My first job: Working at the local mall

Shoppers packed into Tysons Corner Center, a mall in suburban Washington, on Christmas Eve.

All year long we're asking people to tell us their first job stories: What you learned, what's stayed with you, what was humilitating, what you still think about.

Michael Price, writer and co-executive producer of "The Simpsons," talks about his first gig at a women's clothing store at the local mall.

"It was all sort of embarrassing to me because I grew up in a family of all boys. I had no sisters. I was painfully shy around girls, and here I was working in a women's clothing store where there were women and girls walking around all the time. And I really had no clue what to do about it."

 Check out Price's interview on Marketplace Money: Family finance lessons from 'The Simpsons'

What was your first job? What did you learn? Comment below, on our Facebook page or tweet us @MarketplaceAPM with #MyFirstJob.

About the author

Michael Price is a writer and co-executive producer of "The Simpsons."
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This topic of first job stories inspired me to create a website where people can share their inspiring job stories, not just their first jobs but the ones which made a difference in their lives. In today's times where so many people are looking for jobs these stories, I feel, will help motivate these people as well as the ones who are making a career change. This site will help your story become a case study for everyone to get inspired or motivated.

Please do share your stories at www.yourjobstory.com. Thank you for visiting.

When I was in high school I was the A-V guy. A contractor came to the school to install some new equipment and I helped him. A little while later I received a call from the school's principle asking if I was interested in a summer job with the contractor. They needed someone to go to county fairs during the summer to install their sound systems. I ended up living in a Holiday Rambler trailer with a man who was at least 400 lbs. It seems I was hired to climb telephone poles to install speaker because when the boss climbed the poles they tended to fall over.

I learned a lot that summer. For example, I learned the role of the straight man in joke telling. I also learned that, no matter how much you love Italian sausage, there is a time when it is too much.

The ironic part of the story is that when I was a small child my mother was a stunt driver with auto thrill shows. She had appeared at many of the same county fairs. The man I ended up working with remembered her and had some great stories of those days. He even remembered me as a six year old attending some of my mother performances.

When I was 13 my 8th grade class was taking a trip to Washington D.C. and I desperately wanted to go. My mom, being a single mom of three kids and a teacher, told me that she did not have the money to pay for the trip; if I wanted to go, I'd have to pay for it myself. I contacted a family friend that owned a local restaurant and asked him if I could go to work for his restaurant to pay for the trip. He agreed to allow me to wash dishes and bus tables. The bonus was that he paid for my trip in full with the agreement that I would continue working for him and reimburse him.

I worked for his restaurant for a year before the trip was finally paid off; however, I didn't quit once my debt was repaid. I continued working there until the night before I moved out of state to go to college. I even got to quit washing dishes and moved into hostess and waitress positions.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity that was allowed to me (even when it shouldn't as I'm sure we broke every labor law on the books at that point in time). This opportunity instilled values in me for learning to work hard for what you want, to not squander the money you make, and the value in repaying your debts.

My Dad was a small businessman in Port Huron, Michigan who was friends with Brian Duanes who owned a popular Mexican restaurant called Bimbo's, Brian's lifelong nickname. Eager to start my first job in 1983, I asked my Dad if he would ask Bimbo if I could work at his restaurant. My normally easy going Dad said very clearly, "My daughter is not going to work at a restaurant called Bimbo's." and instantly I got it; I had never made the connection about women working at a restaurant named Bimbo's until that moment. My Dad proceeded to explain that he would create a summer business for me but I would have to pay him back for the materials to build an ice cream stand complete with running water, electricity, exterior lights and a freezer that accommodated 36 three-gallon tubs of ice cream AND I would have to ask the CEO of London's, the local dairy maker, if he would allow me to invoice the initial supply of ice cream until I generated enough funds to pay him back. Gulp! At 15, I established my business bank account, registered the name of the business, "Sarah's Old Fashioned Ice Cream", created flyers to distribute around the city and set an appointment with Glen London who was clearly amused by this serious literally small businesswoman. I paid him back and had enough profit to pay my girlfriends who worked there $6 an hour as well as myself. It was a wonderful lesson in swallowing fear, taking a risk, and being responsible. Thanks, Dad!

I had a brief stint in retail, but my first real job was at the front desk of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn (Detroit), MI in 1981. I applied as a fluke--I was just accompanying a friend who wanted a job as a banquet server. A few days later I received a call and started working the following week for $8.50 an hour, just after graduating high school.
At that job, I met (or at least closely viewed) the members of the Rolling Stones, Journey, DEVO, The Babies, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Queen, Lorenzo Lamas, Donald Sutherland, The Police, Joan Armatrading, Rod Stewart, Billy Squier, the cast and crew of the Today Show, and probably a few others that I don't remember. I sewed a button on a shirt for Todd Rundgren, and handed a towel to certain blond British rock star clad only in a skimpy Speedo as he sauntered down to the hotel pool.
For a 19-year-old raised on rock music, it was an absolute dream job. Even my children are jealous today when I reminisce, though unfortunately there were no cell phones with which to capture pictures like there are today!
The job also provided valuable lessons--we were taught to be very professional and I never let the fact that my heart was racing distract me from making sure that the hotel's famous guests were discretely checked into comfortable rooms with advance requests taken care of. Secrecy was of the utmost importance, and only once did I disregard that to seek autographs. I learned a great deal working alongside people who were making a career of hotel management. I had an unbelievable amount of fun and excitement in that job, but it also provided me with the best training in customer service that I have ever had.

A neighboring farmer hired me for my first job away from home. I was 12 or 13.
It was a one-day job, to drive a tractor pulling a large mechanical rake, the final step before mowed grass could be baled into hay bales. Work in hay fields was paid "by the ton," or per 2,000 pounds of baled hay. The farmer told me he'd pay me 25 cents a ton.
When the work was completed, the farmer told me he had baled 25 tons. That much hay at 25 cents/ton was $5.00. I took my money and left.
It was much later before I thought to multiply 25 x 25 and learned the total was not $5.00 but $6.25. I don't think the farmer meant to cheat me. Chances are he didn't know either.
At future jobs, I checked my pay more carefully.

My first job was as an entrepreneur, and I was four years old. I'd been sick and was getting sicker by the day. Our family doctor in rural Rhode Island diagnosed it as a stomach bug. "Feed her ginger ale and soda crackers," he told my parents.

After days of this diet, with no improvement, a visiting nurse correctly identified the problem as a ruptured appendix. That diagnosis and emergency surgery saved my life.

A short time later my parents and I were attending a wedding reception in our neighborhood. I found I could make money by showing the wedding guests my appendectomy scar. I charged five cents. If the drain had still been in the incision, I probably could have charged more. Anyway, people gladly paid a nickel to see the scar or even NOT to see the scar. In all, I made about $2.00. That was good money in those days. The enterprise was sailing along smoothly until my parents discovered what their four-year-old was up to, and made me shut it down.

Nonetheless, the experience taught me about the silver lining in the cloud. Decades later, as a small business owner, I'm still amazed how a temporary setback can sometimes turn into an idea that can generate money.

My first job, one with an actual pay check, was picking tobacco in Connecticut. Tobacco in Connecticut? Yes, the outside wrappers on the best cigars come from the tobacco grown in Connecticut, not in the south as one would presume. We lived in NJ but each summer my brother and I would visit my Uncle Andy and his family. One year the normally leisurely visit included a stint bringing in the tobacco crop. It was hard work done mainly by migrant workers and local teenagers. A mature tobacco plant resembles an overgrown leafy corn stalk. Harvesting was a multi-step process. First the youngest workers break off shoots at the top of the plant known as suckers. Next, an older ax wielding worker would go down the row chopping the plants off at their base. The severed plants were carried over by their thick stems to another worker who pierced and threaded the plants onto a metal tipped wood lath. The heavy lath, containing a half dozen or so upside down plants, was then carried over and placed on a trailer resembling a large set of parallel exercise bars. The full trailer containing many plants was towed to a barn where other workers unloaded the lathes and stored them in the barn for drying.

What did we get paid for this work? $1.12 and a half cent per hour. I still remember sitting eating a sandwich during a break and thinking, “Thank God that’s over for the day” only to discover the horror that it was just lunch time. I had never worked an 8 hour shift and it seemed like an eternity to a 15 year old. The funds we earned were used by my mother in the fall to purchase our books at the Catholic high school we attended. This “first job” truly left its impression on me and the value of the hard earned dollar.

I was 8 years old when I began delivering newspapers in our small town and continued until I was 10. I evidently vacationed for a year and began baby-sitting for 25 cents per hour when I was 12. When I was in college, I worked in the Agriculture Department and then in the English Department. After graduation I judged speech contests throughout Kansas and worked for Pinkerton counting attendance at the movie theaters. I substitute taught, was a church business manager, sold cars, was a recruiter and now I am a sales director. I had only one job that I hated, and the rest of them have been fun!

I began my teaching career as a first grade teacher. Since I had not been in a first grade classroom since I was myself a first grader, effective management of 34 free-spirited six year olds was a bit of a mystery to me. Unfortunately for me it was a mystery that persisted many months into that first awkward school year. Weeks into the fall, I remained bewildered by the somewhat chilly reception I was receiving from the other first grade teachers. Instead of warm, welcoming smiles, I was lucky to get a stern nod as they whisked passed me in the hall at the helm of a rod-straight line of dutiful youngsters. It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t me they were begrudging; it was my line. These were veteran teachers, and they displayed their perfect lines of six year olds with great pride. Lines they were, lines of perfectly spaced, well-behaved students all standing as if posed in a still life. Eyes focused on their teacher. Mouths closed. Bodies miraculously still. Every morning at the start of school. After every recess. Even after lunch.

My class did not resemble a line; it was a swirl. It seemed I had inherited a class of spinning tops incapable of calm and utter strangers to stillness. What I finally noticed was what I had not previously noticed––the seemingly effortless ability of my experienced colleagues to transform their spinning tops into a narrow assemblage of purposeful, attentive, and, yes, virtually motionless youth. These teachers did not appear to be doing very much at all. They marched onto the playground, like I did, with broad smiles and confidence pausing at the head of their wriggling vine of students. But they, unlike me, did not stop there. Instead I noticed from the din of my swirl, that my colleagues were whispering something to each child as they skillfully moved down their vines, shaking a hand here, giving a hug there, and looking into every set of eyes as if establishing contact for the very first time. As these teachers made their way down one side and up the other side of their lines, what was that wriggling vine became a straight and orderly line. Maybe there was something to this line business as it was also becoming apparent that the nature of my colleagues’ classrooms was a mirror of their outside lines.

Thus my first lesson in class management was delivered: Until I could tame the swirl, I could not teach the 34 open minds that were awaiting me on that playground every morning.

from Bell to Bell Instruction: Capturing and Maintaining Student Attention ALL Day Long by Sara Buckerfield and Nancy Chapel Eberhardt


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