I love this time of the year and one of the things that I really like about it is coming across so many young people who are clearly working in their very first summer jobs.
I love their youth, their energy and their enthusiasm (hopefully!) and I wonder about the valuable part that this first job will play in their professional lives.
It makes me reflect on my first job, many moons ago.
Growing up in the north west of Ireland had many advantages, especially during the summer months. We had long days, with lots of tourists milling about and as I remember through my rose tinted glasses, the sun was always shining in Donegal!
Although we always had a lot of fun, we were no strangers to hard work either. That work ethic gave me a real respect for the value of earning a wage.
My parents returned to Ireland from London in the late fifties and opened a small corner shop at the bottom of the main street in a small village called Glenties (this name is derived from the word ‘The Glens’ as it is situated where two glens meet, west of the Bluestack Mountains).
Initially the store sold basic supplies, the necessities, like bread, milk, butter and newspapers.
If you consider their typical customer at that time, it was quite an ambitious plan. Glenties was a very rural town (a population of under 1,000 ) where most of the community baked their own bread, grew their own vegetables and used their cows for milk and butter. People were very self-sufficient.
However, the family business grew and thrived.
Both my parents were very innovative and committed to providing excellent customer service. They introduced new product lines, like frozen foods, or what was considered rare fruits back then, such as pears and tangerines. They built a reputation for having really great ice cream and the business grew and from the initial small room to other parts of the house.
During those exciting years with the business growing, my brothers and I chipped in and helped in the shop, after school and in the evening, at weekends and during holiday times.
Being part of the family meant sharing the work load.
This is where we really learned the valuable lesson of working to earn pocket money. We weren’t just given money, we had to earn it. If we spent all our money and wanted to go to the cinema or if we wanted to buy the new Thin Lizzy album and didn’t have any money left, my dad found a job for us in the shop. And there were many of those jobs to choose from!
Back then, eggs came in a large box and had to be packed into smaller, dozen and half dozen cartons. Potatoes came in four and eight stone bags and needed to be packed into smaller size bags.
None of us liked filling out the potatoes. The fear of that foul-smelling potato hidden somewhere in the sack and the horrible sensation when your fingers slid inside that rotten potato…yeuch!
And then there were the customers – as we know only too well these can come in all sorts and sizes and like each of us they all have their own quirks and strange habits.
Each of us served behind the counter and we all had the responsibility of looking after the customers – in a small village we were dependant on a small number of people and it was up to us to make sure that they were happy and kept returning.
While it was tough and every one of us was expected to do their part to look after the family business, these were special, simple days that will warmly stay with me forever.
Learning the value of hard work and the importance of customer service are valuable lessons that have stood to me throughout my career – these apply in my parents little grocery store just the same as they do in a global organisation such as CompTIA.
Thank you mum and dad!
What did you learn from your first job?