5 Jobs That Taught Me a Lot

I’m a firm believer in the fact that everyone needs to work in some form of customer service job at some point in their lives.  My retail jobs taught me patience.  Period.

I’ve had all kinds of jobs.  There was even a summer during which I worked three jobs while taking a class.  (Call me crazy, but it was actually kind of fun.)  While I have learned a lot about myself in every job, I feel like these five shaped who I am today more than most.  So here they are, in no particular order.

Receptionist at a Church

This was my very first job, at the parish I grew up attending.  Though the pay was nothing to brag about, it was the perfect job for a high school student — we signed up for our own shifts, and as long as they were all covered, my boss didn’t care when we worked.  Being my first job, it taught me… how to have a job.  How to show up on time, politely respond to people who were being rude, figure out answers to things I should have been told but wasn’t, and convince my boyfriend to bring me dinner when I forgot one.  (What?)

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Waitress

I was the worst waitress that has ever existed.  If you ever came into Lonestar in 2005 and had me as your waitress, I’m so very sorry.  I tried hard.  I really did.  But I would get so absorbed in making sure one table had everything they needed that I’d completely forget about the other two until they flagged me down or something appeared for them.  I think this job was only profitable because my parents would come and leave me good tips.  This job taught me to be patient with wait staff at restaurants and be a really good tipper.  (That said, I can also be exceptionally crabby if I can tell we’re the only table a waiter/waitress has and they are never around.  But mostly I’m really patient.)

Cashier at Menards

This was one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had.  I can’t say I’d love it so much if I did it now — perhaps it was the timing — but I absolutely loved it.  I worked at Menards just after graduating college and during my first semester as a first grade teacher.  Above all else, this job taught me the power of positive mental attitude.  I set out to enjoy this job, and I did.  I found things to love: working in the Garden Center, where there was little supervision and I could talk to my new friend (who is now a very close friend); chatting with customers; working the customer service desk.  I never minded a shift at this place.  In fact, the only reason I quit was because working seven days a week means you have no life.

Sales Associate at a Children’s Clothing Store

People are total slobs when they shop.  The amount of clothing we found on the floor or stuffed in random places at the end of the day never ceased to amaze me.  Now, I try to at least hand things I don’t want to a cashier when I’m leaving.  I’m also more patient (or at least I try to be) when something goes wrong or lines at the checkout are long.  And those credit cards they always try to get you to sign up for?  They don’t like asking about any more than you like hearing about it.  Just politely decline.

And of course… Teacher

Leaving teaching is one of the most difficult decisions I ever made.  But that job taught me the most of all.  I learned more patience and understanding than I thought I had.  I learned that sometimes you have to let go of the thing you thought you always wanted, and that things aren’t always what they seem.  I learned that for me to be happy, I need time to run, swim, bike, and explore other interests.  Summers off didn’t outweigh the massive lack of free time I had during the school year.  I didn’t go into teaching thinking it would be easy, but I had no idea just how time-consuming it would be.  (For me.  I was also a crazy perfectionist about it at times, and that could have been part of the problem.  There were other factors, too, that I won’t discuss here.)  I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn about work-life balance and for all of the wonderful students I got to teach.  Teaching also led me to other things I still enjoy.

I still have massive love for teachers and education, which is why I love this Matt Damon video so much.

What jobs have you had?  What have they taught you?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “5 Jobs That Taught Me a Lot

  1. That was a fantastic video. The poor guy needed a glass of water though ! I was a college instructor for two years at a private school. I quit the day the executive director advised me that the students weren’t going to be able to do the program they wanted but would do whatever she told them. For them, it wasn’t about the students, it was about the dollars and that’s not how I roll. I loved teaching. I loved the prep, I loved the tutoring, I loved it all. But not enough to sell my soul. I’ve done retail (not my favorite), waitressing (quite good at that), medical secretary (loved it) and my latest venture is with Girl Guides of Canada which I love the most. Having said that, after four years I am moving on to go back to college in the fall for Corporate Communicaions. I’ve learned that I can find success in a number of fields and I’m not afraid to try new things. I’ll take the skills I’ve learned so far and hopefully apply it to a new career with new things to learn.

    PS – I think it was you who posted about the one minute to put it away ?? If so – thank you ! I’ve used it a ton and use it on my kids.

    • Thank you! I left teaching for a myriad of reasons, none of which was the actual “instructing students” part.

      And yes, the one minute rule is me too. :) It is saving my house a lot of unnecessary mess, too! Glad it’s working for you.

  2. So true about teaching. I subbed for 2 3/4 years before getting a long-term sub assignment, and I could not believe how it knocked me on my ass. I seriously spent all my waking time either working or thinking about working – weekends included. It was all consuming – but it a good way. I was starting to worry I was lazy, turns out I was just bored. Once I had a reason to care I was all about it!

    They say teachers have a higer burnout rate than any other profession. Yeah… I can see it. Especially if you’re doing it right.

    • Oh yes. Teaching is all I ever wanted to do. And then I taught for three years. I absolutely loved the 8:30 – 3:30 with my students, but beyond that, there was a whole lot I didn’t feel I was prepared for. And I felt like I wasn’t a whole person — like teaching was all I was doing!

  3. Great post Lauren. I laughed out loud at the apology to people you waited on, I worked as a waitress briefly and can say with some confidence that I was probably worse at it than you.

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