Alexis is a special education teacher and a Jacklyn of all trades. She enjoys traveling, writing, and playing the violin.
Reflections on Working in High School
Weeks after I turned 15 years old, my mother laid a single sheet of paper on the kitchen table after dinner. It was a job application to the newspaper that she and two other family members worked. I was told I would be getting a job and working during the summer. Eager to make more money than I was mowing lawns and babysitting, I filled it out and within two weeks I was working after school or on Saturdays two nights a week. Once summer hit, it increased, but remained steady at around 20 hours a week.
Unlike many of my peers, my first job was not in retail or fast food. I worked behind the scenes at a newspaper company, in the mailroom. It was a good first job because the work conditions were good (15 minute mandatory breaks and 30 minute lunch breaks) and I became friends with some of the older women I worked for. My role required a variety of duties including labeling newspapers, correlating papers and general administrative duties. It was easy work, especially compared to friends who worked construction or in food services.
Since I was only 15, I didn’t yet have my drivers license and my state didn’t allow learners permits, at the time, until you were 15 years and 9 months old. Therefore, I relied on very generous transportation from my grandmother (mostly) and dad. When I was 17, I got my first car and with it the expense of filling my ‘terrible on gas’ car. Pay was also lower at the time than the current $8 now in my state. I started off making a measly $5.50 an hour, but it was bumped to $6 an hour shortly afterwards.
I still remember getting my first bimonthly paycheck of $50 which seemed like a lot considering that’s how much I generally got in birthday money. I remember vowing to use that money on just myself before plunging into into my savings & checking. With my very first paycheck I bought my own copy of Final Fantasy VIII & Final Fantasy IX.
Getting my own car two years later, I started incurring more expenses and in my senior year, extra work and a devotion to friends (ok and dates) meant less time working. Sometimes though, I would get a note in my honors science class from my work asking me to come in after school that day (I was on-call). I remember almost crying once because I’d already scheduled a date and having to quickly call them after class to not come in. Thankfully they were understanding, but I never did it again due to a lecture from my parents (guy turned out to be a jerk, so there’s parental wisdom for you!)
This was of course a one time thing because I
b) didn’t want to lose my job
c) Would never hear the end of it
This was great, because it reinforced the importance of communication, flexibility and commitment. My family members are all workaholics (not in particularly healthy ways!) which were relayed to me. Supervisors called me in first and praised me consistently. I realized I was a good and valuable worker, which is something that has carried over in every job I’ve held.
That being said, we can’t ignore the hardships of having a part-time job. As mentioned in the earlier paragraph, it did mean losing time with friends occasionally. One of my friends moved to Japan after graduation and I never say her again, same with a friend from Russia. However, I equate that to part of life because sometimes you never realize a simple hangout may be the last time you see a person. I wouldn’t say my grades suffered as my job took the place, mostly, of time I’d simply be playing video games or reading a book.
In closings, a true reflection is one that requires you to analyze how you would do things differently given the things that you know now. Of course, having been in the work force for twelve years and obtaining two degrees (with more to come!), there are certainly things that can really influence how you reflect on your employment history.
That being said, if I could go back I would’ve requested to have worked more hours and used that money to save up for college. Thankfully my first two years of college was free, but the remaining 3 (I doubled majored and transferred to a private college) I had to pay for out of pocket after scholarships. Being a teenager, I was thinking more about the short-term and if I could go back I wouldn’t have spent so much on DVDs, books and eating out with friends.
I also wish I’d put more money into my savings & started a 401K at that point. I did open a checking account and savings account prior to working and did do well, compared to many peers, of saving my money so that I had a decent amount of money prior to going to college. The regret of how much I spent on media and eating out is certainly a factor in this, but once I hit college I realized a lot of errors in how I spent my money. These days, I only buy things I need or can reuse and shop for sales.
In overview conclusions, I couldn’t imagine abetter first job than the one I had for learning what working was like. I was able to transition these skills to my second job, working at a farmers market, the summer I graduated high school. Of course, I also learned how to take two college level classes while balancing two jobs during this time!
© 2018 Alexis
Ian Rideout from Alberta, Canada on March 12, 2018:
I had that job for three-and-a-half years, so I can say that I gave it a fair chance. Overall, I do think it was a valuable life experience for me. Just not something I'd want to do again. It gave me more respect for retail workers too.
Alexis (author) on March 09, 2018:
@Ian -Retail is really tough and the feeling of not wanting to go back is completely understandable. I don't know how people are able to do long stints. I know I couldn't, so I have nothing but respect for people who work in retail. Two of my closest friends work in retail, both managers. The stories they tell me...you really can't make some things up.
Ian Rideout from Alberta, Canada on March 08, 2018:
I've always been pretty careful with spending and saving money myself, but I do agree that it's something that should be taught. It really is a valuable life skill.
My first couple of jobs were technology-based, but I also spent a few years working as a courtesy clerk at Safeway. If that job taught me one thing, it's that I never want to work retail again if I can help it. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly it is I want to do, but at least I know what it isn't.
"In closings, a true reflection is one that requires you to analyze how you would do things differently given the things that you know now." Very true.
Alexis (author) on February 12, 2018:
It really should be. A personal finance class should be mandatory in a students sophomore or junior year of college, with the option for class differentiation depending on a students after graduation choice. Some countries do it already and the United States should follow suit.
Eastward from Bangkok, Thailand on February 11, 2018:
I couldn't agree with you more about saving earlier on. Saving and investing should really be a class all its own in school. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have been saving up and preparing to study overseas (at a much more reasonable cost)!