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First Job, Fun Job!

Updated on July 28, 2016
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We often hear stories from our parents and friends where they tell us how horrible their first or second job was. Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too common and generally accepted concept. Our first job, or our second job- they’re supposed to be terrible, right? But why? Why do we accept such a bleak outlook, when the reality is that a zero experience job doesn’t have to be one which “kick’s our ass,” day in and day out? In fact, our ideal job may be right around the corner and overlooked because we haven’t truly thought about it. So here it is: A Young Adult’s Guide to the Galaxy (of first jobs).

What Kind of Worker Am I?

This is one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself, and thus why it appears first. Think of your first job as more than “just a paycheck.” This is where you will be spending a large portion of your time, whether it be for a summer, a year, or throughout college. If you pick a job which doesn’t agree with any of your personality traits then your life during that job will be miserable. That being said, let’s focus on two aspects of who you are. There are two types of workers: those who work hard, put in the extra hours, and are not afraid to be in a position of responsibility; and those who just need a bit of saving money for the weekends, do not want to work too hard, and would prefer not to hold too much responsibility. While there is nothing wrong with either of those two categories, there is a huge difference in the types of jobs you should be searching for. For example, the hard worker might do well in the physically demanding job of Overnight Stock Clerk at your local CVS, but the casual worker would probably prefer the more easygoing Daytime Cashier position.


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The other trait you should consider is your personality type. Are you a sheltered hermit, a social butterfly, or somewhere in between? This is an extremely important and often overlooked piece when choosing a first job, and if this is the first time you thought about it, do not worry. You are not alone. In fact, I failed to recognize this part of my personality when I chose my first job as a Lawn Care Service Provider, which is just a fancy title for a glorified grass cutter. I hated the job. It was hard and long work, sometimes ten or more hours a day, but that was not what bothered me. I was a lone sailor in the sea of grass, and I learned the hard way that I am a social butterfly. So do not be discouraged, and if you are having trouble figuring out which categories you fall into, try taking this quiz:

What About My Schedule?

So now that we know the type of worker you are, it’s time to focus on the amount of time you have, or want, to spend working. First off, how many hours are you truly willing to work? This brings us back to the two categories mentioned earlier. If your schedule is free and you want to work as many hours as possible, your best bet is going to be with a non-unionized retail position, or a labor-oriented contracting position (like a landscaping assistant). These types of jobs will provide the greatest possibility for long hours and a hefty paycheck. If, however, you plan to be in school during the course of your first job, if you have other responsibilities which require a bulk of your time (i.e. scouting, clubs, etc.), or you just do not want to work that many hours; your best bet is going to be a retail position which can work around your schedule, and/or a unionized position. Jobs like these tend to be more willing to hire people for short-term (like a summer job) and will work with you on scheduling issues the best that they can.

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What’s a Union and Should I Care?

In short, yes. Unions are organizations which help protect your rights as an employee and member. So what does that mean to you? Let’s start by listing the positives of a beginning job with a union. Honestly, the best thing that comes from being with a Union is the unbelievable amount of paid vacation. Generally speaking, you will receive personal days, sick days, and vacation days which increase in number the longer you work for the company. Another plus is the benefits. Aside from things like discounted movie tickets and cell phone rebates (and yes, these are normal benefits), most jobs with a union tend to provide a surplus of insurance: eye care, dental, and even health. And you know what’s even better? Many employers simply pay out a large, lump-sum, yearly stipend to cover the insurance costs. So as a younger teen working your first job, this translates to an extra bonus check at the beginning of each year! And if you are older and need the insurance, than this will, let’s be honest, partly cover your insurance costs. Unions also provide a lot of protection to employees which basically means you won’t be fired the first, or even second, time your register comes up thirty dollars short, or you drop a box of Yankee Candles and smash them to smithereens. In fact, most unionized jobs have a hard time firing you if you’re not that great of an employee. That being said, those of us who want to put as little effort into our work as possible, should look no further.

There are, however, some drawbacks to unions though. First and foremost: Union dues. Costing on average about thirty-three dollars a month, these can take a huge chunk of your paycheck a week. Another drawback is that most unions require you to be on the job for at least a year before you can reap the benefits. Also, unions mean that there are hour caps on each employee. So although it might be required that you work at least 15 hours a week, there may be many weeks where all you get are 15 hours. Couple that with minimum wage- usually the staring hourly rate required by the union- and Union dues, and you are looking at a fairly small paycheck at the end of the week.

The average annual cost of union dues is $400, or about two hours of pay per month.

— © 2013-2016 Adams, Nash & Haskell, Inc. All Rights Reserved

For the most part, people who plan on being with their job for a while (at least more than a year) a unionized position may be beneficial. But as I hope I have outlined: there are many other factors to consider before choosing to go Union

Go Get 'Em!

So if you figured out who you are, how much time you have, and whether or not a union is right for you; then you’re all set to head out and start applying! Remember that this job, whether it be your first, second, or tenth, should still only be for a short amount of time. You have a greater potential hidden in there somewhere, and it isn’t at your neighborhood Stop and Shop. So good luck and knock ‘em dead!

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