5 Things I Wish I Knew During My First Job


I may not remember what I wore last week, what I ate for lunch yesterday or even all the lyrics to Justin Bieber’s song Sorry, but if there’s one thing forever etched into my memory, it’s the day I got my very first job.

It was Halloween, and like most 16-year-old’s I was dressed in my not-so-creative store bought race car driver costume, ready to spend the night with friends at a house party. Just as I was about to head out the door, the phone rang, I picked it up, and my life was forever changed. Well as much as a part-time job at the mall could change it. After sporadically walking into an open job fair and bumbling away about how I’d make a great sales associate, I actually got the gig! I accepted the offer that day not knowing I’d spend the next five years working in that retail store, and eventually move on up to their head office after graduating university.

Getting your first job is certainly a big deal and sometimes the excitement and awe of working can make you forget certain rules and rights that you’re entitled to. Looking back there are a lot of things I would’ve done differently, so today I’m sharing 5 things I wish I knew during my first job.

1. It’s okay to say no to your boss.
I remember being so eager to impress my boss no matter what toll it would have on me or stress it would cause me. My boss was the nicest lady, but since I was one of the youngest employees at my store, with my only previous experience being hanging my own clothes in my closet when my mom yelled at me to do so, I really wanted to make a great first impression and prove to everyone that I could not only do the job, but do it great. Impressing your boss is a good thing, but it’s important to know when to draw the line. I’d agree to take on extra shifts which would force me to work 7 days straight. Balancing these full-time hours while being a student made me feel extremely tired and overworked. It’s important to remember that you have the right to refuse work, such as overtime hours or even a dangerous task, especially when it comes to putting your health at risk.

2. But listen to the rules they enforce.
My boss didn’t get to the position she was at by chance, she had years of experience so she definitely knew what she was doing. I remember that my coworkers and I would shrug off and ignore a lot of rules put in place, like not stepping on shelves to reach products. Those shelves weren’t sturdy, let alone strong enough to support the weight of a human, but it was easier than going all the way to the backroom to get the ladder. Only now do I realize how dangerous that was and how badly we could have been hurt.

3. Don’t do something just because everyone else does it.
It’s easy to forget you’re breaking rules, when everyone else is doing so too. There were a lot of times when I wouldn’t request my 15 or 30 minute break because no one else was, even though my feet were killing me. The store may have been busy, but being able to rest for a couple minutes wasn’t only necessary but was my right. Other times I’d find myself lifting boxes that may have been okay for our stock boys but were way too heavy for me. Because let’s face it, I definitely do not lift, bro. Everyone has different strengths, weaknesses and capabilities so know yours and don’t go beyond them. The workplace is not where you want to be taking risks.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
When it came to talking to my coworkers, who let’s face it after spending up to 8 hours a day together quickly became my friends, we’d have so many complaints/ideas to improve the workplace but we never brought it up to our manager. It’s kind of hard to make change when the boss doesn’t know change is needed. As cashiers we would always say how having stools or chairs would help our tired feet and backs, and now that I think about it, if we suggested it to our manager back then she might have fulfilled our request!

5. Appreciate it!
Once the excitement and awe of that new job faded, there were many days where I just wished I was Trust Fund kid who didn’t have to work. But working a part-time job gave me more than just money to spend on clothes and food, it gave me experience, new friends, and taught me a lot of values, lessons and importance of hard work and integrity. Looking back, I definitely appreciate the opportunity and can see how it has led me to where I am today.

This post was published in partnership with Parachute Canada, be sure to check out safe4life.work for more info about workplace safety.

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