#125 Your first job

I used to run a sandwich shop.

Yes, I was a rootin’, tootin’, mayo-squirting king in the dirty mustard-smeared sandwich underbelly. I helped manage about a dozen high school kids and together we fired sandwiches down an assembly line, into paper bags, and right on out the door. I tell you, we served up Deliciousness with a capital D, and I miss those long days full of dirty aprons, melted cheese, and unlimited refills.

Part of my job at the sandwich shop was conducting interviews. I ended up sitting down with a lot of teenagers who were applying for their first ever job. They came in toting dog-eared resumes  that looked like the Microsoft Word template complete with skills like “Very punctual” and hobbies like “Insert hobbies here.”

I kept a notepad along the way and here are some actual excerpts from interviews I conducted back then.

Hold onto your mesh hats because we’re going in:

Me: So what did you end up doing when it got really busy at the sandwich place you used to work at?
Her: Oh, it wasn’t really a problem. We usually just locked the doors until we got through the lineup.
Me: You locked the doors?
Her: (confused) Yeah, but just until the line died down. We opened it up right after.
Me: Oh. That’s good.

Her: Also, another reason you should hire me is because I’ve always got along really well with people. …Well, except for a few people.
Me: What did you do in those situations? How did you guys figure things out?
Her: Well, I was her manager, so I just forced her to wash dishes in the back so no one would see her. Then she quit.
Me: Oh. Okay.
Her: And the other woman I didn’t like was really old.
Me: She was really old?
Her: Yeah. Way too old. Really old.
Me: Okay.

Me: Do you have a way to get to work?
Her: Well, I don’t have a car. But I might be able to take my sister’s car.
Me: Okay, cool. That’s not a problem?
Her: No. My sister’s boyfriend just… well, I don’t want to talk about it. My sister’s boyfriend just did something … and now she’s going to the East Coast… so I can probably get her car.
Me: Neat.

Me: What’s something you liked and didn’t like about your last job?
Her: I liked it because everyone was nice.
Me: What did they do?
Her: They were really nice.
Me: Okay. Was there anything you didn’t like about it?
Her: Some of the people weren’t that nice.
Me: So they weren’t all nice?
Her: No. I guess some were nice. Some weren’t nice.

Her: So yeah, I REALLY need a job right now.
Me: How long have you been looking?
Her: About a week. My insurance ran out last week.
Me: Oh, so you just started looking when it ran out then?
Her: Yeah. But I totally scored. I squeezed nine months out of them.
Me: … Congratulations.

Me: So do you have any questions about the restaurant?
Him: Yeah. Do you have an assorted sub?
Me: An assorted sub? Yeah. There are two different types of assorted subs.
Him: Cool. What’s on the first one?
Me: Well, it’s an Italian so it’s got salami, pepperoni, and ham.
Him: What about cheese?
Me: Yeah, there’s mozzarella.
Him: Sauce?
Me: Sauce? Oh, yeah, there’s vinaigrette on there. And it has tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and black olives, too.
Him: Hmm. …What’s on your steak sub?
(ten more minutes of him quizzing me on subs for no apparent reason)

Me: So you like to read?
Him: Yeah. I love reading. I really like fiction.
Me: That’s great. Are you reading anything right now?
Him: Yeah. Have you heard of a basketball player named Dennis Rodman?
Me: Yeah … are you reading Bad As I Want To Be? His autobiography?
Him: Yeah! (pause) It’s really good!
Me: Neat.

Me: So grab whatever you want. Lunch is on me. Then we’ll sit down and talk for a few minutes.
Him: I’ll have a turkey sub.
Girl behind counter: What size would you like?
Him: The biggest one.
Girl behind counter: Sure, anything else?
Him: Large coke.
Girl behind counter: Sure, anything else?
Him: Can I get a big cookie?
Girl behind counter: Sure, anything else?
Him: (looking at menu) Umm….
Me: (laughing) Do you eat at home?
Him: Yes.
Me: (laughing)
Him: (deadpan)
Me: (deadpan)
Him: (deadpan)

Me: So tell me about some of your hobbies.
Her: (ten second pause) Um… (giggles)
Me: Something you do after school?
Her: (lightbulb going off) Instant messenger?!
Me: Oh, yeah, Instant Messenger?
Her: Yeah! I like chatting with my friends.
Me: That’s cool. Is there anything else you do for fun? On any school teams or clubs?
Her: (ten second pause) Um… hanging out?
Me: Hanging out?
Her: (trying to explain it to me) Hanging out with friends?
Me: Right. Hanging out with friends.
Her: (happy I understand) Yeah!

Me: I’m going to give you a situation and I’d like to see how you think about it when you tell me what you would do, okay?
Her: Okay.
Me: Okay. You’re working the cash register. Suddenly a woman comes up to you holding a piece of plastic and complains that she found the plastic in her sandwich. She says to you that you broke her tooth and owe her a thousand dollars. What would you do?
Her: (scared face)
Me: It’s okay. There’s no right or wrong answer. Take your time.
(thirty seconds elapse)
Her: (holding scared face)
Me: It’s okay. Don’t worry. Take your time to think about it.
(thirty seconds elapse)
Her: Um. (giggles) Okay. I’m ready.
Me: Okay. What would you do?
Her: I’d give her the money.
Me: You’d give her a thousand dollars from the till?
Her: (realizing it probably sounds bad) Oh…uh, no! (long pause) I mean I’d give her my PERSONAL money.
Me: You’d give her a thousand dollars from your wallet?
Her: Yes.
(ten seconds of us staring at each other and blinking)

Me: Can you tell me about a problem you had while working with a group and how you resolved that problem?
Her: Um… (giggle)
Me: It’s okay. Take your time.
Her: Okay. (30 seconds pass) Okay, one time in marketing class I didn’t like my group so I did something else.
Me: You mean you left the group?
Her: Yeah. I asked the teacher if I could leave the group and she said yes. So I did some report or something.
Me: Oh, okay. And how did the rest of the group feel about it?
Her: I don’t know. They all stopped talking to me.
Me: Oh… okay. Well what didn’t you like about working with them?
Her: They were just ignorant.
Me: Can you tell me more about the project?
Her: Well, we had to make up a product and then advertise it. And we got cereal. But they wanted to make a cereal that was made out of rocks.
Me: Rocks?
Her: Yeah, I know. That’s why I left the group.
Me: They wanted to make a cereal out of rocks?
Her: Yeah.

Me: So you said you took marketing. What’s something you think we could do to help advertise the store?
Her: (thirty second pause, then a worried look)
Me: It’s okay. There’s no right or wrong answer. I’m just interested to see what you’d do to advertise.
Her: (nods, then another thirty second pause) Okay. I’m ready.
Me: Okay.
Her: I think you should do a whole bunch of TV ads?
Me: In this city?
Her: Yeah.
Me: Okay, okay, cool idea. What do you think that would cost?
Her: I don’t know. Probably a million dollars?

Me: How do you like your high school?
Her: It’s okay, but the teachers don’t like the kids. They think they know everything but they don’t. And all the kids are ignorant.
Me: Really? What are they ignorant about?
Her: Everything.
Me: (laughing) You mean because they think that a good breakfast cereal would be one with rocks in it?
Her: (confused look)

Well, honest and eager, we all once walked into our first job interview sweating buckets, too. But we learned a lot, we grew a lot, and eventually one day we got busy working.

So let’s stop for a moment today and remember that everything we know about work started way back on that very first gig. Whether it was flipping burgers, babysitting kids, or washing cars, all those of experiences added up to getting right where we are. Growing on the job, making office pals, and making a difference are all things worth respecting.

Today we say thanks to the job that started it all.


What was your first job?

The Book of (Holiday) Awesome comes out in three weeks! Read the first twenty pages here.

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91 thoughts on “#125 Your first job

    1. I totally agree, funniest ever!

      My first job was administrative assistant, but I knew someone at the company so it wasn’t that hard to get in. But when I had to attend meetings, the boss told me, “Don’t worry, just sit there and listen. You won’t understand anything at all for the first six months, then you’ll gradually start understanding a little more. Finally after a year you’ll be able to participate.” Great advice that really helped me get off to a good start.

      1. I wish the answer was something unexpected and clever, but no. Bags. We sold bags.

        Oh! Oh! And wallets! :D

        But we did have a little store in town called “The Mad Hatter”.

        ME: “Ha, so I guess they sell hats, right?”
        SISTER: “You’d think so, but no. They sell a random assortment of crap, like a $2 store or something.”
        ME: “…Oh.”

  1. My first job was working the clothing section of a department store. What a brave man to hire a 16 year old. Thanks Jonesy!!! I still use the values that I learned working there!

  2. Oh god, what a hoot!



    My first job was babysitting. I was a super-mega-all-the-time babysitter from like, 13 – 18 years old. My first “real” job — as in, one I was on a payroll for doing — was at a law firm the summer after I graduated high school. Way too high-stress for a summer job — especially the summer right before college!

    I love that you saved the notes … that’s brilliant. I’m ALWAYS jotting down weird stuff the kids in my class say. I already look back on them and laugh!

    1. Dude! I babysat between 15-20 kids regularly from 12-22. People have no idea how lucrative babysitting can be especially with a few wealthy families. I’ve gotten to travel across the country to babysit during vacations, had one family buy me a car at 18 just to pick their kid up from school and I have amazing contacts in almost every industry I can think of. Now some of my kids have kids and I feel old at the ripe age of 28. Even though I don’t sit anymore, some of those same families have now hired me as their teen’s math & science tutors part-time.

  3. That was hilarious! Rocks for cereal?
    Oh, my first job. I loved my first job. Part of me kind of wants to go back some times- if it wasn’t for the low pay and odd hours and bad customers. No, seriously…I loved my job. I worked at a convenience store for 3 years and when I left I was assistant manager. I had very close relationships with my co-workers, my boss and even some of the customers. I even met my husband there.
    I’ve never really had an interview either. My first job, all they did was ask if I had good transportation and gave me a short quiz on math and ‘situations’ that I could run into. I guess I passed the quiz. My second job, they hired me almost instantly. I was the only girl in the warehouse. No interview. The boss gave me a tour…that’s about it. My next job was more of a series of tests over a month. Very hard tests. It was to work at the Toyota warehouse building the cars on assembly lines. I loved that job too. Even the job I have now… still no interview. I started as a temp and they just hired me on full time after a few months.

  4. My first ‘real’ job, at fifteen, was working for a construction company, outside, in the wettest place in Scotland (Fort William). I did learn a lot but it was mostly about how to keep dry and fight off the cold! Happy days ;-)

    1. Awww, don’t be nervous!! Just don’t talk about everyone being ignorant, or making cereal out of rocks :)

      Hope it went ok, good luck with the job!

      1. Aw – I figured since it was such a popular topic cereal out of rocks would knock the socks out of my potential employer!!!


        It went well thank you for the luck!

  5. Those interviews were so hilarious to read! My first job was filing medical files in an OB/GYN office. It was boring, but it was only for one summer so I managed.

  6. My first job was de-tasseling corn during the summer in Indiana. Mud, spiders, corn rash, but I loved the pay check! I would freeze a can of Mountain-Dew overnight to pack in my lunch. Home made slushy!!

    My next real job was working at a roast beef sandwich shop. The owners sounded just like the Olympia Restaurant on SNL. “No Coke – Pepsi!”

  7. my first pay check job was a cashier at office max. I’m now terrified and slightly embarrassed of what I may have said during my interview!

    This was a hysterical & fabulous way to start a Friday – thanks for the laugh :)

  8. Oh my Gosh! This reminded me of my first ever interview.
    Thinking back I am a lil embarrased of how terrified I was for my first and second and third interviews, but I have survived them all, infact grown with each experience.

    Thanks for the lovely post!

  9. Oh my gosh, those interview stories are the best!

    Like Laura and TrixieRix, I did a LOT of babysitting during my teen years. I had some good gigs (Tuesday nights for a couple in a bowling league – baby already asleep) and some bad ones (maniac boys who tried to undress me under threat of releasing huge aggressive dog from it’s lair). Note: they were unsuccessful, and I never went back there, or any other house on that street.

    My first “payroll” type job was at the deli counter of the local grocery store. They hired a lot of students so it was pretty fun.

    1. My god! I don`t blame you. I`ve noticed that in can be the case that boys like those are good at heart and that angry dogs are half captive, made cruel and agressive because they have somehow become chained to a throng of much colder, calculating and dangerous owners. Still, I can see why you would try to avoid that street. Glad to hear that you had good babysitting experiences too.

      1. “No sissies” rules, but I like this one too:)
        How’s about this one…
        “My sister’s boyfrined did something, so now they’re going east, so I should get her car!” LOL

        1. I see what you’re doing! That song has a pretty long list of rules. You might want to check the lyrics again.

          1. Actually, now I’ve totally messed up the flow and I don’t know what to do…
            I was referring to Neil’s interview, “Do you have a way to get to work?” story… TOO funny!

  10. My first job was Kmart, and I’m pretty sure I got the job because my mom worked there too. :)

    My favorite job interview was for Pizza Hut, when I answered a question (one of those generic, “Tell me about a situation where you did well at work.” questions) and the boss looked at me, said, “What did you do, STUDY for this thing!??!” and proceed to ask me that after every answer.

  11. The only job that counts as a 1st job is the one I took out of college. it started out okay, til I realized the owner of the pie shop was not only horribly insecure, but terribly arrogant and aggressive. You couldnt have your own opinions about how cold it was outside, or that you disliked skiing (which she adored) Also, she constantly lied to her boyfriend/co-owner turned fiance now husband about the produce she bought among other purchases, he in turn would call her stupid and it was easy to see why her dad hated her. He was an idiot who didn’t know what 5×10, had less than an 8th grade reading level, was chauvinistic and had a blind loyalty to Rush Limbaugh. He was a Northern Hick. He was a bully. . He was a rude asshole. You could never even gently address ANY of these issues with her, because she’d in turn blame YOU for everything. It was just a bad situation all around.
    Her dad and step mom treated her like shit, and her mom. brother and grandma had all died in the same year several years before. She had no clue how to run a business, treat employees or be a kind person. She was vile to customers who questioned her high prices for her average pies.

    So I quit New Year’s Eve 2010. But it paid pretty okay. Wonder how her divorce will turn out.

  12. I’ve liked most of my jobs and have worked hard, successfully or not, at pretty much every single one so this post made me laugh. Ha! Flipping beef, babysitting and car washing, has anyone ever done all three? Classic.

    1. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

        1. Ok. I’ve listened to “No Sissies” lyrics repeatedly; on this note I figure this: *What’s left to choose from on the planet?!* LOL!
          Seriously, in my opinion, success is love! You have a job to do~good luck!

          1. Ha! I totally had the same thought the first time I heard that song!
            I couldn’t agree more Wendy, love is the most beautiful expression of living. It just kinda makes me want to dive right in! Thanks for wishing me luck!

  13. My first job was McDonald’s. I absolutely loved it! It’s funny how such a place can make contacts for life. I met my husband there, and two of our best friends today used to work with us then!

    1. oops o^o
      * ohmygosh… these interviews… ( insert heart here )
      thankyou so much for posting these,
      -rolls- I spit out my water so many times reading this ;u;
      this totally made my day.***********

  14. LOL. (deadpan)

    Loved this! I know what I’d like to see you blog about after the 1000th awesome thing is posted. ;)

    Besides babysitting, my first job was at a BBQ joint. It was…sticky.

  15. Both hilarious and beautiful reminiscent post, Neil.
    I babysat, nannied, and berry-picked~ painstaking positions for pittens!
    At 15 a community, “work to support self while staying in school” program, selected me for what was called “on the job training” as a long term care aide, in a 5 floor, 100 bed nursing home. Some days, changing a baby never looked so good. It was interesting, to say the least!
    It was union and really good pay- more than most minimum wage now! I rec’d cost of living increases and shift differentials. Discovered stats pay was so incredible, I was happy to cover shifts through holidays! What’s more valuable~ my life and I was otherwise dishevelled, yet the residents, (I adored), nick-named me “Sunshine”!
    This is a look at my first ever first aide course-
    First question: “Should a decapitated person be given CPR?”
    Me: “Why YES! We should always try to save a person. It’s only a doctors right to make a call time of death.” (Likely seen in a movie).
    When asked to read a question out with this word, I read it just like this-
    “Esso-fay-guss.” How much do you think class laughed and how red I was!
    I often wondered why I was chosen for this position…brains you might ask- hahaha! Likely my compassionate spirit! I stayed through my teens, to show appreciation to/for those who helped me out, then continued education in health care and life skills *academically* with honors!
    I learned so very much about the importance of caring for others as well as having faith in the circle of life!
    Thanks for the reminder Neil and everyone who shared here in:)

    1. I just learned that “shine” is alike iridescence~ IS the colour of FAITH!
      Now all these years later, it all makes sense! I understand and wanted to clarify here! My hope is you’ll keep faith~ “shine”~ AND say, “NEAT!”

  16. As Kingpin, it is your responsibility to make sure that everything on this list
    and the closing checklist is done properly. If someone has not done their taskproperly, please ask them to redo it, and then recheck it.

    3. Ensure that there is one full bottle of every dressing and two of Ranch
    and Bacon Alfredo.

  17. We used to have issues with applicants understanding of English. Interviews were a nightmare:
    Me: Hello, what is your name
    Applicant: Yes

    Me: No, No, what is YOUR name
    Applicant: Yes

    Me: YOUR N.A.M.E
    Applicant: yes

    Me: No – ok, My NAME is DARREN, What is your name
    Applicant: Please, Job

    Me: YOUR AGE –
    Applicant: Yes please

    Me: Where are you from?
    Applicant: Mother

    1. We’re in tears laughing! Can’t help but imagine this top follow-
      2nd. Applicant: I’m from Mother too!
      Say, do you know Yelmer Houdachik?

  18. The young girl’s decision to leave her team was premature…if the cereal was made with nutritional value and raw sugar sweetness, in shapes and colours of cobble stones, “Cereal Rocks”, team really had a hit=D

  19. Oh man. that’s hillarious.
    My first job was at the Ministry of Natural Resources in one of their youth employment programs. It was the best job I think I’ll ever have. Way better than the summer camp job I had this year. Decent hours, great co-workers, variety, interesting educational stuff, and, most importantly to a student, I got paid minimum wage. The summer camp paid me half that for three times the work.

  20. Aww!! I am sooo nervous at interviews. I am terrible at interviews, well actually, I can’t be because I’ve gotten every job I’ve had an interview for. I was so nervous at my second interview on one job, I spent about 10 minutes correcting myself because one of the reasons I was leaving was my new manager sucked and I made it sound like I couldn’t get on with people, so I kept saying that I got on well with my girls and the chefs but not the manager and lots of people are having problems with him… and literally it was forever and then the guy interviewing me said he wanted to speak with his wife. And I was sat there thinking, I totally don’t have this job and then my now boss came back to me offering me the job. I cried, and hugged both of them! I’ve worked for him and his wife ever since!

  21. This post had me cracking up!! Especially the two involving the rock cereal. It’s gold! Haha! … I still hope with every interview I go for that I don’t sound like this. :-\

  22. That was hilarious! I loved all your replies to the kids “Neat” haha the kids were so funny. It was a great way to end that post. :)

  23. My first job was corn detassling. I lasted the summer, barely. Blisters, corn rash, and near heat stroke. There was no job interview and the people I worked with were nice, but I was so exhausted by the middle of each day that the mud puddles in the middle of the field look like wonderful places to lie down and rest, or pass out. Next summer, my mom got me a job where she worked. But she made me think that there were a ton of teens applying for the job, and that I might not get it. Her friend that worked there interviewed me and when I said I liked to paint she hired me on the spot. Among other work I ended up painting some rooms and the front porch of the building, which means that I would go home some days covered head to toe in paint. I was still cleaner coming home then, than I was when corn detassling though.

  24. My first job was at 13 taking care of dogs and cats in a kennel at a vet clinic where my mom worked. I made $5 an hour which was double minimum wage at that time. Probably still one of my favorite jobs!

  25. so gold! i applied for a job once where they asked what my favorite subject was, i said ‘maths’, they said ‘maths?’, i said ‘yeah, it’s peaceful’, they said ‘it’s peaceful?’. i didn’t get that job, not sure exactly why ;o)

  26. Berry picking for wine-makers, pie and preserve makers. Lot’s of wild scars from the thorns and very little money made.
    I wished I’d known about corn detassling; sounds silky-soft and far more awesome:0)

  27. Reblogged this on 1000awesomefriends and commented:
    This post is special for me… being a late arrival to the community of 1000 Awesome Things, this is the first post I ever commented on and sent to all my friends and coworkers. I still crack up every time I read it! So to everyone out there who has ever had a job, you know what your first job was like… and your first job interview. Be honest, how badly did you really do? ;)

  28. You will never stand taller than when you stoop to save a child.
    Thank goodness there are people like you with their heart in the right place!

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