“Our introduction to the working world may have come during our high school years or even before that as a babysitter, newspaper boy or even a one-person lawn care company. Generally we begin as a cashier, bag boy, buggy boy, waiter/waitress, host/hostess, or in some position within the fast food industry, which is most common.”
I, like many others of my age started working early in life, well before the legal working age, and often as a means of assisting our families with expenses. I began my working journey in a small postal annex, I sorted mail by zip code, weighed packages, accepted deliveries, and even sold travel tickets for Greyhound, along with Ticketmaster events of every type. I loved the work, I loved the job, and I loved the skills I learned every day at work.
A few years later and just barely under legal working age, I took on a second job at a local eatery. I was in charge of ensuring the parking spaces and outside the restaurant were clean and free of any debris. The restaurant was Sonic Drive-In and the parking spaces were equivalent to customer’s dining areas in a standard restaurant, Carhops or waitresses roller skated customer’s food and drinks to their cars, where they ate. At 14, this was the coolest restaurant around, and I was told that if I did a good job sweeping, scrubbing, rinsing, and maintaining the cleanliness of the stalls, that upon legal working age I’d be hired on to do more work. That gave me some additional motivation to perform well, although I had already set that goal and wanted more than anything to work as a Carhop.
Almost a year later when I was able to obtain a work permit, I was promoted to Carhop, I got an upgraded uniform and more responsibilities. I retained my position as the maintenance person for the stalls, cleaning them twice weekly along with the additional hours waitressing. I learned everything there was to learn, I learned prep work for front of the house, how to mix drinks, slushies, and milkshakes, I learned the cash register, ordering system, and even how to prepare the food.
By the time I was 16, I was a shift manager in charge of the restaurant and many employees older than myself. The skills I learned in this position led to many other management positions, from shift management to store manager, and even as a general manager responsible for multiple stores, in a variety of restaurants. For example, at 18, I took a job at Papa John’s Pizza, I was hired as a crew member to learn the Papa’s way of preparing menu items, prep work, and other required skills, within 2 weeks I was promoted to shift manager, and a month later I took over the store as the acting store manager, then in less than 6 months, I was given additional stores to manage and report on to my immediate supervisor.
I, like many other women, worked through pregnancy and up to the day of delivery. I performed my daily duties and then returned home to care for my children. This was a daily routine until I had a special needs child, he required many trips to specialists and this led to me taking a leave of absence from my position. At times it is necessary to take a leave of absence from your place of employment, whether it be to care for yourself, a child, a spouse, or even a parent. There are other reasons to take a leave of absence, however to me medical care was the only reason I’d take a leave. If you’re unaware of what a leave of absence entails, here’s what you need to know:
- You are NOT quitting your job!
- You are able to return from your leave at any time, as long as there is a position available for you to return to.
- Your place of employment does NOT have to keep your position open for you. They are able to fill your position, they may opt to fill it with a temporary worker until you are able to return, or they may fill it permanently.
- You may be offered a position in a different department, or at a lower tier in the company until your regular position becomes available. (Expect a reduction in pay for lower tiered positioning)
- If you do take a leave of absence and desire to return to work, where no position is available, you may opt to seek employment from another company that can utilize your skill set and get yourself back into the workforce faster.
- You may opt to return to school to obtain new skills or even a whole new career.
After my need to be on leave expired, there was no position for me to fill at my last place of employment, so I returned to school to study a combination of programs. My interest was in computer repair, PC programming, graphic design, web programming/design, and business. Ironically, many of my courses required the same classes to complete the program, this made it easy to complete all my interests in an efficient manner, and leave school holding multiple degrees that would allow me to move into a slew of positions in just about any company.
I was also able to utilize the skills I was learning as I completed coursework. I took entry level positions within companies that would allow me to practice my new skills and learn new ones that would benefit me for the rest of my working life.
Stay tuned to Uptasker for the next article in this series ‘A Journey Through Employment: Lessons Learned & Skills Earned Part 3’ where we take an in depth look at the post college years. This is where general employment becomes a career.