One quality I take pride in (and for which I can thank my mother) is that I’ve always been a hard worker. I work hard in school to get good grades, I work hard at the gym to keep myself healthy and in good shape, and I work hard at work. Even in high school, I worked more than one job at a time — and I still do. My very first part-time job was cashiering at a local supermarket. Cashiering was never in my career aspirations — as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an event planner — but you have to start somewhere, right? I traded in my fun, careless younger years for a sunshine-yellow uniform polo shirt and soon knew produce codes better than the lyrics of the latest hit song.
You may need to obtain a bachelor’s degree or maybe even a master’s or doctorate in order to achieve your dream career. However, in the meantime, you have to pay the bills somehow, and that’s where the unglamorous jobs come in to pick up the slack. But these jobs don’t have to be just that — they often offer just as much insight and learning experiences as an internship.
Here are four reasons why I don’t feel modest about my first paycheck — and neither should you.
1. I Understand the Value Punctuality
I quickly learned that if I arrived at the scheduled time of my shift, I would be running behind. By the time I climbed the stairs to the staff lounge, clocked in on the fingerprint scanner (fancy, I know), got downstairs to check which register I was on, and then logged onto it, I would be holding up the lines and the crazy couponers would be on a tiff. I needed to arrive at least 5 or 10 minutes before the start of my shift.
Now that I work within an office culture, I can say that the same goes here. Getting to work a little bit ahead of time could be the difference of being preparing for a meeting or not and, in general, will make life for you and your coworkers much easier.
TIP: Stop using the best-case scenario and allow yourself the amount of time you would need for the worst-case scenario. Chances are, you won’t be able to find your uniform shirt and you will hit traffic, so lay out the uniform (as horrid as it just might be) the night before and get up on your first alarm, not your eighth.
2. I Learned How to Prioritize, Organize, and Compromise
Shockingly enough at 18 and completing my senior year of high school, I learned how to see past Friday night. To my surprise, there was more to life than the football games or the parties. I learned I had to compromise. Although my friends might not have understood at the time because they didn’t have to work, I knew I was bettering myself. Homework, projects, and Senior-year events had to be prioritized. It wasn’t easy, but I learned how to overcome any obstacle thrown my way.
TIP: Write down everything, regardless if you “think” you’ll remember it or not.
3. You’ll Realize that Nothing is Personal
Every now and again, I would get someone through my line that was not a very happy camper. For whatever reason they took whatever they had going on in their life out on the wide-eyed, innocent, naïve cashier, and there was no winning. But, I rolled with the punches. Stooping down to their level and snapping back wasn’t worth my time or my energy. I eventually learned that dodging the huffs and puffs from a customer and the snide remarks from my managers was the easiest way to get through my shifts. Some days it was like a battlefield and you had better remembered your armor.
TIP: Don’t take something personally from someone who doesn’t know you personally.
4. You’ll Discover Just How Much Attitude Matters
Even though I may have, at times, felt like I was drowning in misery at this part-time job, I never showed it. I faked my smile till it was stuck there. There were “secret shoppers” at my supermarket and you never knew who they were, when they were coming, or, better yet, if they would be coming through your line. If you were rude, grumpy, or basically nothing short of enthusiastically happy and cheery, you got a bad report. On the other hand, if you did what you were supposed to do, you got a great report and rewarded for it. I’ve found that this goes for most anything in life: You show up and do what you gotta do and go on your merry way. You came, you saw, and you conquered.
TIP: Like my mother always said, “You’re always going to have to do things in life that you don’t want to do, so you gotta fake it till you make it, honey”. It’s so brutally, inevitably true.