My First Job and What it Paid
Posted on July 10, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 134 Comments
Via Jim Romenesko, a question from The Billfold Web site about what people’s first jobs were and what they paid, and what that particular job pays now. Romenesko’s spin on the question involves journalism (because his site is focused on that field) and as it happens, that’s where my first post-college job was.
My first job as an adult, as many of you know, was as the movie critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper, a job I started in September of 1991 and left in February 1996. I got the job directly out of college (I was 22, making me the youngest full-time professional film critic in the United States at the time), and it’s not a knock on me to suggest that I was hired not only for my writing skills but also the fact that I could be gotten for super-cheap: My first year salary was something along the lines of $22,400 dollars, or about $430 a week, before taxes, etc.
And how did I live on $22.4k a year? Pretty well, actually. For one thing, I was a movie critic, which meant that a lot of my entertainment cost — i.e., going to movies — was taken care of. Likewise, working at a newspaper meant one could pick over the scads of entertainment product sent for review (books, CDs and so on), so the cost of those was also reduced. Also, I lived in Fresno, which is the butt of many jokes in California, but if you’re a 22-year-old making not a lot, also contained a lot of amenities of a large town (its population was 350,000 then and about 500,000 now) for a substantially lower cost of living than other large cities in the Golden State. Add it all up (plus the fact that I did not have expensive habits, like smoking or heroin), and I did okay for myself on not a lot of cash.
I don’t know how much the position is worth now — currently the Bee has one person, Rick Bentley, as both the film and television critic — but I certainly hope he’s making more than I was when I started. This survey suggests that journalists who enter into the field with a bachelor’s degree (which I did, although not in a journalism-related field) see a media salary of about $28,500 (or did in 2012, anyway). Adjusted for inflation, that’s quite a bit lower than what my $22.4k in 1991 was. Which sucks, but then: Welcome to journalism in the second decade of the 21st Century.
I’m happy to say that these days I make more than $22.4k a year.
(PS: My very first first job was working at Del Taco in Glendora when I was 16, for minimum wage. I came home every night smelling of lard and refried beans. I lasted about six weeks. That experience as much as anything else in the world convinced me to get an education beyond high school, because, seriously, lard smell, man.)
So: Your first job? Talk about it in the comments, if you like.
I got a job when I was sixteen working two twelve hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays at a Parkdale Mills plant in Belmont, NC hauling processed cotton to spinning machines. I made $8 an hour, which was great at the time (1993) for a kid my age when minimum wage was $4.25 and I always had money. Now, the job is still there in a way, but it is now mostly with robotics, but similar work is about $12/hour at the mills.
My first full time job was as a Legislative Assistant for a state government I think I made around $30,000 a year.
When we kids turned 14 (the minimum age for employment in my home state), Mom and Dad said we had to find a job. Didn’t matter what, it just had to be out of the house and not too many hours to get in the way of school. I surveyed the limited options in our rural area, which varied from farmhand to grocery store checkout to nursing home assistant, and found that they needed some help at the local newspaper. Thus, my first job: printer’s devil. I worked the counter when customers came in, stocked snacks, developed film, set copy, cleaned the toilets, etc. Minimum wage, plus invaluable experience and good snacks. I learned a lot about working as part of a team, working under deadline, and responsibility. Living in a more suburban, upscale area now, I’m a little sad that so few of the high school age students I encounter seem to get this kind of early work experience anymore. They’re missing out.
My first real job, not counting paper routes and shoveling driveways, was as at a Burger King when I was 16 years old in 1990-91. To date, it is still one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. I was a cashier, but also occasionally had to mop floors, clean windows, and unload delivery trucks. And when the dumpster out back got too full, I sometimes had to climb in with plastic bags rubber-banded to my shoes and stomp down the trash to make more room.
Now I make it a point, no matter how slow the service or crappy the food, to always be nice to fast food workers.
How you treat people working shit jobs is one important marker of what sort of person you are, in my opinion.
My very first job was play testing games for Infocom, when I was eight. (Ballyhoo and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) I reported bugs by calling them in. It was pretty much the best job ever for a young geek. I got paid with copies of the games I tested, which I’d hoped would impress the boy I had a crush on. Alas, he was completely unimpressed.
My first job (not including mowing lawns) was bill collector for the public library. I believe I was 13.
14 years old: Publix supermarket bag-boy. Lasted until the end of school was approaching. I wanted to take time off to study for practice SAT and they wouldn’t let me. After that, a series of fast food/polyester and grease jobs until out of high school.
I went into the military so I guess that counts as a real job but after military, got a a job doing cartography, transcribing aerial photos of wetlands (NWS) on to mylar layers over USGS maps. Pretty cool work, transitioned to digital cartography as that came along and then to computer support work.
There was a brief time in art school (no math requirements: YEAH!) and then dropped out to work on computers at defense contractor companies. Pays to have had a clearance in the military and then kept nose clean afterwards.
Finally, got a job at a sec–REDACTED–ab running super computers. Fun stuff!
At 18, following my first year of college, I
was shoved intogot a job on the janitorial crew at a grocery chain’s ice cream plant. I spent 40 hours a week cleaning industrial ice cream machines, floors, and windows, breaking down and setting up the lines, and one week I had to clean out the water tanks outside the building because of all the lime buildup. It sucked and I hated it and I think I made around $8/hour.
The next summer, I didn’t take my parents seriously when they told me I had to find a job or they would find one for me, so I ended up back at the ice cream plant. It was better, because I worked one line the entire summer and so I had a consistent schedule with two guys who already had a routine (so mostly I stayed out of their way), but it still wasn’t *great*.
I made damn sure I had a job for the third summer, and I kept that job the rest of my college career: working in various computer labs around campus as the printout jockey and Official Voice Of Closing Time. Wasn’t even half time, but the pay was decent and my grades went WAY up because I had loads of free time to study.
My first post-college job was teaching high school math. And that’s all I want to say about it.
Dishwasher here at a local restaurant back in the 80’s. Minimum wage! My first job out of college was being manager of a sunglasses cart in the mall. Terrible pay but fun job.
My first job was as a newsroom aide at The Sacramento Bee (Remember when newsrooms had those? Did Fresno? In the slow times over a few weekends I read “Old Man’s War” and “Agent to the Stars,” back when they were shareware). It paid, I think, $7 and change an hour, part-time (20 hours a week), which was enough for me to pay my share of rent and such as a college student. Good college job, and a great introduction to the industry. First job out of college was as a copy editor at the Tracy Press for $12 an hour, full time — quite a boost compared to my former position, but barely more than you were making out of college over a decade before.
My first paying job — the one that required me to get my Social Security card — was at the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie in the summer of 1954. Reshelving, reading shelves, book repair. The best kind of job for a bookish kid.
My first “job”, in the sense of living away from home and supporting myself, was Grad School, in Boston, the best part of a decade after your first job. Compared to your Fresno Bee money,I made maybe 20% less (several years later) in a more expensive city, and had absolutely no trouble affording a quite pleasant lifestyle.
My first (non paper route) job was summers during college working part time at a bookstore in small-town Minnesota in the late 1980s. I want to say I was making maybe $3.40 an hour or thereabouts, at least at first?
My first full-time job (after college) was also a bookstore — Shinder’s (anyone remember them?) in a suburb of Minneapolis. I wanted the princely sum of $5/hour but settled for $4.75 to start. I was actually able to live pretty well, but that’s because I had no expensive habits (other than books & comics) and lived in a squalid, but cheap, hellhole.
On the assembly line in a factory that made school desks. I mostly worked in the boxcar at the end of the line, stacking desks. They came in cardboard boxes, two to a box. Two high-school desks weighed 96 pounds. I weighed 135. I had to stack them three-high with a fourth laid sideways for the top layer. There was a trick to doing it, involving back and knees: snap it up then push, all in one fluid motion.
The year was 1965, and I was sixteen. The pay was $1 an hour, $1.50 for overtime. Mostly ten-hour days, sometimes 12.
I remember a kid who showed up one morning. He was useless and sullen. At noon, someone came to collect him in an Oldsmobile or Lincoln. I guess it was supposed to be a lesson for him. Family friend of the owner, probably. It meant the rest of us in the boxcar spent six hours stacking desks when we were a man short. And the line didn’t stop or slow down.
My first-ever job was as counter help in a Midwestern campus-area pizzeria when I was in college. That would have been ca. 1976 or 1977, and it paid the absolute minimum wage possible. I was working there maybe 15 or 20 hours a week, and the annual gross was around $2,000. Ate a lot of cold pizza breakfasts, bought my clothing at Goodwill, and never went to the doctor unless I was near-moribund. And I STILL tip minimum 20% for all food-service workers, along with thanking them for what they do.
First “real” job, the kind that actually relates to my career, was as an inventory and payroll clerk for a retailer in extreme south Texas starting in 1981. That was a fulltime job, and I earned a whole 20 cents per hour over minimum wage, which translated into the munificent salary of about $7,600 per year. Plus had the fun of getting screamed at in French by the bookkeeper, who disliked me. My spouse was teaching highschool at the time, and he was really earning the big bucks – just under $11K per year. We ate a lot of beans.
Nowadays, food service workers generally still make minimum wage and are generally still scraping by hand-to-mouth, despite all the strikes for a living wage. I have enormous respect for anyone who has to make a living that way, and I required both of our offspring to work in that field so they would learn similar respect.
Starting pay for clerical workers is also still pretty paltry these days, though at least in the area where I work now, employers have to pay more than minimum wage. It still doesn’t go far, though, particularly for someone with youngsters.
My first “regular” job (i.e. I wasn’t working as an electricians gofer for my dad) was as a full service shoe salesman at Galenkamp shoes. Worst job of my life. Shoe sales isn’t so bad, but full service shoe sales, where you have to help people get shoes on and off is…unpleasant. This was in 1979 and I was getting paid $1.60 per hour, plus commission. It was basically a minimum wage for commissioned/tipped work job. Cash-wise, once commissions were counted, I did pretty well for a 18 year old kid. I learned 2 things on that job: 1) the best way to sell something is simply to be nice to your customer, treat them with respect, and be honestly helpful and 2) if you ever, ever have a choice between flipping burgers at Micky D’s and a full service shoe sales job, take the burgers. Don’t hesitate, just take the burgers.
First job was at Wendy’s making minimum wage of around $6.50 in 1997. First real job was doing automated QA for an aviation software company making $47k in 2007.
I’m peculiar in that I never have worked outside of academia; in high school, I bartered staying home with my special-needs little brother while Mom worked or ran errands for spending cash.
My first formal job was an astronomy tutor/’teaching assistant’ at my university, which started in August of 2002. It was mostly tutoring whoever came in and grading papers, but I occasionally had to staff the observatory for student projects and listen to student presentations. I worked less than 10 hours a week for $8/hour; since I was on scholarship that covered my room and board, I mostly just wanted spending money. Plus, if no one came in for help, I got to work on my own homework or surf the Internet at the TA Room. (The few astronomy focus students usually hung out and did homework there as well.)
My first job when I was 16 was as a retail cashier for minimum wage – $5.15/hr. My first job in my field (software engineering) was an internship at $11/hr. My first post-college job was $38k.
I had a series of high-school jobs that aren’t worth talking about, but my best one was Pool Repairman. Despite how it’s been portrayed in (ahem) “adult films,” it wasn’t nearly that titillating. However, one day the guy I worked with did get propositioned…
and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Not counting summer jobs? I got my first “real” job making $28k/year doing software testing for an engineering software company in Berkeley. Took a while to find the job and I was a little underpaid for someone with an engineering degree, but not too far off for 1987.
Summer jobs – best one was making $12.50 an hour doing testing for Atari in 1983. In three weeks I made more money the either of my sisters did all summer (food service gigs). Minimum wage was $3.35/hr.
I’ve been extremely lucky when it comes to employment.
My VERY first job was as a bagger at Jewel (a grocery store). I was 16 I think, and I made I think $6.25/hr, and this was in 1999 or thereabouts. My uncle (horrible person) later forced me to quit for no particular reason with no notice, then stole all the money I had made from my account, because adults can do that to teenagers whenever they please.
My second job was filing and copying at a fertility clinic my aunt worked at. I don’t recall what I made. I didn’t see a dime of it, anyway. Pretty sure uncle took that money too. The doctor was Indian, and she liked to give me things to eat that I’d never had before. I saw all sorts of medical records having to do with genitalia and sperm counts, ha. I also remember if I was copying records for long periods of time and licked my lips, they tasted bitterly of toner.
My first job as an emancipated adult paying for my own food and rent (granted, subsidized rent but I was still paying rent and going to High School) was stocker at a small pharmacy. I was paid $5-something an hour, in 2000 or so. I remember them promoting another employee to cashier, which paid more, and that upset me terribly because I was paying for my own food and rent and going to school and I was pretty sure the other kid lived with his parents. On the other hand, I once over-loaded a dolly with liquids in glass jars, and I didn’t know how to compensate for the weight of sloshing liquids, and they fell off and broke, and it didn’t come out of my paycheck, which was a kindness.
I’ll be starting a new job in the IT sector shortly where I’ll travel internationally from time to time, so I’ve come a long ways since making minimum wage. It still alarms me that anyone would pay me to go on business trips places though. Always feel as if I should look over my shoulder to see if there’s a real adult standing behind me that they’re talking to.
My first full-time job was as a reporter for a weekly newspaper—for a salary of $11.8K per year. No, it was not enough to survive on. I don’t think I lasted more than six months. After my third 120-hour week, I quit. I worked as a stringer (freelance journalist) for a while after, then my career path took an unusual turn. (But that’s another story.)
Never work for a family-owned business and never work for a startup company unless you are one of the principles. You will get screwed over in short order if you do.
Now I’m happy to be working on a career as a writer. I’m done with the idiocy of the business world.
A friend of mine (Goon Pattanumotana) is a television film critic here in Fresno right now. He gets paid roughly $0 for it, and has to cover his own gas for his weekly trips down to LA for premieres and interviews. He also does a lot of interviews for the Latino Review, for example: http://www.latino-review.com/news/video-interview-talking-with-the-cast-of-earth-to-echo
The kid is the son of a mutual friend of ours.
My first job was in the year after high school when I wasn’t sure about (read: was scared shitless of) university. I worked in a liquour store inside a supermarket, and I think I was paid minimum wage, which at the time (1987) in Australia was (I think) $8/hour. I quit after six weeks; having belligerent drunken Australians threaten to hang me when I refused to sell them beer wasn’t really what I was cut out for (although the anecdotes are fun). A few weeks later I got a temporary gig at the bookstore in the National Gallery, also minimum wage, but because of unions, I got 1.5x, 2x, or 3x pay if I was working evenings, Saturdays, or Sundays or public holidays, and even in regular hours there was a 15% “loading” because I was a “casual” worker.
I had a short gig as an evening receptionist at a marriage counseling office; I was let go (I guess) because, as a clueless 20-something male, I didn’t exactly radiate empathy. I think that paid $15 an hour, but it was only for six or eight hours a week.
My first salaried job was as a computer sales/consultant/troubleshooter; I think I started at $25,000 (AUD); enough to make my cohabitation with my partner and her son more affordable; it probably would have been fine as a single guy’s salary in those days (1992?) as well.
My first job in the USA was telephone tech support for an ISP in Arizona; I think that was something like $8 an hour plus commissions if you signed people up. That lasted two weeks or so, then I was hired as a consultant/repair guy at a Macintosh consulting shop. I transitioned to salary after six or so months there, I think $23,000. I remember the owner interviewing a really good candidate for a new position and telling them “Look, I’d like to hire you, but you deserve to be making $30K, and I can’t pay that”. Minimum wage in Arizona is still less that $8/hour, so I’m betting there are plenty of folks doing telephone tech support for the same amount.
My first job in my current career as a web developer started in 1998 at $30K/year, working with some of the folks I met at the Mac consulting shop. 16 years on, I’m making a great deal more than that; I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still people being hired by small companies in entry-level roles like the one I had for $30K, which is pretty scary.
My first job was… not your normal job for a 16-year-old. I went from part-time help to full-time employee in a week doing testing and eventually ASP programming for COMSYS, a multinational consulting firm.
Started at $12/hr, was bumped up to $15/hr once they hired me. This was the summer of 2000, and I worked full time all summer (before my Junior year of HS).
Needless to say I didn’t make that much money again until after I finished college.
My first job was library page at my hometowns public library. I was 15, worked 8 hours a week at $0.08 above minimum wage. I got the job, because they had an opening, and I already volunteered there, so they figured they could pay me a bit to do what I already was doing.
It was summer and I was twelve. My father ‘loaned’ me out to a farmer, one Bumpo Stutz (I am not kidding you). I picked fruits and veges M-Sat for 10 hrs a day, at 25 cents an hour. I have remembered that experience vividly, and refused to do the same to any of my four kids when they were of age.
My first job technically was a teacher’s aide for some summer school classes that my Spanish teacher was doing. My first job that I had to apply for and interview on my own was at Burger King, and my experiences are pretty much exactly the same as the poster above. To this day I can’t eat burgers from there because of so many shifts of coming home smelling like the grill. Although I can still eat their chicken sandwiches for some reason.
My first job was a work-study job in the lab at a major dental products company. 15 hours a week at $ 13.00/hour (about $36 in today’s dollars) gluing cow teeth into plastic discs and poking alloys with a diamond-tipped press to test hardness.
A couple years later, I worked for 7-Up one summer going around to supermarkets in the greater LA area, stocking shelves and building displays. Also around $13/hour (about $30, inflation hadn’t quite settled down yet) and couldn’t go into a supermarket without getting the shakes for several months after. Paid for the rest of college, though.
My first real job was doing computer migration at a major aerospace company. I don’t remember what the rate was, but I think roughly the equivalent of about $20 in current dollars. We were required to wear a tie even though we had to crawl around on the floor to unplug old stuff and plug in new stuff. Almost choked myself countless times when I straightened up while kneeling on my tie. Plus they only came up with the right tool to migrate the data about a month before the job ended.
My first job was in 2000 doing phone work for a bail bondsman (calling in debt). I felt very adult (I was 16) that I negotiated .25 over the minimum wage of $5.75 per hour.
$22,400 at 22 in 1991? Pshaw, you were living large there, dude. My first job besides babysitting was working at a pet hotel/groomer. I was paid minimum wage. I also got a nice scar from a bite from an overprotective Schnauzer.
When I was 14, my parents started a construction business and I was the gopher on the projects. I didn’t get a paycheck, but it was work and it convinced me I never wanted to do manual labor. My first paid job was in the office of a local company that sold records (vinyl LPs – this was long before CDs). They had retail outlets and a mail order business. Kind of like Amazon for music but, before the internet. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I was paid about $4 an hour, which was just over minimum wage. I remember after several months with them getting a raise to $4.25 an hour.
My first post-college, full-time, salaried job was as an engineer at NASA’s JPL. I was paid an outrageous amount ($35K / year?) but that was short lived, since I went back to grad school after 15 months.
First job: Paperboy 7 days a week at 0500 rain,or snow $20 in a good month.
Job that convinced me to stay in school: Canning peas for the Jolly (not so freakiing…) Green Giant in Waitsburg WA 6 PM to 7 AM shift $1.64/hr. A zillion degrees, loud, robotic, and if you caught the boss’s attention as a good guy they “let” you put on a rubber suit and take a wire brush and steam hose and clean off the machinery of pea detritus.
First job post college 1966 – . USMC $303.80/month. All that and incoming as well.
My first full-time job out of college was working in a residential group home for dual diagnosis adults. (Dual diagnosis is a dry, clinical way to describe a person coping with both mental illness and substance abuse.) The job had me working different shifts on different days (7A-4P on Sundays, 4P-12A Mondays and Tuesdays, Wednesdays off, 11A-7P Thursdays, 6A-3P on Fridays). The salary was a meager $10.70/hr, meaning I made approximately 22,256 pre-tax. Fortunately, I was still living with my parents at the time, though I paid them some amount of rent each month, and helped with groceries and things. The one thing I learned from that job was that a BA in psychology gets you nowhere, and that I sorely needed to get into grad school.
(My summer jobs in high school and college involved being a research assistant at a local Ivy, Xerox monkey for my dad’s boss, and summer camp counselor at a residential program for adolescents with behavioral disorders. That last one was… memorable.)
I have no idea what the job pays now, but I assume it’s still lousy..
At age twelve I was a proofreader for Chemical Abstracts, at (I vaguely recall) about $10 per hour in 1963 U.S. dollars. Given Child Labor laws, I had to work through an adult cut-out, who had face-to-face contact with my employer, brought me paychecks and manuscripts, and returned my redlined manuscripts to the, I could tell a Capital O from a small case o, from a zero from an omicron, and knew Chemistry well enough to, in a couple of years, win Honorable Mention in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Now the math.
$10/hour in 1963 is (correcting for inflation) = $77.75/hour in 2014 dollars. What I don’t know if that specific job kept up with inflation.
My first gig out of the Navy was climbing up radio towers to bolt paging antennas together. My tax return that year says I made almost $13,000. And I *loved* that job.
I started with the Seattle Public Schools after that, and I think I was clocking $24K? Then a whole slew of dot-coms spending other people’s money, and now I can’t afford to be poor.
There’s pros and cons to that. :)
First job after 6 years in the Marines was working for a defense contractor, making $11-something/hr to start, and $12.50/hr when I left 5 years later to go to college full time. Good pay for a young single guy in southern California. The job’s still there, and contractors pay federal rates, so it’s probably still good for a young single.
I make a lot more now, as a contract archaeologist instead of an avionics tech, but it took years of crap jobs while I was in college and grad school.
Like William Richards above, I did an eight-month stint at a small local daily paper for $12,600 annually. This was about 86 or 87. I was good at it (many days my stories filled all or most of the front page), but the low pay and erratic schedule got to me. I found an administrative job for $17,500 and off I went to do that and graduate school.
However, I carefully hoarded all my news clippings (still have ’em, hundreds in big binders), and they served me well after graduate school when I went into marketing and advertising. Nothing like clips with your byline on them to prove you can write.
Actually, the experience served me well IN graduate school as well as beyond. When you’ve gotten used to cranking out at least two and sometimes as many as six news articles daily, writing a hundred pages or so for a thesis was laughably easy. It’s still the same — generating large amounts of copy holds no terror for me. The ability to write almost always puts me ahead of other candidates when I’m job hunting.
I think Dave Barry said, “The person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.”
My very first job was working all summer at the YMCA teaching swimming lessons. I got paid $25 for the entire summer. My first full time job was working as a medical technologist in a hospital lab, and my salary was around $12,000. That job is probably worth around $33,000 now.
My first job that didn’t pay in cash (ie, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers) was at age 15, working at Bell Laboratories making violins. This was an awesome job and one that I *still* keep on my resume. It paid $5/hour which was way better than the $3.35 minimum wage.
I also asked for (and got) an account on one of the UNIX machines and had email and played rogue after hours. At the time, I was alice!sdh
My first job out of college in 1989 was as a contractor at Bell Communications Research (where I had worked as an intern during college). I don’t recall the salary, but it was roughly 24K/yr, no benefits. I left a half a year later for Adobe Systems.
First job ever (aside from babysitting) was a summer research assistant. I was 15, and had to work around taking driver’s ed, and I spent my days collecting urine/fecal/blood samples from swine as part of a dietary study. It was smelly, backbreaking work, but I did learn how to draw blood from a squirming pig that weighed 2-3x my weight, and I discovered my passion for research. After that summer gig ended, I worked at McDonald’s and various other food service jobs/lab assistant jobs to work my way through high school and college. It’s always disturbing what people think they can get away with doing to food service workers. I admit I am sometimes frustrated that my mom made me get a job as soon as it was legal, whereas my younger siblings were never expected to do the same, but that’s life as the unfavorite kid.
First full-time job? Well, I’m in grad school, making about 23k/year for now, and in the Bay Area that really isn’t much -_- At least my tuition is covered as part of the agreement.
My first ‘proper’ job (i.e. not doing chores like lawn mowing for an allowance) was for a local vet as a cage-cleaner and general kennel help. I got the job as a friend worked there and she was leaving for college. I worked after high school and on weekends during the day. It was messy at first but once I proved myself I got to help out at reception. Eventually I graduated to developing X-rays and assisting in the surgery. (I know what happens when you spay/neuter a dog or cat). I was in high school at the time. Worst part of the job was when I had to assist in euthanizations. I had to quit when I went off to college as I lived on campus. Pay was minimum wage at first but I got raises as my responsibilities increased.
It’s nice to know heroin didn’t encroach on your spending money.
My first taxable job was answering the phones & making pizzas at Dominos at 15. I made minimum wage. Aside from a somewhat neurotic owner I like that job. I was the only female in the place, and the youngest by a lot, but it was a good, if crude, group of guys. And unlike many people I know who worked fast food, I had no problems whatsoever eating there after working there.
My first actual job out of College was answering phone calls made by providers for a state Medicaid office. (How much is my check going to be this week? Why wasn’t this claim paid? How do I bill for the diagnositc pre-natal visit?) $6.10 an hour in 1988. $244/week, not counting any (rare) overtime, $12,688 a year. I survived by renting a room in someone’s house.
Before that I had a job running Audio-Visual (mostly 16mm movies) as my work-study job at University for a bit over minimum wage. I shared a house with five other people then and ate a lot of ramen wtih mixed vegetables and tuna salad with macaroni.
My first job was at the town marina in 2001, selling gas and diesel, pumping out the sewage tanks of boats, directing lost tourists, berating people on the VHF radio for going too fast in the harbour, and so on. I made $8 an hour plus tips; about a quarter of the customers tipped. When I went to the town hall to apply, the woman there asked me for a long list of qualifications: did I speak French, was I qualified in CPR, did I have a radio operator’s license, did I have a lifeguarding or advanced swimming certificate, etc. I had to answer No to every question, and was regretfully making plans to apply at McDonald’s, when she got to the end of the list and added, “Well, none of that actually matters, because you’re the only person who’s applied. Can you work weekends? Can you start Monday? Okay, here are your keys.”
My first job, at age 16, was working for a loan company. My father’s then-girlfriend was a loan officer, who managed one of the company’s three offices. I only got the job because of the family connection, but I worked diligently, for two hours a day after school, four days a week. It was kind of liberating — the responsibility, the earning of money, all that. I even got business cards with my name on them. I didn’t get paid much above minimum wage, which was $3.35 an hour, and did basic clerical work, making photocopies, typing forms, and so on.
On my seventeenth birthday, my boss said, “I’ve got a list of errands I need you to run today. You can take my car.” So I did. What she had sent me to do was pick up a present she had bought me, pick up a cake, get a bunch of balloons, and so on. I didn’t pick up on the joke until about the third stop. I will always love her for that.
I moved on, as did my father. Fifteen years later, I was working as a prosecutor, and the person in the office next to mine was going through boxes of records in a massive white-collar crime investigation. I noticed the name of my old boss’s company written on the side of the boxes. I asked what the story was. Turns out, the company was brokering multiple loans, repeatedly using a single property as collateral. This worked out okay until the real estate market turned soft and all of the lenders simultaneously foreclosed on the same house. Oops! (Think “The Producers,” and you’ll get the idea.) The owner of the company ended up going to prison for three years.
I still have those business cards.
Great thread; some great stories; great OP. ‘o)
I worked as a janitor at a major toy store for two years (mostly on Sundays, because of school), starting at $3.45/hour. It was enough to pay for gas and movies. I stocked shelves, cleaned bathrooms, emptied trash, and replaced fluorescent light bulbs up on a 14 foot ladder. The worst smell was that of old diapers in the outdoor trash on a hot summer day. One time I had to mop up the bike aisle where a kid had an accident, and I said to myself, “there is NO WAY a human child could have held that much urine”.
I don’t remember his exact words, but my first boss there made me realize that every task I performed said something about my character, and so I tried to do a good job. I was the only janitor on the roster who actually did every task on the list. When I left to start college in another city, they made me a cake and threw a quick party in the break room, the first I had ever seen them throw.
Scalzi said, “plus the fact that I did not have expensive habits, like smoking or heroin”. Wow! I can’t believe you are lumping us heroin users together with cigarette smokers… man, that is low! :-)
First real job out of college was as a research assistant in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Research laboratory at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. It was 1986. I was paid the magnanimous salary of $8.75 an hour. (Minimum wage at that time was around $3.35 or so). It was a temp job, and essentially an academic research assistant job in a hospital setting, using an NMR (now they usually call them MRI) to do brain scans on rabbits we (I) infected with spinal meningitis. It was a temp job while the researcher (who I can only assume made more than I did) was on maternity leave. After that I jumped to a clinical cytogenetics lab at HFH that paid $10/hour, which is, I believe, $20,000/year. Now that gig (the cytogenetics one) would probably start around $20 or $21/hour. The research job, well, a sad case of academic research labs is that bachelor-level research assistants get paid crap or however much the researcher thinks they can get away with, so I’m assuming they will often pay less than $20/hour and possibly down around $15. One of the most successful researchers at the time at HFH was known for hiring post-docs from Asia and South America and paying them rock-bottom wages.
First job, 1967: joint appointment as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Division of Applied Mathematics and Manager of Time-sharing in the Watson Computer Lab, Brown University. Paid $7,500/year, $53,420 in today’s dollars.
To map your old income into 2014 dollars, go here: http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm
For instance, Scalzi’s $22.4K in 1991 is $39,126 today.
Btw, Brown was grabbing $15/month from my pitiful income, adding another $30, and putting it into TIAA/CREF. I left that job after six years ($1080 of my money) and never gave the account another penny or thought. It now contains $315,000. As Einstein said, the most powerful force in the Universe is compound interest.
I think of first-jobs in 3 categories: first job ever, first job out of college, and first job on a “career track.”
So: 1984, 15 years old, Grunt on a construction crew. It paid $4/hour, which was $0.70/hour more than my friends were making at McDonald’s. And I got to be outside much of the time, learning a lot. I would continue working construction/carpentry/cabinetry summers until I was a junior in college. It is where I learned the foundation of the world we live in, and how much hard work sucks – I had a similar epiphany regarding finishing college and finding a career path while digging a ditch by hand in 100 degree heat.
First job out of college: dealing blackjack at a casino in South Lake Tahoe. Yes, as interesting as it sounds, but only because of the backdrop and my willingness to engage people and have fun with them. Most of the “lifers” I worked with could never keep up with me in the amount of tips I made each night – which was fine by them since we split them by shift. I learned to trust my first impression of people, and always tip people who work for minimum wage + tips.
First “career track” job: Account Associate in a PR firm. God, I hated PR.
I guess my first full-time, year-round job was as a Private First Class in the United States Army. I don’t really remember what it paid, since it didn’t matter much. Free clothes, food, and transportation, whatever we got paid was gravy. I saved most of it, and used it for college when I got out.
I was 14, which was minimum age at that time (1964) and got a job paying $1.10 per hour to be a sales clerk in a delicatessen. Lasted two weeks; too young and immature.
Next job was 3 years later when I was a senior in high school. It was a civil service job as a key punch operator. In those days, for you younger types, data processing meant little pieces of cardboard called Hollerith cards, with actual little holes punched in them that got fed into the computer so it could read the programs or data. Hence, “key punch”.
I learned speed and accuracy on a keyboard, which still helps me type 90 WPM today.
I did that job, and similar jobs through temp agencies all through college and into grad school, (all of them paid minimum wage) but they helped pay for luxuries like gas and insurance for the car. (I was lucky to have a scholarship for tuition, and lived at home with mom and dad.)
In grad school, a friend tipped me off to a job paying much more than minimum wage at UPS, so I took up package slinging. 34 years later I retired from UPS,having used my technical degrees (which it helped pay for, so…karma) to work on projects that developed a lot of the technology you see today, and some you don’t see because it’s inside the automated sorting facilities.
I also had to deliver packages in there, before they let me be an engineer, so, that was actually a lot of fun. I learned a lot about people; namely, most people are nice, but there is always a percentage of assholes in the world who exist to make other people miserable. Be nice to your UPS person. They work their asses off so you can get instant gratification from Amazon.
IMHO, the economy today is not kind to people who actually work for a living. in the late 60’s and early 70’s, my part time jobs were enough to cover what a full-tuition scholarship didn’t, like books and fees. If I had gone to a state university instead of a Jesuit University, I could have covered my entire tuition. Today, that simply isn’t possible with any job that pays minimum wage. We are screwing this generation and eating our seed corn so John Boehner can keep screaming “Benghazi!” to distract us from the plutocrats imposing serfdom.
I hung around a local pet shop from an early age. Somewhere around age 12, I started helping the dog groomers by washing dogs. I was paid a dollar per dog if the bath was part of a grooming job, and if it was a bath only- I received 40% of the fee charged.
My first job at age 12 was a paper delivery boy, which was technically an independent contractor. I think that was largely to get around child-labor laws, but it also meant that I was in charge of delivery, collection, and subscription. If I could get more people to subscribe, I would deliver more papers per mile on my bike. Ultimately I found that I only wanted a certain saturation because any more than that was too much for one delivery bag to carry and would require a trip back home to reload. So, I made between $75 and $140 a month, and for a 12-year-old, that was like winning the lottery. I bought a new bike, records, floppy disks for the computer, and so on.
My first post-college job (aka “real” job) was as a computer programmer, which I had a BS in, and it paid $20,000 in 1990. These days it’s almost double that.
My first taxable job was at McDonald’s and that’s enough about that. After that I worked briefly in garden department of the local FedCo. Both of time paid minimum wage. The next job was the best (if we disregard amount of money) job I’ve ever had: I worked as a whitewater guide during my college summers. It paid poorly; but I was being paid to go on other peoples’ vacations, so there’s that.
First regular job was on the neighbor’s farm, helping with milkings and — as needed — stacking hay bales in barns. Grossly underpaid, but it’s given me a basic appreciation for how incredibly hard farmers work. Eventually I got use to the smell of cow shit, but never got used to the smell of silage.
First legit job — minimum wage, Social Security Number, etc — was stocking shelves and bagging groceries at the town supermarket. Not a bad job, for high school.
Probably my first paid job was in 1975, after I left school: a couple of weeks grape-picking in France, where we seemed to drink more than we picked. But the farmer seemed happy – and he was the one who plied us with wine (not just big lunches and dinners back at the farm, but also for breaks at 11am and 3pm out in the field!).
An admin job in that gap year between school and college in 1975/6 had me filling in data entry forms for computerisation of the parts database for a company who made recorders for the EMI scanner, if I remember right: and paid I think something like £25 a week. Later that year “off” I was a baker’s assistant at a North Carolina summer camp at something like $150 pocket money for the whole summer of 9-10 weeks, but flights London-NY and transportation, board and lodging were paid.
Summer jobs from college in the late 1970s included a slew of other food-and-drink-related activities: behind the bar in a pub; cheese turner at a Cheddar cheese warehouse (turning 60-lb truckles like these, though ours were stacked on high shelves in a modern building); strawberry picker (at £1 an hour, I think); mushroom-tip cutter at a cannery – all in Somerset, in the south west of England.
By the time of my first proper career-type all-year-round job I was 24, it was 1982, I started working (in the UK) for a large US college publisher as a bookstore sales rep. Annual salary was £4900, I think, plus a Ford Cortina rep car like this, though mine was W reg, a lunch allowance of about £2.50 a day while on the road whether you ate or not (and parking and hotel and other genuine expenses as necessary, of course). I started as rep for the south west, south Wales and the Midlands of the UK; by the time I finished at that company 16 years later I had moved through various internal jobs to be sales manager for the Middle East and Africa. But I didn’t have to drive there.
My first full time job (I had two part time jobs before this, doing roughly the same thing) was on a 600 acre estate in the heart of central VA’s horse country. In the simplest terms, I made my living by working at a wealthy lady’s hobby. Our responsibilities ran the gamut from literally shoveling poop, to breeding horses, getting the foals on the ground, then training them all the way up to showing them, caring for the old horses, and when need be, handling (not literally, there was a vet involved) the euthanasia and burial of horses.
When I first got the job as an 18 year old, I got paid about $6 an hour, which wasn’t much, but it was 1999 and that was way above minimum wage. I ended up staying in that job for the next 13 years, and by the time I left (the elderly owner passed away and the farm was subsequently liquidated) I was making $13.50 an hour, with two weeks paid vacation and one week of paid sick leave. For a ‘manual labor’ farm job, this was pretty much the best. The woman who hired me (with whom I’m still very close) understood that knowledge, experience and dependability were worth their weight in gold (not that degrees and college aren’t) and she made sure that we were recognized in these respects and paid in a way that reflected that. Yes, it was much less than some jobs pay, but the point was that it gave me enough money to make my way, while allowing me to focus on my two great loves: writing, and horses.
It’s possible to get paid more if you travel for horse shows (we showed locally for the most part, but some travel all across the country) but there is a huge amount of traveling, and it’s not nearly as fun as staying on the farm. Trust me, coming from someone who IS a horse person, *most* genuinely competitive horse people are not that fun to be around. Not unless they’re winning.
First job was at nearby nursing home doing the laundry. It was awesome, not. Still, I spent every penny of that $50 or so a week on gas for the Hornet and whatever new music came out. So, yeah, it was actually awesome.
My first “job” was at the local supermarket when I was 15, working two days a week for about minimum wage. I’ve pretty much consistently been on some soulless corporation’s payroll ever since, but never really full time and never with any real possibility of advancement.
My first post-college job is: grad school! I start this fall.
First full time after college job was as a law clerk (paralegal without the certificate) at a large NYC law firm. It was 1985. It paid 20k and I got time and a half for overtime, and if I was working on a holiday the overtime rate doubled. I was living at home with my parents. The job came with health insurance, if you were working on a billable matter lunch and/or dinner could be charged to the client and after 9pm you could take the car service home. They also gave law clerks who left for law school $1000 or $2000 for law school expenses depending on how long they’d worked for the firm.
I’d worked various non part-time jobs in high school and college. My first job was babysitting. I took over some of my best friend’s clients when she decided she’d rather work at David’s Cookies and I charged $3 an hour in 1981-1985. Summers junior year of high school though sophomore year of college I worked as a life guard, swim instructor and bus counselor at a day camp in Rockland County NY. The bus counselor part took care of transportation. The job initially paid $500 with just Advanced Lifesaving, first aid and cpr certificates and went up to $1000 with a water safety instructor certificate. In college (1985-89) I also worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor. I do not remember what the hourly rate was. I think it started at $5 or $5.25. It went up 25 cents per hour each semester you worked and if you had either the 7am to 9am shift or the 7pm to 9pm shift it paid time and half. I was generally working 10-15 hours a week.
As an additional datapoint, my mother made $6100/year as an elementary school teacher right out of teacher college with an masters degree in 1963.
I landed my first job when (and because) I was fifteen: selling ad space for our (weekly) village newspaper. No salary but a percentage of the profits the boss made. He was a very clever sod and quite rightly assumed the local businesses would get a kick out of seeing some young kid trying to make some money selling ad space. So they probably said yes (to the cheapest ad option) more often than they would have done if a grown-up had come to bother them.
One year later I wrote my first ‘story’ for the paper. A few words on some Scouting do. I was so excited I almost forgot to ask money for it. Almost.
In high school I started working for a woman who ran an independent children’s French book distribution company, for 15$/hour, bumped up to 20$/hour after a couple of years. Not too shabby. Plus I got to read a lot of children’s book, which I love to do.
22k? What a Rockafeller!!!
I was a Photographer for our local TV affiliate (politically correct term now is Videographer) and I got $11,500 a year.
I actually asked the news director to lower my salary by $500 a year so I could get food stamps and visits to the free clinic.
My first job after college was as a newspaper reporter covering the police and fire beat for $450 a week in 2003. I loved parts of that job and hated other parts of it but still kind of wish I would have stuck with it longer than a year.
Shoveling gravel in the Phoenix summer for $1.40/hour
Shovelling gravel in Phoenix summer heat for $1.40/hr.
Wow, that’s chain-gang wages.
My first job of any sort was at age 9, when the 1979 Oil Crisis kicked off. My mother worked at a donut shop at the time; about a week into the gas station lines I had the bright idea to take my wagon, fill it up with cups of coffee and donuts, and resell them to the people in cars waiting in line for gas. I forget how I talked mom or the owner into spotting me $3 or $4 in startup money, but I sort of filled up the wagon, went out to the nearest line, ran out of supplies a third of the way down the line, went back to the shop and put all the money back in to more product. That filled the wagon up to the brim, went out and sold stuff to the rest of the line, came back, put in a deposit on a couple of wagonloads for the next day, and went home with as I recall it about five or six bucks profit for 90 minutes work.
That held steady for some weeks of ongoing business. Eventually I hired my little brother to pull the wagon (paid him in donuts plus some commission) so I could be more effective trying to sell to the drivers. The local police department thought it was a hoot once they were clear I wasn’t skipping school to do it. I could only do it for about an hour and a half before school each day, but that was enough to keep a good business going. Eventually the lines died out, but I had a lot of fun while I could.
My first real job was a part-time UNIX training materials writing position at a then-well-known computer training company, in 1991, at $14, hr. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 trying in vain to convince the owner to let me port the books and training materials to the then-brand-new Linux, and bundle the books with the then brand new Yggdrasil Linux CD-ROM distribution which a college friend had released. Sadly, no such “Linux for People” or “Linux Made Easy” bundle ever was created, and I think the world was much worse off as a result… Eventually left it for an early Internet Service Provider, which burned me out but got me into the consulting company I have been with most of the years since.
First real job: after school in the back room of a drug store filling out Medicare reimbursement forms by hand (this was ~1973) for eligible prescriptions at minimum wage ($1.75). My qualification for that was taking Latin in HS so I could figure out most of what the docs scratched on the Rx – but unfortunately my actual (left-handed) writing was mostly of the same quality.
First job after college was as an Electronics Systems consultant for $14K/yr at a famous but now long-gone consulting firm – not that I was an EE, but I’d worked summers in their library and it was at a time when they felt they should have a token non-secretarial female in the dept. I left after 2 yrs because I couldn’t accept the morality of telling the customers what they wanted to hear rather than what the testing showed. Cut my salary in half going to work at an Ivy League university, but I’m still there in the IT dept 34 yrs later
Definitely a great thread. Helped me pass the time at work today.
My first non-babysitting non-paper route job was at 16 as a kitchen worker at a convent. It was the central location for the order, the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. It was a great job for a teenager. I worked weekends during the day only, got paid $3.65 an hour, which in 1978 was about $.40 above minimum wage, earned vacation time (so I got paid to go to Homecoming and prom), and got regular raises. Over the summer, I often got extra hours when the full time people went on vacation.
My first full time job was at a radio network. I forget what the title was, but it was data entry. The affiliate stations sent in time sheets of when they ran our ads, and we entered them into a primitive programs that tallied the clearance (how many ads ran at the correct times). Since advertisers were guaranteed 95% clearance, if we came in below 95%, we had to go back in and change the data until we got 95%. That did not happen often, but the programming was so user unfriendly, it was a big pain in the ass when we had to do that. I got paid about $11,000. Even in 1985 that was pretty low, and I lived with my parents for the two years I was there. Oddly enough, I was laid off because I made too much money. This was not the official reason given, but it was not hard to figure out. The receptionist liked me, and as a form of petty revenge, she opened the supply cabinet for me and let me take anything I wanted out of it.
The worst job I ever had was a summer job at a bakery. I had to be there at 4am, and only got paid $2.90 an hour thanks to some Reagan era loophole that let small businesses out of paying minimum wage. Smelling sugar for eight hours starting at 4am will really turn one off baked goods. To this day, I really have a hard time eating donuts.
My first job that wasn’t occasional babysitting was waitressing. Minimum wage was $4.25/hr; our tips were assumed to amount to at least half of that, so the employer paid $2.13/hr and we reported our tips each night to be sure we’d earned out. If we *didn’t* earn out, never mind how few tables we’d been sat or how many times we were stiffed (the good church-going folks liked to leave tracts instead of dollars, even then) we were warned, and then fired, because actually paying us more than $2.13/hr was unacceptable.
These days, waitstaff in Florida must receive a whole $4.77/hr cash wage — and when you factor in inflation, I’m sure it doesn’t buy any more now than $2.13/hr did back then, in 1993.
First job: Landscape company ‘shop boy’. I was 16, just had my license. Had so many allergies they thought I was on drugs. Thank god for 2nd gen antihistamines. Started at $3.35, think I got a raise to $3.50? Somewhere around $7-8 / hour now.
First job out of college: Analyst in the admissions department of my alma mater. Interesting. Some amazing parts, some terrible parts. Actually a pretty good job overall. Negotiated $28k (roughly 40k today).
Nothing at all like what I do now. I really didn’t work much except for summers, and I was glad. I had an excellent work ethic for school and I often think if I had a 20 hour per week job if it would have benefited or hurt me. I don’t know.
My first job was a paper-route when I was 12. It was in Northern Minnesota so it meant dragging papers in a sled in -40 degree weather. Because the route was far from my house, I got bonus pay and was pulling in $160/month. Not bad for a twelve-year-old in the late seventies.
My first “real” job was as a programmer for a startup, where I was supposed to be getting $20/hour but the founder was always running short on payroll, often adjust hours to “how long it should have taken” and ended up owing my over five grand by the time I quit in disgust. Other than that, the job was awesome.
My first real job that actually paid was for a much less interesting programming gig at $25k/yr that bored me to tears, but actually paid the bills.
My first job ever was working as a clerk in my father’s drugstore for minimum wage–$3.35 back then. My first professional job post college was as an academic adviser at the University of Minnesota, for which I was paid the grand sum of $26,000/year. Sadly, my co-workers with Master’s degrees or PhD’s were only making a couple of thousand dollars more.
My first job, just before and during undergrad (2002-2004), was tracking online copyright infringement for a publishing company. Mostly artwork being used in a reasonable way but without credit, sometimes more serious cases of a whole library of uncredited highish-res art or such. I was making $10/hour.
Now I have a master’s degree and I’m making a whopping $13.50/hour as an editor at my alma mater. I don’t get paid sick days or vacation days. And I only have health insurance because of the ACA. I enjoy the work itself, but I’ve got student loans and bad credit from a couple of really bad years recently and I’d like to buy a house one day.
My first first job, at 14, was as a runner at the Hollywood Bowl. My dad was head carpenter or stage hand or something at the time, so he got me the minimum wage gig. The job duties included, like so many show business jobs, a whole lot of “Hurry up and wait”. The runners all came in at 4pm and had to: sweep the grounds of trash and leaves; deliver rented seat cushions for the bench seats; deliver rented tables for the box seats; deliver ordered dinners to the box seats; collect after dinner trash from the box seats before the show and during intermission; sweep the amphitheater after the show. Being 14, child labor laws forced me to clock out by 10pm, so I got out of that last job, and would hang out backstage until my dad clocked out for the night whatever striking of sets he had to do after the show. I only did that the one summer.
My first job out of college was as a part-time Physics lab instructor at at a mjor state university. I taught only two sections of freshman labs for engineering majors. I think my salary was about $10,000 for the year; by x-mas I had take a second part-time job. But I was listed as 51% full time equivalent, so I qualified for health benefits, and I got my tuition (as a post-baccalaureate music education major) paid for.
Hm. My first job was as a babysitter to my younger cousins, when I was 8. The youngest was still in diapers, and I think I made a dollar a week.
I was a sitter pretty regularly after that, until I was 12 and got my first taxable job, as a page in our state House of Representatives. I earned a $500 per week stipend and lived in a boarding house for those 2 weeks. It was big fun, and turned me into the sort of person who follows politics like other people follow sports.
After that, I got a page position in my local library system, basically shelving and checking in books, for minimum wage; 10 hours a week until I was 14, then 20 per week until I was 16, and could get a job in the so-called private sector. That was an awesome job, although I had a bad habit of starting to read the books that I was supposed to be checking in and shelving.
From 16 to 18, well, minimum wage mall jobs of various sorts, then I went to college and worked various jobs that would pay what wasn’t covered by scholarships and grants: Work-Study in the dining halls, dorms, and library; concert security; house-sitting; some UTT jobs that in retrospect probably weren’t quite legal.
My first post-College job was as a call-center customer service person for a department store chain’s mail-order catalog. I don’t remember what I made, but it wasn’t much more than the minimum, the job itself was unmitigated hell, and as soon as I could find other work, I did.
All in all, I’ve been working steadily since I was “big enough,” except during the recession, when I got laid off and lots of politicians felt free to declare that I was a lazy liberal, sucking on the government’s teat, and I should get off my ass and find a job. Not that I’m bitter about that, no, not at all.
15-17, while in high school, making pizzas! Best job ever, except for the always smelling like pizza. And I can still make a killer pizza from scratch!
First real job? Civil Servant, working for the college computing center, while being a full time student. Talk about being in the right job at the right time.
Love the comment someone made about never work for family businesses or startups unless you’re a principle. As a freelance writer I’ve done both and I totally agree, especially startups. They always promise you that they’ll pay you better “once we get going.” I’ve got a regular client that’s basically a family biz and if they weren’t as good a client as they are I wouldn’t work with them, because the family biz part of it is a total headache and makes the whole enterprise seem like a room filled with propane waiting for a spark to set it off.
My first job was working as a roofing helper (shingles) between high school and college during the summer in 1974. I made a little over $4000 for three months (sometimes working 6 days a week) which turns out to be over $16K in today’s dollars. I was 17 turning 18.
Various teenage paper rounds and student summer jobs, of which the only one that really sticks in the mind was the admin job at a tiny firm making bespoke parts for equally tiny printing firms where my principal obsession was not the pay (which was about three quid an hour), but toilets. The firm’s one and only toilet was in a shed outside in the back yard, had a notice on the (leaking, dangling over your head on one wobbling rusty bracket) cistern reading “please shut the door, the neighbours have complained about the view”, and was permanently occupied by the owner’s son, who used to spend the entire day lurking in there smoking pot and playing with himself. The highlight of my day was my lunchtime trip to the bus station up the road, where I used to pay 20p to use a facility that was neither clean nor salubrious but was still an improvement.
(The other two employees used to just pee against the back fence, something I am not anatomically equipped to do.)
So, three quid an hour, minus 20p bog money.
My first “proper” job after uni paid (in 1998), after tax, £1006/month. Which was enough to pay the rent on an unheated flat with temperamental plumbing, buy a monthly Birmingham area bus pass, feed myself, have the occasional beer, and still save a bit for a rainy day.
My first reliable job, not counting the grad school research assistant stipend, is working as a special ed paraeducator sub. I made about twelve thousand a year, take-home, worked thirty to thirty-five hours a week, and moved around a lot. Then I took a permanent para position that is basically the same thing without the moving. The pay’s the same, but I get health insurance and an email address now.
I miss the money I had during grad school. This time of year, when I can’t find a summer job (I’ve never been able to find one), I get bitter.
1968, I was a banquet houseman at the Hilton in downtown St. Paul. We set up and torn down the facilities & displays for conventions, laid out the the tables for banquets and that sort of thing. It paid $1.15 an hour but time and a half after 8 hours on a single day or for the 6the day in a row and double time for the 7th day in a row. I did OK for a 16 YO kid. I saved up enough money for a used car & insurance but my dad refused to let me get my license and certainly not a car. I smoked a lot of pot that next year. My guess is it is still a minimum wage job and adjusted for inflation they are much worse off than I was.
First adult job was on the air at KLLR in Walker Mn making $90 a week working 5AM till 8AM and then 10AM till 6PM TUesday through Saturday and 5AM till 6PM on Sunday. It sucked. I was not cut out for radio despite having the looks for the job.
First 8-hour/day job, Summer of 63: Spreading tar on the roof of an iron foundry. Hot sun above, molten tar melting my sneakers (real petroleum tar, not the namby-pamby plastic stuff they have these days), giant vats of MOLTEN IRON underneath. For this I got 73¢ an hour and the chance to say “thanks, Dad” sarcastically every payday. I continued that custom for the remaining 40 years of his life.
First jobs were the usual suspects: paperboy, cafeteria dishwasher, pizza delivery, stocker at a fabric store.
(At the pizza place, I learned that whenever someone called in an order for an anchovy pizza, there was about a 50% chance it was a hoax call. Undeliverable pizzas got brought back to the store and tossed on top of the oven to stay warm, and were available for noshing by employees. Luckily, I developed an affinity for anchovies — mmmm, SALT! — instead of an adversion, and will still order the occasional anchovy pizza to this day.)
First real job: US Army. I was trained as a Photographic Laboratory Technician, actually ended up as a company clerk for most of my enlistment. Had benefits: exempted from KP (Kitchen Police) and guard duty.
First mainstream job, after living on GI Bill (it was possible, barely) for a couple of years: legal secretary for a one-man law firm. Interestingly, it was in the law office, not the Army, where I had to deal with a bomb threat. That job paid $500 a month (though I was up to $600 when I left); about $350 after taxes. Not easy to survive on, especially after getting married. (Impossible, if Hilde hadn’t already been getting disability.)
After a year as legal secretary, my name finally rose to the top of the Postal Service hiring list (I took the Postal exam before leaving the Army) and I got hired as a letter carrier, doubling our income overnight and providing life-saving (sometimes financially, sometimes literally) medical insurance. Worked in that job for thirty years before taking retirement in 2008. (Loved the actual job; hated the increasingly sociopathic/psychopathic management culture.)
(Still working, as a security guard. The USPS retirement check is nice, but doesn’t cover everything. Might be able to really retire at age 66, when I can get full Social Security benefits.)
On the side, in the last few years I’ve started writing fiction again. (Would be nice to start selling again, *koff*.)
My first job was a student assistant at the San Antonio Junior College Planetarium, in 1969. We put out the telescopes after the show so the patrons could view the moon and/or planets. It paid $1.25 per hour. Some 40 years later, I occasionally do the same thing as a volunteer at a local observatory.
First real job related to my current profession was a data control clerk at a small computer service bureau, for $2.85 per hour, and later a computer operator at the same place for $4.25 per hour. I ran a 360/30 with 32K of memory, and we had disk drives the size of small washing machine that could store a staggering 7 MB.
Yes and no. It was 1966, and you could buy a new car for considerably less than $3000.
I asked people about their sex lives and jewelry purchases among many other things over the phone for one dollar more than minimum wage one summer when I was in high school (“A digital rectal exam is when a nurse doctor or other health professional sticks his or her finger up your rectum. Have you ever had a digital rectal exam?”). First full-time job was a post-doc, which paid 50K.
My first (non lawn mowing) job was working in the local stock market for minimum wage (somewhere around $3 at the time). We worked one day a week (on Saturdays when the sale was). We started at about 5 to 6 in the morning, had to take lunch by 11 am and usually finished at about 2 am Sunday morning.
The job consisted of moving livestock from one pen to another and trying to keep from getting kicked, gored, or trampled.
Insurance Underwriter trainee at Occidental Life. I think I was getting something like $870/month, but hey, dental benefits! I lived in a big house full of non-working folks; myself and one other lady carried the load. For awhile. And nobody could figure out why I was always so crabby…
The summers of ’93 and ’94, I drafted for a structural engineering firm during while I was home for the summer. It paid $7/hour. The next year I graduated as a civil engineer and scraped for work; the first firm that hired me months later paid $9/hour for mostly drafting work. After 9 months they ran out of work, but I returned to the company I’d interned with for $12/hour. (It was now 1996.)
In 1992 I was fresh out of university as a hospital doctor, and started on a base salary of around $18K. That was a decent living wage back then.
My first job was part-time file clerk at a publishing company after school during my senior year in 1993. I think I made $5 an hour. That summer after I graduated, I got promoted to part-time warehouse worker doing the job that required the most critical thinking they had: processing returns, with a pay increase to $6.25 an hour. That summer working in a warehouse with people who, for the most part, did not have high school diplomas, was a strong incentive to go to college and stick with it! After college, my first full-time long-term job was a medical office assistant at a podiatrist clinic, which I thought would pay great, like $15 an hour (it didn’t, I had to bargain for $8) and really was not a good use of my English Literature and Women’s Studies degrees. I did end up doing the filing because I “understood how the alphabet works”.
First ever job (aside from babysitting and lawn mowing) was on a trail crew. I only made $2000 in 10 weeks but food, tents and transportation were paid for. Every job since then has been part-time or seasonal. Still waiting for that first “real” job
My first job was at a machine factory owned by a friend of the family. It was for a six week gap over summer vacation. I was 14 in 1968, so I had to get a work permit at the local board of health to earn $1.50 an hour, minimum wage. On the job I learned how to use a push broom and the compressed air system. I fed pipe stock into a semi-automatic machine tool, part lathe, part drill, part paper tape reader. I did odd assembly jobs. I learned the difference between real wire cutters and Sunday school wire cutters. I got laughed at when I mentioned that I had learned how to use a shaper in high school metal shop as no one had used a shaper since maybe WWII. All told, it was interesting work. The machine plant was in an industrial area near the Sunnyside Yards in Queens, NY. Back then there were all sorts of machine shops large and small. There are probably just a handful of them left now.
My next job was in computer software in the summer of 1971 for $3 an hour ($17.60 now), pretty good pay at that. I worked translating a “natural language” processing system that drove a multi-dimensional database. It ran on an SDS 940 and had a handful of customers. It’s numbers were dimensioned with units of length, time, money and so on. Supposedly Buckminster Fuller had complained about it mixing physical and metaphysical units. In other words, it was a hip 1960s start up. We were translating the system for a PDP-10 using a machine owned by First National City Bank (Citibank now). We did get some of the components working, but then summer ended and I was off to college. The owner did get the system ported to the Macintosh in the mid-1980s, but I haven’t heard much about it since. The office was on 43rd Street near the big New York Public Library and the Japanese department store Takashimaya, so that was sort of a perk right there.
1972: $1.35/hr at Jack-in-the-Box at 16. I was convinced any minute they would realize the mistake they made hiring me. By the time I graduated high school in 1974, I was raking in $142.50/week as a salaried Shift Manager. There were guys trying to raise a family on less! I was hot stuff. Then I realized the corner I had painted myself into, quit and went to college.
My first “real” job was during high school in the mid 50’s as a movie theater cashier. I earned seventy cents an hour. Of course, if you got to the theater before 6:30 pm you could get in for fifty cents for an adult.
My first job? Casual, then part-time checkout assistant at the nearest discount department store to where I lived. Started this job the September before I turned 16 (so tail end of third year of high school) and I kept it for very close to 10 years (seriously – my first full-time job started approximately six weeks short of my 10 year mark – if I’d managed another 6 weeks in the job, I would have been eligible for long service leave). I think I made about $8.70 per hour (back in 1986) as a 15 year old junior casual, rising to about $20 per hour by the time I went part-time during the Recession We Had To Have back in 1991.
All of which explains why I was a little leery of a tech contracting firm who were trying to get me to do helpdesk work for $12 per hour in 2001.
The full-time job was as an ASO1 trainee with the Department of Social Security (later Centrelink). I forget what that job paid (in fact, a lot of the details of that particular job are rather sketchy in my memory, mostly because I had the Boss From Hell, who was an active bully, and I wound up resigning as an alternative to committing suicide) but I suspect it was an award rate won by the CPSU after much arguing back and forth with the government of the day.
(High wage rates due to me being Australian and living in Australia, where we actually pay a semi-decent minimum wage).
What do the job pay now? I’ve no idea. The company apparently went over to an enterprise bargaining agreement toward the end of the 1990s, so finding out the details of what you’re earning if you’re not actually in the company is probably like drawing teeth.
I had a lawn mowing business in high school. Did 5 or 6 a week for $10 to $20/lawn, depending on the size. Really good money back in the early 80’s.
I’ve been to Fresno! I have family in Hanford (Dad graduated Hanford High in 1946) and still get out there every few years.
My first memory of my first job dates back to when I was five or so years old. I grew up on a horse farm, and everybody in the family was expected to help. Of course, we didn’t really get paid, unless we’re counting room and board as payment, and I like to believe my parents wouldn’t have /actually/ thrown us out of the car and left us on the side of the highway, however often it might have been threatened.
My first paying job was working as a lifeguard for a nearby city (kinda surprised I’m the first here with that one). Seasonal work, but full time during the season. It paid minimum wage ($7.25 an hour back in 2002), and was quite the eye opener, both in what it taught me about myself and how the world worked when you went off the farm. In hindsight, I probably should have realized that I was in the wrong environment when I had to break up the first parking lot knife-fight, but I was young and felt I couldn’t quit on my first day, and definitely not before I’d actually even set foot inside the facility. I kept doing that for four years (and the fact that I was promoted to manager of my facility, entirely without asking, at the start of my second season, probably should have been another warning sign), despite learning that the municipality was deliberately fudging test results to avoid admitting the lake I was working on had been contaminated with heavy metals, and being routinely chased around the facility by angry parents (with baseball bats) whenever I threw their children out for the day (apparently angry parents with baseball bats was not a high priority for the local police, because none of my many ‘community cardio-exercise programs’ as the staff euphemistically called them, were ever shorter than 30 minutes). When I eventually left, it was because my body had been so overexposed to sunlight that I’d developed an allergic reaction to it (this because of covering every shift that any member of my staff couldn’t be bothered to show up for, and possibly exacerbated by the heavy metals in the water we had to do our daily exercises in). Thirteen years later and I’m finally reaching the point where I can be out in the sun for almost an hour without breaking out in hives.
After college (well, after the first batch of college, when I didn’t manage to finish my degree), my first job was working at a plastic injection molding factory. It paid minimum wage again, and I credit it with being the reason I got my arse in gear and did eventually finish that degree. I learnt all sorts of interesting facts there as well, like the fact that if you handle hot plastic often enough through thin cotton gloves, the nerves that detect heat in your palms and fingers will actually stop functioning, and you’ll have to start paying attention for the smell of burning skin if you want to know when the part was too hot and you’re injuring yourself. Other life lessons include: Do try and tell the floor manager he’s made a mistake keying in that ‘correction’ he’s making to your machine. He’ll ignore you anyway, and it’ll break the mold just like anyone could have predicted (if you have tolerances of .015 inches on a part and someone adjusts the elevation of one half of the mold by .05 inches rather than .005 inches, things aren’t going to line up the mold is going to get smashed). You’re still going to get blamed for it because he probably didn’t reach that level in the company by admitting to being at fault for anything, but at least you’ll get the minor satisfaction of saying “I told you so.” It’s probably the most job satisfaction you can hope for today, so take it.
After finishing the degree, my first job was working as a cashier at Barnes & Noble. There’s actually no real interesting stories about that one. It paid minimum wage again, but the customers were actually pleasant, the duties were far from onerous, and you got pretty decent employee discounts. It made me realize I enjoyed working with those members of the public who enjoyed books just as much as I did, and prompted me to later get a job in a local library system.
Post college job: analyst for a drug-abuse related nonprofit. Salary in today’s dollars $35,000. (Huh, better than I thought.) After 6 months of mostly fund-raising instead of analyzing I left to work for an elected politician for the equivalent of $31,000 but much more interesting work.
PS: if you want to do this calculation, go to The Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.
First real job, after graduating with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, was as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force, acting as a glorified executive assistant to the squadron commander and running the admin/personnel shop, and living in a rented mobile home off base. Monthly O-1 pay in 1988 was $1,286.10 ($15,433.20/yr), but there were also non-taxable subsistence and housing allowances adding another ~$380 per month. I stayed with the Air Force for 20 years and 8 days, which left me trying to learn how to find a ‘real’ job much later than most …
My first real job was a summer spent detasseling corn. For those not of the farm belt, it involves spending all day out in the corn field, yanking the tops of the stalk off by hand. It was alternately hot, humid, wet, cold, but almost always miserable. I wanted a new bike and stayed with it until I had enough for the one I wanted. This was in about 1980. I think if you factored in money parents spent on sunscreen, lunch, and rides to the bus that picked us up, as a family we probably actually lost money on the deal.
After that I worked at a series of Steak-n-Shakes throughout college. I still have friends from those times, I still love me some Steakburgers.
First job: summer cashier at a convenience store campground. I was seventeen. The manager took one look at me–female, 5’2, looked about twelve*–and told me I was not working nights, ever. Apparently that’s when Shit Got Real. As it was, day shift involved one guy who threw his change at my face, *everyone and their mother* pitching hissy fits when I carded them, and a number of people who smelled like they’d been dead for a week.
First post-college job: Freelance editor for a legal/business publisher. I got to work at home, which was great; sadly, the pay didn’t cover my rent, so I also either temped, worked at the college bookstore (DEATH) or worked in a flower shop (fun, in an occasionally zombie-apocalypse-esque way.)
First “real” job: “Editorial assistant” for a consultant with pretensions of authorship. I’d like to add my voice to the “never work for start-ups or family businesses” sentiment: dude had me working eighty hour weeks** for 30K a year, rewiring his study, babysitting the kid he’d had with his child-bride third wife, and handing out flyers in an attempt to sell his condo. In Boston. In January. The child-bride put eyeshadow on me first, and I realized I was a fallen woman in a Dickens novel and started making escape plans.
Also sometimes he wouldn’t wear pants. I don’t think he meant anything harassment-y by it, he just didn’t think of his employees as human enough to justify anything more than tightie-whities.
They later moved to Cornell, only to move back a week later because, I swear, Cornell wouldn’t let the dude teach whatever he wanted whenever he wanted, and also they paid “only 100K a year.” (When I couldn’t quite poker-face my reaction, either the guy himself or child-bride was like, “Well, he has two ex-wives to support!” Hand to God.)
All of my other jobs have been better.
*One customer, who looked strikingly like BOB from Twin Peaks, informed me that “Hey, that’s cute.”
**None of them needed to be eighty hours. The man could not keep his mind on one task at a time, nor could he grasp the concept of “done.”
I bagged groceries at Albertson’s in 1991, and I think minimum wage then was, what $4.25? Was I even making four bucks an hour? First real gig after college was programming crappy edutainment video games for $28K; if anyone ever played Lightspan stuff on the PlayStation, I apologize.
I entered teaching (Math!!) in 1968 at £900 per year (goodness knows what that was in $$ at the time) ;) but it WAS good money even then :) I made cardboard boxes in my student holidays at minimum wage (but can’t remember how much) and I also waited tables at a prominant hotel (also at basic wage).
When I retired (not so long ago!) I was only making £21,000 pa which is low in UK salaries even now :)
My first full-time job was at the old Harley Davidson shop in downtown Indianapolis. I worked 8 hours a day stocking motorcycle parts. I wandered up and down these big aisles of tiny boxes reading numbers and putting small plastic bags with different size nuts and bolts and chrome pieces into them. There were three deliveries a day. An unending flow of parts for custom jobs and repairs. It was cool to hang out with the garage crew, but I was glad when the summer ended. It was nice to have some money, but I was forced to save half of it.
First full-time gig was the United States Air Force, right after graduation. $374.40 per month, plus food, lodging, and medical care. And never having to worry about what to wear to work.
My first normal job was working as a bagger at a local supermarket when I was 16. Lasted a couple of weeks before I was fired for not wanting to stay later than my scheduled ending time.
My first abnormal job was delivering newspapers. Made 12 1/2 cents per daily and 25 cents per Sunday paper, this being the very early 80’s.
My first job was also at Del Taco – but in Fullerton! I didn’t really come home smelling of lard cause I was the cashier/drinks person.
First after school job was shelving books at a local library when I was 15. It was 2000 and the pay started off at $6, but quickly jumped up to $6.75 when minimum wage was raised in Massachusetts. It was a good job. I remember they were going to cut us out of the budgets one year and the librarians stood up for us. I guess we were helpful.
First real job was as a temp for the power company. It was 2007, I had just turned 22 and was THRILLED to be making just over $10 an hour. It didn’t take me long before I began to hate that job (customer service). It wasn’t bad work at all but I was horribly suited to it. That and I didn’t go full time for a solid year, meaning I didn’t have any paid sick, holiday or vacation time, so I didn’t really take any time off. It was good motivation to go back to grad school.
My first first job was at a Sbarro Pizza at the local mall, for $3.15 an hour. I did just about everything in the place. The pros were being able to take home leftover pizza (I was a hit at parties!) and being able to put on a show by flipping the dough. The cons? Dish washing, smelling like cooked green peppers, and one fateful evening it became a literal shit job. The less said, the better.
That evening did lead me to applying for a temp Christmas position at Electronics Boutique, a job, which became permanent and I would keep as a secondary source of income right through my third year of teaching.
Teaching was my first real job, at $26,800 in 1997. I was lucky to have been able to impress the right people while substitute teaching, and broke into a very saturated market. That said, when broken down hourly, I made more money per hour delivering pizza for Domino’s than I did that first year teaching – and I’m only counting the contractual hours!
Been teaching now for 17 years, and I love it. I can’t think of many other things I’d like to do more, and few are practical (NASA doesn’t really need 42 year old astronauts without science backgrounds, and there isn’t much market for professional readers or game players). Luckily, my salary has increased considerably, and while I am far from rich, my income lets me lead a comfortable lifestyle.
At around age 10, picking strawberries for 25 cents a quart and selling them for 50 cents.
At age 11, babysitting for 75 cents an hour. (Yes, people actually left their most precious possessions with an 11-year-old. Also, no one knew the Heimlich Maneuver or infant CPR back then. Thank goodness nothing ever happened.)
At age 12, typing worksheets for 50 cents a page. My dad was in a master’s degree in teaching program and had been given a grant to create a math program. Since he needed a typist, he hired me.
At age 13 and 14, picking tomatoes in a greenhouse. Hellishly hot and stinky, and I had to ride my bike a couple of miles each way to get there. But I was making biiiiig money, baby: $1.35 an hour. Woo hoo!
At age 17, working Friday-Sunday (two overnight shifts, one evening shift) at a bakery. Can’t remember what I earned but I know it was less than $4 an hour. After smelling 120 dozen doughnuts frying in grease during my shift, it was YEARS before I could eat a cruller.
At age 18, shift work at a glass factory for one summer to make money for college. Pay ranged from $4.14 to $4.76 per hour. I worked a ton of double shifts and never got used to sleeping. You’d work five days of 7-3, have a day off and go in at 3 p.m. the next day; then work five days of 3-11, have two days off and go in at 11 p.m. the next night; then work five nights of 11-7, have two days off and go in at 7 a.m.
Various jobs since, mostly in the field of writing (typesetter/proofreader, newspaper clerk, newspaper reporter, MSN Money blogger). Now I freelance full-time and I’ve never been happier.
P.S. Now I pick tomatoes only when *I* want to pick them. Ditto strawberries.
First ‘real’ job – busboy and waffle/omelet cook for Sunday brunch, at $3.35/hr. (And if you were cooking – meaning waffles and omelets – your tips came from the cooks, who were tipped in turn by the wait staff. Which meant about $3.00 at the end of an 8-hour shift.)
My first job was working 3 whole hours a week as a janitor at a small rural post office. (I was 16; parents said whatever job I had couldn’t be so many hours that it interfered with school work, and I wanted to avoid fast food.) This lead to my second job – a woman who worked there also owned a business with her husband and family. I apparently impressed her, and she was looking for someone entry-level who was good with computers. I ended up working there for almost 8 years and became part of the accounting and IT staff. Still doing accounting work lo these 15 years later.
Working in a candy store at a theme park. One year during yearly inventory I moved over a ton of candy. I made better than minimum wage because the park was a union shop. Customers could be unspeakably rude which is why I think there should be a law that everyone has to work in either food service or retail at some point in their lives.
A month after I turned 16, my mom told me I had a job. She was working nights at a title agency as a typist and they needed a lot of filing done. The managers asked if anyone had teenagers who’d be willing to do it and my mom said I would. I worked about 3-5 hours, 3 nights a week for $9/hour (this was Ohio and well above Minimum Wage!). Eventually, I signed up for a business program my senior year of high school which let me go into the office every afternoon for 3-4 hours, doing filing and odd office errands along with the full time file clerk. I also did a lot of data entry.
Once I graduated, I switched to full time and became a typist/data entry person, which came with a raise to $10/hour. Despite the really good money, I was bored senseless and quit about a year later to go to college full time. A couple years later, it was the experience from that job that landed me another job working as data entry for one of the major banks in their mortgage department.
Private First Class in the United States Army in 1965 — $87.90/month. It wasn’t much even back then.
Did the typical lawnmowing and babysitting to start, though I also did filing for one neighbor that ran a contracting business with an in-home office. Half of everything I made went to my parents and from there into savings bonds for college—the last one of which I cashed out *after* college, which worked out well. My first outside job was for Chuck E. Cheese and I actually enjoyed it for the most part (though really, we didn’t get tips very often, so it’s a good thing California doesn’t allow restaurants to pre-discount wages for servers.)
After that, I worked at summer camp for four years—roughly $150-$170 per week in the mid-90s, but with food and lodging costs assumed (I’ve heard they’ve gone back to wages minus “living expenses.” At least there’s usually better-than-average food there.)(Usually. I got to experience the worst and then the BEST, as in “I don’t know how they get that quality of food on that budget.”) Wonderful, fun work, even with the occasional curveball. (I got to fight a wildfire. How many people who are *not* firefighters can say that?)
First post-college job actually started about a month before I graduated, newsradio button-pusher for 30 hours a week at $6/hr in 1999. I was mostly hired because they were desperate and I wasn’t afraid of computers, which were still being integrated into the on-air business. Oddly enough, I ended up working for the same corporate masters eight years later, same basic job but $12/hr (in a much more expensive market.) Worked there for five years; never saw a raise—and neither did any of my coworkers who had been there longer.
I actually have a counterpoint to the “never work for a family business.” The other job I was doing concurrently with the radio job was for a family photography studio—but they’d been in business for decades, they treat the place LIKE a business, and I got several raises over the time period I was working full or part time. (Right now, as I’m raising small children, I’m “as called.” Another benefit to a small family business is that there’s no paperwork to fill out regarding this—they ask if I’m available, I let them know, I show up and do what needs doing, I get paid.) So it depends on the business in question, because if they’re professionals, a family business can be far more enjoyable than suddenly getting a call in early December that you’ve just been part of a mass layoff, don’t bother coming in on your next shift.
My first job after getting my Juris Doctorate, was shoveling dirt around oil tanks. Not my idea of fun but it paid the bills until I could find a better job.
My first job was delivering newspapers. I don’t know how much I made at that job (I was 13 and cash in hand was the important thing). But, I didn’t spend enough, so I took the extra to the bank down the street and opened my own savings account (didn’t bother to tell my parents about it either). My first real job was as a computer programmer in 1980 for $11,500 per year. I was doing very well for a 21 year old at the time.
First paid job in 1972 was working for $1.30/hr (farm minimum) on my grandfather’s farm, mostly moving irrigation pipe. A few more summers of farm work, McDonalds grill cook at 16 (non-farm minimum, $2.30), shoe store stock boy ($3.50), carpenters assistant on a framing crew (10 hours/day @ $7/hr), ice cream truck driver (commission only! the framing gig ended abruptly when the crew foreman went to jail for dealing meth, and it was ice cream for 6 weeks, or back to grandfathers farm). Then off to college.
First “real” job was $10/hr contact programming to Amoco in 1981, fairly quickly bumped to $15.
I spent the years between 10 and 18 working for my dad’s retail business, but I don’t know if it counts as a “job”. It did look like one – I handled stock, did inventory, ran the cash, cleaned the premises, set up new locations, and, I’m sure, performed a lot of other things that looked like work – but it paid nothing until I was out of high school. I got something like $12 a week plus small sums doled out at whim until I was maybe 17, at which point I got paid $5.25 an hour for working shifts on cash.
Maybe that’s the other side of the “family business” thing people mentioned; however poorly you may have been treated, the people inside the family wall, for whom the job is akin to chores, may have done worse.
My first career job was with a little medical software company; I started at $26k salary with very few benefits and managed to pull a few 100 hour weeks during the year I was employed there. And still I felt guilty when I left.
My first non-paper route jobs were a triple whammy of bakery shop, shitty cafe and private tutoring. Worked less hours than I would have liked, pulled in about $350 a week (2003) but by buying nothing but train tickets and coffee for six months I managed to shoe-string around Europe for a season. I paid my rent through university working as a lifeguard at the local swimming pool, which pays amazingly for a teenager as it’s a ”qualified”job (a week’s course…)
My first real job was office assistant for the Medical Board. Which indirectly led to my current, fairly satisfying job :)