a hard working Joe and have
    A pleased personality.”
    You know , back then I was quite a cut up.
    Well , back then , the economy was in the toilet. Therefore,The restaurant was struggling ,and in the end ,it went belly up. So , I was out of job.
    Anyway, my moral lesson from my tenure at the restaurant 🙂 was that being earnest yet personable always pay off.

  10. peter says:

    The second job I had was labour intensive
    I worked at a plant
    I worked on the floor
    It was canada post’s plant where all the letters and parcels sort out before they are sent to their distention. The thing is ,my friend was the concierge there at the time.he was the security guard at the entrance door. He controlled the traffic of people in and out the facility.
    Back then ,I was a freshmen and in sore need of money.
    I had been looking for a job so bad for so long . I had been so frazzled and frustrated at the time. I had been laughing out at every single job I had applied for the past 6 months. He is a close friend! He was aware of my situation and that I had a very hard time Landing a job.So,he came to rescue 🙂 he told me he might could pull some strings and get me a job there. And he did it.he kept his promise. I gave him my resume and he had a chitchat with the head of cleaning personal in the plant.
    bingo !!!! I was in
    Well ,for the first three months ,I worked on probation. at the end of three-month probation period,They reviewed my performance. Apparently ,my work performance was to their satisfaction as they got me unionized and I officially started working as a member of the gang :))))
    Anyway,I worked there for one year and half.the money was good and I enjoyed some benefits like sick day dental benefit and whatnot on the side. Back then ,I was studying marketing administrative at York university. The job was not even closely related to my area of study.but , under the circumstances,it was the best I could get. U know it paid the bills.
    I quit the job as towards the end of my college days since I managed to land a job in the marketing department of some soft ware developing companies. Well , the money was not as good but it was definitely more rewarding and promising. The thing is , I couldn’t expect more I was still an student with no experience what so ever in the field. So no complaint there. I could get some experience that was a good compensation for the money part.u know ,you compromise.
    I was gonna get my feet at the door. So , as U can guess ,money was not my primary motive:networking was . It was a job at entry level. I saw this as steppingstone towards building a career.
    Well, it didn’t turnout quite what I expected. But , it was the best I could do under circumstances.
    You know ,it is par for the course. You do some odd jobs.you taste the waters.you pay your dues.

    See Ya!

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