First Jobs: From Volunteer to Paid Employee

I planted an idea into the mind of my 14-year-old daughter, EH, that this would be a good summer to volunteer somewhere. Independently, she made some plans. Now, she volunteers 3-4 hours per week at our local arboretum. She rides her bike there, a mile and a half, once a week and fulfills odd jobs around the gardens and trails like weeding and watering. This week the manager told her he would like to pay her for her work! She did so well and consistently showed up as a volunteer that they hired her. Her initiative paid her back.

We talk a lot about the self-confidence that youth receive in team sports or other activities, but real-life work opportunities bring them to a realization that they, too, have a valuable contribution to make in the world. She received the job by putting herself in a place where she showed her willingness to learn and a natural reward came. Those are the best life lessons my teen can receive as she begins her transition into the “real” world—one that is an obvious outgrowth of what we seek to encourage at home.

How about you? What was your first job? Did it feel like a foreign venture into an adult world that seemed to operate on a different level? Or was it a natural outgrowth from something you were already involved in? How did it build your confidence? What did you learn?


  1. Alison
    Jun 27, 2008

    My first job was when I was 13, volunteering at Village School’s camp – the preschool where I had graduated from nine years prior! With the exception of the next summer (candystriping at the hospital with you!) every other summer was spent working with kids, mostly at camps. And as you know, my career path has been entirely education-based, from teaching to curriculum development. What am I doing this summer? 23 years after volunteering at Village School’s camp, I’m volunteering at Zac’s preschool’s camp. Guess I’m not one for change… 🙂

  2. Ryan
    Jun 27, 2008

    My first real job was flipping greasy burgers at A&W. Those were the days….

    Before that, though, I worked several summers for people with yard work, garden work, or field work (hauling hay).

    Before I ever had “paying” work, I was involved in a lot of service projects, and the one thing I noticed about those and payed work was that payed worked was 83 1/2 times worse. I don’t know what it was; maybe the obligation, the expectations. I work better without that sort of thing. Hence the reason I would rather work at home.

  3. Minna Dyer
    Jun 27, 2008

    All I remember from my first job (about 20 years ago) was how cool it was to have my own money- shallow, I know.

  4. Rachel Corbett
    Jun 27, 2008

    Baskin Robbins! Following in the legacy of my big sis! Whew, I learned a lot there. How to love ice cream, how to flirt with boys 🙂 and a few other good thing like punctuallity, responsibility, and how to spend money wisely (and not so wisely too)!

  5. Paula
    Jun 27, 2008

    The summer my friends were all 16 and working their first jobs, I was 15 and not old enough to work at most places. However, my grandmother owned an old fashioned general store so I would work four days a week for her. After work I stayed with her and my great grandmother. I not only learned about getting along with other employees, how to service customers, but also how to live away from home if only three nights a week and about helping my great grandmother. I learned her formal education ended at third grade but she was still able to own a business with her husband. I learned injustice in the world when my grandmother would lend credit and sell to Chippewa Indians when other stores would not sell them goods and this was 1969. They could only purchase goods from reservation stores at much inflated prices or drive 20 miles to the nearest town in unreliable cars if they even owned one. I learned how it is possible to kill seven flies with one swat of a flyswatter if you are patient. The town was only 20 miles away but being much smaller and a resort town, it seemed to be 30 years back in time.

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