What I learned at my first job
It was the summer of 2000. I was 16 and wanted some money in my pocket because my mom and dad had bills to pay. Like most teenagers, I was ready for some independence, so relying on my parents to give me money for my own leisure activities wasn’t very smart. I wanted to do the things I wanted to do.
I applied for my very first job at Blockbuster Video. A week or so later, I found out that I got the job and started training. Over the course of my time there, I learned a lot—lessons that shaped my money mindset, my work ethic and my career outlook to this day:
1. Work is work
At the time, I thought working a full-time week was easy. I was wrong! I definitely underestimated how tedious and tiring a job can be. That first week on the job in training, I was exhausted.
2. How to handle strange comments
I guess it’s bizarre to see a 6-foot-9-inch kid working at a video store. Customers always thought I was standing on something when I worked the cash register or asked me if I was really that tall. I got used to it after a while. One important tip for interacting with people of above-average height: Refrain from tall jokes, especially “How’s the weather up there?” That one’s the worst!
3. The importance of saving
It wasn’t until I actually received my first paycheck that I got excited about working. I think my check was around $350 or $400, but it felt like way more than that. My father drove me to pick it up and told me that I had to deposit at least half of the money into my bank account before we went home. That hurt because I wanted to blow the whole thing at the mall. But it was a good lesson to learn. My dad also taught me about growing interest with bank accounts. I think mine only earned just over 1 percent, but understanding the concept of “interest” would help me out later. I ended up turning pro with that bank account still there.
4. People skills
I worked at Blockbuster for about four months in total. I learned quite a bit working in a customer service position. It was tough, but I learned how to deal with different people—managers, customers, other employees. And I found out that a lot of guys lie about their late fees.
5. The value of your own money
I saved up my money all summer for my back-to-school shopping. I thought it was going to be the best year ever fashion-wise! But I discovered that clothes are a lot cheaper when you’re not spending your own money. I pretty much spent my entire savings in one afternoon of shopping. That experience—seeing how quickly my hard-earned dollars could be spent—helped build a foundation for my money mindset from that point on.
6. When to move on
I continued working part-time during the school year until I got tired of missing our football games. All the college kids who had been working during the summer had left, and I didn’t really like working with any of the other guys or managers. I had to stop. Working from 6 pm until close every night was too much with my school commitments, and the word “close” never meant the same thing. Sometimes we’d finish at 12:30 am and sometimes 2 am. Frankly, it sucked.
7. It’s more than a paycheck
Despite the long hours and rude customers, my first job was ultimately a good experience for me. It taught me about what it takes to work somewhere and the value of money, especially when you earn it yourself. It also showed me that a great job is much more than a paycheck. Sure, sometimes you just have to earn money and make a living. But having passion for what you’re doing, belief in your team and the business, and dedication to your bigger goals—that’s the stuff that makes a job meaningful.