Do you ever spend your days looking for a purpose?
Like seriously, why am I here? What am I doing today to contribute to society today? I started to notice these questions pop into my head at the age of 13, right around the time when I first started working.
The monotony of working a minimum wage job is painful, I know. Believe it or not, I’ve learned so much about life, people, and myself while tossing pizzas, slinging ice cream, and chasing children around a minigolf course.
Don’t get me wrong, minimum wage jobs suck sometimes. There is nothing glamorous about coming home at midnight with pizza sauce stuck in your hair at sixteen. Though, I’ve always liked working, and I’m glad I started when I was younger. Working throughout my younger years has definitely taught me critical life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
- Friendships Come in Odd Places
Working at the local pizza and ice cream shops was a lot of fun for me – they were great high school jobs. My bosses were flexible and I’d make crazy good tips on busy nights. After I was hired, I immediately checked the schedule to see who I’d be working with. Full disclosure, the thought of some of my coworkers made me groan in disgust.
After working a few shifts, I began to make the most unlikely friends. People I couldn’t stand quickly became friends who I trusted the most. I guess dealing with rude customers together from 5-11pm changes your perspective of a person. After making this liberating discovery, I quickly dropped the judge-a-book-by-its-cover act and allowed people’s personalities to make the impressions.
- Money Management
Working a job will teach even the wildest of spenders how to stretch a buck. Once I started earning and spending my own money, I also learned how to budget, bargain-shop, and coupon. I installed a whole fleet of couponing apps on my phone, I discovered my love for thrifting, and I began monitoring my income in my planner.
As I got older, I had more financial responsibilities and had to dedicate a portion of my paycheck to costs for my car and education. I independently paid for my own college prep programs in high school, as well as my AP exam fees. My parents always offered to cover the cost, but I felt better paying for it myself. Whatever money I had left over, I would stick in my savings for college or a rainy day.
- Don’t Dwell On Your Mistakes
Honestly, I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist – and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a super annoying personality trait. I still remember the first pizza I messed up, where I forgot to put cheese on it before putting it in the oven. (Embarrassing, but hey, I’m human). Thankfully, my bosses are pretty chill and we just laughed it off as if nothing happened.
For a while, I let little mistakes like that bother me. Seriously, I’d go home at night and think about how I gave a customer rainbow sprinkles on her cone instead of chocolate. After working these jobs for a little while longer, I stopped dwelling on my mistakes so much. Chances are, that three-year-old doesn’t know the difference between cookie dough and cookies ‘n’ cream anyways. I realized that life goes on, no matter how many pizzas I mess up or cones I break.
Thankfully, that attitude has stuck with me, even after I clock out.
- Prioritize Carefully
I’m definitely a workaholic. During the average week, I’d work five days as a sixteen-year-old. I didn’t have a problem with it most times, and often I’d pick up a few of those shifts for my coworkers. I liked the money, and it always gave me something to do.
Looking back, I feel like I missed out on a lot due to my work laden schedule. I’d show up late to parties, I’d miss some of my favorite sporting events at school, and I’d even skip some family gatherings. Now, I have a better idea of how to balance work, fun, and school.
Big paychecks are always rewarding, but money will never ever trump memories.
In my expert opinion, it’s hard to be humble. It’s scientifically proven that we love to brag about ourselves. Working a minimum wage job will definitely knock you down a few pegs, though. Sometimes customers will attack you for just about anything.
I’ve dealt with my fair share of “Karens” and, let me tell you, it’s a humbling experience. This sounds totally awful, right? Wrong. I’m a better customer and person because of it. Whenever I go to Starbucks and the barista makes me a hot coffee instead of an iced one, what do I do? I say, “thank you!” and go about my day. I always make sure to tip, even if it is just for carry out.
You never understand how difficult it is until you’re the one behind the counter dealing with a dinner rush. Sometimes, a one-dollar tip can make a huge difference in someone’s workday.
I said it once and I’ll say it again: minimum wage jobs are not the most charming.
I’m not normally much of an optimist, but when it comes to work, I’m able to find some good in every situation. Working multiple minimum wage jobs has taught me so much and I will forever encourage high schoolers and college students to try one out while they can. I’m totally cool with working for $7.25 scooping ice cream for now. Once I get my fancy degree and first ‘big girl’ job, I’ll be sure to remember my roots. I won’t forget to tip the girl at the carryout place, I’ll stack my plates for the waitress at every restaurant, and I’ll always include the words “please” and “thank you” in my order.