From fast food to weeding, first jobs teach lifetime of skills

Thursday , June 28, 2018 - 10:37 PM

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TX. Correspondent

Ah, the wonderful age of 16, a birthday that marks the beginning of many “firsts.” We have first dates, first cars, and the biggest one of all — first jobs.

Like many adults will tell you, having a job isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. There are so many new responsibilities to take care of, all of which are there to prepare you for adulthood.

I imagined my first job would be tons of fun every single day and I would make enough money to swim in it. That’s not exactly how it went.

Working teaches us how to put in the effort and be rewarded for it. In a way, it makes us grow up faster. Now that you have a regular income, you need to get a bank account, and maybe pay for some of your stuff like gas, car insurance, or extra outings you want to go on.

This responsibility can be a great thing. In two years, 16-year-olds will hopefully be graduating and moving on in life. They’ll need to know how to balance a checkbook and pay taxes, and how to stretch their money as far as they can.

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One of the perks of working is money. Just like the old saying, “Money talks,” those big bucks will talk to you even more once you have a job. Want to waste $5 dollars and go buy some fast food? Knock yourself out! Want to buy a $50 video game or new clothes? Sure, you got the money.

The only question you have to ask when making money is do I really need that video game or those new clothes.

• Do your best

Of course, jobs nowadays are different than they were 20 years ago. I talked to a few adults to learn about how their first jobs went, starting with my mom, Jill Jenkins. She explained to me that she worked at KFC as her first paying job. She made roughly $5 an hour, but never got the benefit of tips. Like at every other fast food job, she did receive free food, which was one of her favorite perks.

My mom only ever took customers’ orders, and later described this as being the best part of her job. Being a people person, she enjoyed talking with different customers and learning as much as she could from a simple conversation. The most important thing she learned at KFC was, “Always be happy no matter what job you are doing. Make the best with what you have; you can learn something from each situation.”

Malinda Nelson —  most commonly known for being a science teacher at North Ogden Junior High — had her first job when she was 16. She worked in Matrix marketing, and spent her days answering phone calls. On average, Nelson says she made $4.35 an hour without tips.

Her favorite part of her job was, “Getting money,” but she added, “I got to do my homework at work when things were slow.”

Nelson said she learned how to listen well to callers, especially because some of them had thick and confusing accents. This helped her develop the skill of paying close attention and listening, which are both things that have made her such a great teacher.

• No shortcuts

Brooke James, a receptionist who works at Wasatch Therapy, said her first job was working at a Subway at Lagoon amusement park in Farmington. Because she was only 14 when she got the job, James was only paid $4.25 an hour. She worked for a full eight hours, with hardly any breaks.

While this sounds awful, James said it taught her how to work hard. She also learned how to deal with the public, and says that this skill helped her go farther in life. Much like Nelson, her favorite part of the job was talking with the customers and serving others.

Now, these are all regular and generic jobs. But 20 years ago, kids in Utah were also doing work for free at their parents’ farms. My dad, Rusty Jenkins, did this very thing. Every day, he would have to move irrigation pipe and pull rye weeds. He only started getting paid when he was 14, and got $5 an hour.

My dad moved pipe every couple of hours every morning and night, and in between that time, he pulled rye. He said his favorite part of his job was it being done, which is probably true for every worker. Much like everyone else, my dad said that the most important thing he learned was hard work. He knew that he had to get his job done quickly and get it done right. He learned to never take shortcuts, because those always end in disaster.

• Spreading cheer

As for me, I have had only one job since being 16. I got offered a job working at Pizza Pie Café. I try and work hard while I’m there, serving the customers and making sure they have what they need.

I work the salad bar; I have to constantly fill it and keep it clean. Some days are harder than others. But sometimes, I’ll get a compliment on how good I’m doing, or a little kid will tell me how much they love my restaurant.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my job is that I should be there to bring people happiness. They have come out to eat with their friends and family, and they want to have a nice meal together. I’m there to make them smile as much as I can. Whether that’s filling them up with food or simply getting them what they need, I’m there to do it.

A job will always be hard — especially a first one. But if you stick with it, and give it your best shot, then things will end up just fine. Most of all, remember this: Hard work pays off and even though first jobs aren’t easy, they can teach us valuable lessons for the rest of our lives.

Taylor Jenkins will be a junior this fall at Weber High School. Email her at