What I Wish I Knew At My First High School Job

I remember it as if it happened yesterday: my first job in high school. I was fed up with asking my mom for money, so I decided it was time to find a job. My mom didn’t want me to work and cautioned me that once I started working, I wouldn’t be able to stop. What she feared was that it would take me away from my schoolwork.

I was in no mood to listen to anyone, not even to my mom. I just wanted my own money.

My job search began in earnest and I landed a job making sandwiches at the mall. I loved it. I loved the camaraderie, I loved the money, and I loved that first step towards adult independence.

I worked hard making sandwiches (I find it tough to look at a roast beef sandwich nowadays with good feelings), cleaning, and helping customers. But it was hard work. I had to clean stuff, help customers, manage cash, arrive on time, and learn how to budget and save my money.

I discovered that customers weren’t always easy to work with – especially when they were hungry. My clothes always smelled like food, and after making the first five hundred sandwiches, I no longer loved sandwiches so much, either.

But behind all those annoyances, I was being shaped for the future. Working at the local sandwich store was among the many part time jobs that I took on during high school.

But each one was a stepping stone to a future career.

For high school students preparing for adulthood, your first job is an important milestone for a number of reasons:

  • Learning how to manage your own money. This is huge. You will experience the sting of discovering what FICA is (Federal Income Contribution Act) and the conversation about actual take-home pay versus money earned.
  • You learn how to work. You would think that work is “easy,” but there is a process to being a good employee. You have to show up on time and you’re now accountable to your coworkers.
  • You learn to be responsible. It’s similar to learning how to work. Employees are responsible for learning company talking points, safety standards, and the mundane tasks that keep the business running.

Many people would say that you have to be careful about the type of job that you decide to take up. I disagree. Even an entry-level, part-time job can teach you a number of transferable skills that can be used later on in life.

Let’s face it, a lot of people are terrible workers.

You know, there’s the person who stands and whines all the time, the person who hustles, and the brownnoser.

Figure out what type of worker you would like to be. And you don’t want to be any of the three mentioned here!

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this year that the youth labor force had increased dramatically in July. Those young people are well on their way to building their future careers and wealth.

The younger you start saving, the more time you have to grow your wealth.

Your first job is also your formal introduction to personal finance matters. When you proudly hold that check in your hands, you also notice the deductions and begin to ask questions about money, taxes, and fairness!

After all, when your mother gives you an allowance, it comes with no strings attached. While making sandwiches, you realize that there are forces out there that you need to battle, and building a pile of savings is one way to win.