#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.

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

91 thoughts on “#125 Your first job

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