GUEST COMMENTARY: My first job was shining dad’s shoes

This is part of the Ready NWI and First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series reviews the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.

Andrea M. Pearman is Creative Commander at Diversified Marketing Strategies.

What was your first job?

I shined my dad’s shoes. I earned 10 to 25 cents based on how well I polished them. But, if he was not satisfied with my performance, I earned nothing and had to re-do them.

How did you feel about that?

Talk about conflict in our household. Yikes! Without question, he was the toughest boss in my life. But over time, I came to appreciate him for instilling a strong work ethic in my brother and me. We grew up in a house where we did chores and they had to be done right. If we tried to cut corners on our tasks, there were consequences.

Is that work ethic and integrity hard wired into your business?

Doing the very best for our clients is essential. Our goal is to exceed their expectations. That’s why we are here. Many of our clients have been with us for more than 16 years.

Once you were old enough to work outside the home, what did you do?

I held two part-time jobs at the same time. I loved making money. I worked at Wright’s Barnyard in Lansing. It was a small amusement park with batting cages and go-carts; the second job was at Burger King. I worked the counter and made fries.

 Did you enjoy your work at Burger King?

I did. I loved the fast paced environment, working under pressure and the fact that no two days were alike. I sharpened my people skills and my communication skills. When I became a shift manager, I learned how to do inventory control, quality control and food safety. All that from flipping burgers! I firmly believe that every teen should work in the hospitality business at one point or another.

Why?

On occasion, the kitchen prepares food that is not to the liking of your customer. Making the customer happy becomes your responsibility. It’s a great skill to acquire.

What did you not like about the job?

The smell of grease. Ugh! It was on your body and the polyester uniforms that we wore. When I got home, I smelled like a french fry.

What advice do you have for a young person thinking about that first job?

I would encourage high school students to get into their school’s work-based learning program. The hands on experience will help them find them what they like and don’t like. College students should seek out paid or unpaid internships. Getting a foot in the door is a good strategy if that is the field they wish to work in.

What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?

Participate in your local high school’s work-based learning program. I know many businesses that are doing more with less. A high school student will be with you for eight or nine months, and they can help you complete those tasks that are falling through the cracks: data base entry, filing, large mailings. And train them the right way of answering the phone and greeting customers. Be patient and be honest with them. They are so eager to learn.

This article was originally published in The Times of Northwest Indiana and can be viewed here.