Thursday, February 4, 2021

The first job

 What was your first job?

As my daughter makes her decision as to which job she's going to take to launch her career, and as my son starts his final year of school not yet certain of what track he'll take come December, I am finding myself reflecting on my own career paths and what my first income generating activities involved.

When I was in my tweens/early teens we owned a rural block of land ten minutes from our home, big enough to run a few head of cattle and our horses. My dad would bring home calves from the local dairy which I would care for in our suburban backyard, teaching them to drink milk from a bottle, then from a bucket, before they'd graduate to eating grass on that block of land. The cattle we'd hand raised would spend the first years of their life on the property before we sold them earning me half of the profit. 

With a few hundred dollars in my bank account from my rural endeavours, I added to my income via a very short foray into Avon. While I wasn't confident enough to walk door to door, I'd taken over a client list from a friend which meant I had some Avon faithfuls who bought their makeup and skincare from me. I'd visit them each month, hand over a new order book, return to pick up their handwritten requests, take their money, then put in my orders to the next person up the Avon totem pole. 

From there I got a part time job as an administrative assistant working alone in an office after school doing administration bits and bobs for a debt collector (very short lived) before eventually finding myself behind the counter of the local Greek owned charcoal chicken restaurant as an eighteen year old. I spent that summer between high school and university in up to fifty degree heat in front of the coals and rotisseries serving piping hot perfectly barbequed chooks. It was that job that shaped me.

It's interesting when you look back to see which experiences in your younger years had the most influence on how you then handle yourself as an adult. 

While weening calves and selling Avon gave me a taste for income generation, it was working at the charcoal chicken shop that helped shape my work ethic.  Or perhaps it brought out what was already inside of me. Either way, I learned pretty quickly the need to enter at the bottom and work my way up, the importance of good customer service, the need to keep busy and what it meant to earn the respect of your boss and peers, and how it feels to be remembered fondly by them decades later. 

I recall my first weeks had me stuffing and salting the chickens in the back room ready to be put on the rotisserie poles.  I also recall cutting up the cold chickens to mix with mayonnaise to create chicken salad. I then progressed to the front of shop where I cooked the chips (fries), cut the chickens, tended to the salads, served customers and stocked the fridge. I was guided by a lovely Greek couple who were charged with managing the shop, who taught me the delights of team work and encouraged me to smile at the customers no matter how uncomfortable the heat of the coals behind me became.

I remember how nervous I'd be when the owner would arrive, with limited English, to check on us all. If I'd finished a task and stood for even a minute to catch my breath or contemplate what to do next, he'd roar at me "what you doing girl? No standing! Clean".  He probably wasn't roaring, but in that typical older European male way, he was very stern, forthright, unsmiling and commanded respect simply by his presence. As a result I always had a spray bottle of methylated spirits and a cleaning cloth at the ready to ensure at no point was I idle. No matter how clean the shop was, it could always be cleaner and no matter how busy I'd been, I could always be busier. 

It was in that space that my work ethic was born. Work hard, respect your managers, be kind to your customers, learn the trade, work your way up, never stand idle and recognise no matter where you end up there are still menial jobs that need to be done that requires a team effort. 

I look at my kids and wonder where there Charcoal Chicken reflections will come from. As they embark on their income generating activities and start to build careers, who will their lovely Greek couple be, what will their forthright and unsmiling European owner look like and in what form will their spray bottle of methylated spirits come? 

What was your first job?

Any income generating activities you remember with fondness?

Who were the people who helped shape you?

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  1. What a great post. First jobs, in some ways they also help us find what we don't want to do. I think your work ethic was within you before you started at the chicken shop! It's in built I think. Good luck to your kids. You and your husband have grown and shaped two almost adults into amazing citizens via your examples of community, volunteerism and working hard to reap rewards. Congratulations. Denyse x

  2. You learned some important lessons working in the chicken shop. I think it's great to have a variety of experiences in jobs before you settle on a career. My first job was as a ski instructor! When the snow melted, I worked in the snack bar at a local pool. Then I worked in a variety of waitress jobs before I got a job as a teacher. I was a teacher for over 30 years.

  3. My first job was in an ice cream shop - like a Wendy's. I also earned decent money at the time as a rugby league referee. Yep, I was one of the first. My first job out of uni was as a graduate trainee with Westpac down in Canberra - I'd left home & got a job down there because of a man. Naturally that didn't last, but I met my husband there & stayed with the bank for 12 years.

  4. My first job was working at Brooks Pharmacy stocking their makeup line. My best friend's mom was my boss.

  5. My first job was as a Coles Check Out Chick but I also got some casual work at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I used to ride my bike there from home and I worked in the cafe there serving devonshire tea etc. My first proper full time job after leaving school was in the Qld Govt. It was an um ... interesting experience. I actually wrote a series of posts about it. I'd have loved looking after the calves as you did but I would have struggled big time letting them go. I'm hopelessly soft which is why I ended up with two cats after my fostering venture! LOL

  6. My first job was working with my Dad as a dental assistant during the Christmas holidays while his other staff was on leave, just the two of us running the place. It was pretty busy and rather fun.

  7. My first job was delivering pamphlets ... a lot of effort and I also remember getting yelled at by people who didn't want them! My son worked at Red Rooster (chicken) for 8 years before finishing uni, so he could no doubt identify with your memories of working in blistering heat. Needless to say he is loving working in an office these days!

  8. My first job was babysitting, I earned enough money to buy my first car!

  9. My first job was Admin Assistant in the Library of a University. It was a great job as the students were the same age as me. Part of my duties was mail delivery around our every morning and every afternoon. I took the lift to the top of the 6 story building, then did mail deliveries and pick ups on each floor down to the basement. Great for exercise! I was there for 1 year, then moved to a job as Admin Assistant in the Counselling Services building. Also another great job!

  10. So very interesting. I worked in the hottest restaurant in my city first as dishwasher and then a busboy. This place was wild. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll was the mantra of the place. I learned a lot of about life and people in that place. I saw a lot of examples of a lot of successful people who very unhappy with their lives and turned to substances. It did shape me in a way.

    Thanks for hosting and I hope that you have a wonderful week.


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