Three Bad Jobs That Can Eventually Make You Rich And Happy

Fast Food JobIf I wasn’t whipped so hard during my first job out of college, I never would have saved over 50% of my after-tax income every year for 13 years in a row. I probably would’ve blown the majority of my income on fancy cars, late nights at the clubs with bottle service, and frequent weekend trips to Atlantic City or Vegas.

At age 22, I already had the penchant for the good life having finally landed a plum job in finance. Going from making hardly anything to making a tidy sum very quickly is a very dangerous situation (think lottery winners). When your peers are recklessly spending money every weekend, it’s very hard not to follow. But I didn’t follow because of the jobs I once had.

Getting in at 5:30am and often leaving after 8pm was NO FUN. I gained 15 pounds, was constantly sick, and became a stress case. I also worked most weekends for the first two years because I was a dumbass who needed to learn more about finance if I was to sound remotely intelligent with clients. Each minute I worked past the 12 hour mark was a reminder to keep on saving money. There was no way I could last for more than three years in this cutthroat business I remember telling myself.

Before the post college lashes, there were three other jobs that helped me prepare for the real world. I hope to never do any of these jobs again, but never say never when you’re unemployed. What I realize today is that adversity builds character. The following three jobs helped prepare me to navigate workplace politics, resolve conflicts with employees, endure marathon work hours, produce consistent work and appreciate the value of a hard earned dollar.

CRAPTASTIC JOBS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE FOR THE BETTER

My parents were squarely middle class. We lived in a cozy three bedroom townhouse while I was in high school and we rocked a seven year old Toyota Camry which my father bought second hand. I think I got $10-$15 a week in allowance or something, but I can’t remember because it wasn’t enough to buy anything memorable.

When you have no money, receiving any amount of money is awesome. I’d always look forward to my birthday or Christmas because my grandparents would always be so kind as to send me some crispy cash. I was embarrassed to ask my parents for money, so I rarely ever did except for the time when I wanted to upgrade my 386 computer.

As a freshman in high school I needed money because I liked this girl. I wanted to have at least $30 bucks so I could take her out for dinner and a movie. I decided to get a job. Oh, the things you do for love!

Three Jobs I Will Cherish Forever

1) Greasy Burger Flipper. Getting up at 5:30am on a Saturday as a high school student is probably one of the least enjoyable things to do. I walked five blocks in the dark to McDonald’s so I could open up shop by 6am. There was something very calming about walking the misty suburban streets with nobody around. Perhaps I enjoyed the seven minutes of quiet so much because I knew chaos was about to ensue.

My McDonald’s colleagues were fantastic. A veteran colleague  named Pedro became my mentor, teaching me how to make Egg McMuffins, clean the grill, work the cash register, and assemble Big Macs. Pedro also gave me the inside scoop about work place politics by telling me who to avoid and how to please our over eager manager.

Over time I became adept at cracking eggs with one hand and assembling the best quarter pounders with cheese. I was proud of how far I came and made food production a game so I’d forget I was only making $3.5-$4.25 an hour. I also reminded myself about the great benefit of all you can eat apple pies. Yum!

Things were going well until one day, the manager started yelling at us for speaking Spanish to each other at the cash register. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop speaking Spanish in front of the customers?!” he raged. “They’ll think you’re speaking bad about them!” It wasn’t just speaking Spanish at the cash register, but even while we were making apple pies in the back, minding our own business. He’d dish out racial stereotypes which left us dumbfounded.

We despised him for telling us what we could and could not say. Now that I write this post, a part of me wants to see if he’s still a manager at a McDonald’s so I can go buy the particular restaurant and fire his ass. We felt like prisoners making $20-$30 a day. I swore I would never return to fast food again.

Takeaways:

* There is magic to getting up early.

* The physical heat of a blazing grill doesn’t get easier to endure over time.

* Punctuality breeds credibility.

* Consistent production leads to progress.

* Racism, subtle or direct feels worse in a work setting because of the needed money.

* Following orders is necessary when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole.

* Appreciate every single person who decides to take a minimum wage fast food job rather than complain.

* Why I love this Yakezie Writing Contest essay so much: El Aguacate.

2) Envelop stuffer. Despite the unfun times at McDonald’s, I became enthralled with being able to make my own money and not depend on my parents. I decided to apply to a temp agency to see if I could land myself a more work friendly office job. Computers were my forte and I could also type well over 120 words a minute by sophomore year.

After only about a week of waiting, I was deployed to my first office job. Sweet! Finally, I got to go to an environment where there’s no grease splashing all over the place and impatient customers waiting in line for their heart attack sandos. It was a Saturday morning when I arrived at the company at 8am. The place was desserted except for a grumpy worker whose task was to let me in and tell me what to do.

The worker escorted me into conference room where I saw a mountain of envelopes and papers. My job was to spend the next eight hours folding papers, stuffing envelopes, and sealing envelopes. She brought me a radio to keep me company and told me she’d check back in four hours for lunch.

For the first hour I didn’t mind because I was now making $5 an hour, equivalent to a 30% raise! I didn’t have to look out for a Spanish language hating manager either. By the third hour I was bored out of my mind. The woman came back after two hours to inspect my work. Instead of saying “great job,” she scolded me for not making perfect folds and told me to redo over 200 stuffed envelopes!

F*CK! I did what I was told and meticulously refolded every single paper and stuffed them right back in. I ended up stuffing envelopes for three days before the task was done. Never again! At least I was $120 richer.

Takeaways:

* Working in solitude is terrible.

* How to forge through nonstop mindless work.

* Attention to detail is critical.

* Doing things right the first time is more important than doing things quickly.

* Realizing freedom is better than having lots of money.

3) Mover. My final craptastic job was moving hundreds of boxes for a small family business to a bigger space office space. My buddy asked if I wanted to join him for a weekend and I said sure. Anything was better than sitting in a dark room alone stuffing envelopes!

My friend was a pretty big guy for a 16 year old at 6′ 3″ and 200 lbs. He could bench 350 pounds without a problem. Here I was five inches shorter, 40 lbs lighter, and benching 205 lbs on my best day, trying to hoist the same amount of boxes. After about four hours of moving I felt my lower back give out so I decided to lay on the floor and stretch. The lower back is crucial for serving, and I wanted to prevent potential long term injury as a starter on the varsity tennis team. My buddy was still going strong so he started making fun of me for “sleeping on the job.” Sleep? Damn, that’s all I wanted to do. Sleep on a nice massage table and have a lovely lady knead out my knots!

I could barely get out of bed the next day. There were aching muscles I didn’t even know I had. I walked around the house hunchbacked like an 80 year old man wondering whether to return. I wasn’t going to let my buddy or my employer down so I got back to work at 8am on a Sunday and we moved boxes until 6pm. Our employers each gave us a $100 dollar bill and thanked us for our time. I swore never to move anything for a living again.

Takeaways:

* Pain can be overcome through the mind.

* To always follow through on a commitment.

* Cash is a nice way to get paid.

* Manual labor is brutal and not for me.

* Everything is relative. I’d rather stuff envelopes with a friend.

* If only I could find a job that used my mind more.

* A body breaks down, but the mind can last for a much longer time.

WORKING TOUGH JOBS BUILDS CHARACTER

Whenever I got yelled at by a client or boss or had to travel thousands of miles for a one hour long meeting, I’d remember back to my high school days and smile. I had this immense fear that if I did not do well in school, I would end up flipping burgers in the morning, stuffing envelopes in the afternoon, and moving boxes at night for a living. Thanks to fear, I studied my heart out so I could at least have a chance at a better life.

So many of my colleagues from Wall Street quit after two or three years because they couldn’t take the long hours and immense pressure. Many went complete 180s by joining non-profits, the government, or going back to school in fields totally unrelated to finance. Good for them. I probably would have been out by age 25 if it wasn’t for my job experiences in high school and a move to the more balanced city of San Francisco after my second year.

Nowadays, writing three to four times a week online is a piece of cake compared to all jobs I’ve held prior. Whenever I start to feel burnt out or sorry for myself, I laugh at how silly I am and think, “How the hell can you get burnt out sitting in the hot tub writing a post? Don’t you remember your past? Stop complaining!” I sometimes get lazy and need all the motivation I can get to carry on.

I encourage everyone to work a minimum wage job growing up or find a job you might feel is beneath you at some point in your life. Once you experience craptasticity, you will not only appreciate everyone who currently works such jobs, you’ll also become much more appreciative of what you have.

Recommendation: Find Thousands of Relevant Jobs through the link with TheLadders.com. They have the most 100K+ job listings on the web.

Related post: Examples Of Good Resumes That Get Jobs

How To Make Money Quitting Your Job

Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post Sam! I too worked in fast food on two different occasions and experienced a number of the same things you did. Great point on tough jobs building character. My Dad taught me young in life to appreciate those jobs that you may not enjoy because of the lessons you learn and the character building that comes from them. I do think that some have not had that experience and it can be easy to see that bear out at times.

  2. Steve H says

    I was 15 in 1977. I came home from school and mom took me to a restaurant on the Las Vegas strip where she knew the manager. She had coffee while I filled out an application and lied about my age as instructed. Thus began my first job bussing tables on the grave yard shift. I worked fourty hours a week on school nights. I remember working my first shift then being picked up my father who would teach me to drive on the way to school. I would make my way through the school day in a daze. I would walk home after school and fall into a heap and sleep till mom woke me up at 10 pm to start all over again.

    Mom collected my paychecks and confiscated my tips. Mom and dad were divorced and I figured she just needed the money. I pressed on through the school year and my 16th birthday and on into the summer. During the summer, I gained enough seniority to move to swing shift and a more normal schedule. I was happy that when school started again I would be able to sleep before school and work before sleep.

    Towards the end of summer, and very much by surprise, mom handed over a check, the sum total of my earnings, and told me to call my dad and go shop for a car. After a day in which dad tried in vein to point me toward volkswagons, Chevy Vega’s, and Datsons on a very large car lot, the salesman came running after us as we were leaving and shouted that he had something he knew I was going to love. He took us around back where he showed us a newly traded-in vehicle, a metallic blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro with just over 60,000 on the odometer. The $1900 price tag was quickly handed over and I drove her home. I remember sitting on the front porch just staring at that car. It really was the proverbial cream puff. No chips, no dents, no dings.

    The job and car have too many stories behind them to go into. But I learned what type of work I did not want to do, and what type of pay I’d did not aspire to. I learned what it was like to get almost straight F’s on a report card. I learned how to put up with difficult people and customers snapping their fingers to get my attention. I was once accused of stealing tips from the tables I cleaned, presumably singled out for my non-Caucasian status, until the real theif was eventually caught in the act. I learned the value of saving and deferred gratification. I also learned how to drink underaged in a bar with college aged co-workers and be exposed to recreational drugs. I remember how adult I felt being privy to the grown up talk of my adult co-workers, their sexcapades, foul language, and adult themed problems. I grew up fast in that environment. Looking back, there are experiences that I cherish and experiences I’d rather forget. Still i wouldnt trade them for anything. (sigh), I wish I still had the Camaro.

    • says

      Steve, what a wonderful comment. I was kind of worried there a little about what your parents made you do at such a young age, but when they gave you all your earned money back and allowed you to buy your first love…. now that is something special that I you’ll never forget.

      Thanks again!

  3. Shaun says

    Ah yes good times. I had tons of crappy minimum wage jobs the worst was a 3 month stint at McDonald’s when I was 16 and being in the custodial staff at a highway stop (eww). I worked as a gas station attendent for a while, worked on a farm when I was 14, hardware store etc etc.

    I did these crappy jobs until around the time I was a sophomore in college and the online poker craze was near its peak before being declared explicitly illegal. I was completely broke and needed to get a job and at around the same time I broke my leg pretty badly. This was a real shock to my system cause how could I do hard labor somewhere(my only skill at the time) if I couldn’t walk?

    Well sitting in my dorm room on my last $50 to my name, I put it on an online poker account and started playing. I made probably $5k over the next few months on it while going to school. Albeit I played a LOT of hours of online poker cause I couldn’t do much else at the time but I remember doing the math and realizing with a relatively low bankroll I was making double what I made doing minimum wage jobs doing something I enjoyed. That was a really interesting concept to me. Now I never took that to the next step and tried to play bigger money games and make a living off of it (although I have a friend who did that relatively successfully) but I also never worked a minimum wage job again. In my mind if I wanted to make money I could do it whenever I wanted to and it kind of freed me to not have to worry about being stuck without enough money to live ever again. I learned I could use my mind to make money at the very least at a rate double the minimum wage which is probably the most valuable lesson I’ve learned to date.

      • Shaun says

        All of them ya. This was before the US started cracking down on online poker in the age of party poker. Was a pretty easy thing to do back then.

    • says

      Ahhh, the online poker craze. I know it well and was hooked several years ago. I’m actually waiting to get a seat at a table now at a nearby card room.

      I’ve found poker to be too much of a zero sum game. Even if you have pocket Kings against pocket Queens, you’ll still get bad beat on occasion. Playing well only gets you so far. So many “poker pros I know go broke at some point.

      Not a profession for me or for most.

  4. Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide says

    Two of those were gigs, not jobs. :) I had 11 jobs by the time I graduated from college. Most were short-term–I only actually quit two. A number I had at the same time–my max was 3 part-time jobs at once. Most of them partly stank. Just about all of them taught me something.

  5. says

    Funny how different we all are! The jobs I enjoyed were the ones where I could work alone. Envelope stuffing or photocopying were pieces of cake when those came across my path. I remember a high school job at a roadhouse (remember those?). They started you out on the grill, but you just did that till you could serve the cars… and get tips! After two days serving, I asked to get demoted back to the grill. What others called pressure I saw as a challenging game.

    So now I’m in nerdy heaven tapping away at my computer… :)

  6. says

    I’ve worked a few crappy jobs in the past. Although mostly mine were made crappy by working with insane bosses and/or coworkers.

    Nothing quite like spending every day being insulted multiple times by a foul mouthed misogynist with an anger management problem. Yeah… good times.

    Or working in an office full of people whose major pastime was gossiping, slander, and basically acting like a bunch of retarded 5th graders. Yeah…

    Or 12 hour days in a chronically understaffed retail store…

    These kinds of experiences do build character, but that only occurs after you get past the trauma.

    • JayCeezy says

      Sorry to hear it, those work environments are like the “lobster cages”.

      A book that really helped me deal with hostile work environments is “Am I The Only Sane One Working Here?” by Albert Bernstein. Real, practical advice for how to detach from and contend with problem personalities, timewasters, passive-aggressives, backstabbers, bullies, etc. I wish I read it 25 years ago, it would have saved me a lot of frustration; maybe you or others will find it of interest.

  7. says

    I loved my McD job, we were a great team and I stayed for a year, then left with the restaurant manager to another chain restaurant. The long hours standing, little sleep and time to study make any job seem like heaven afterwards.

  8. David m says

    1). I sold newspapers from a corner. A great job on a sunny warm day! However not a great job when it is 10 degrees F and windy! I would be out there for 3-4 hours without a break. I still got frost bitten feet vey easily to this day, 30 years later.

    2). Cleaning the meat room of a food store. You got a nigh pressure gun and sprayed the blood and fat! I also got to spray the MOLD of the the ham hocks and REWRAP and put back out for sale!!!! When I said I was leaving after 3 months they tried to get me a raise to stay – the raise would have needed to be REAL big together me to stay. In the end management did not approve the requested raise – no skin off my noise!

    Do I appreciate my indoor office job, you betcha!!!!

  9. says

    We are all the sum of our experiences! I think my worst job was working for my parents. They had huge expectations. Imagine working as much as 16 hours over the weekends at 7 years old. It was not esteem building to say the least. It did provide me with a good work ethic and a tolerance for boring tedious work. Some of my summer jobs were a door to door salesman, ceramic sprayer for a bathroom accessory company, camp handyman and mail room clerk I believe all the crappy jobs taught me something I use today. I sometimes wonder if things were different, would I be the same? I don’t get a do over, so I will never know.

  10. says

    I had a crappy telemarketer job, getting people to answer your questions to a survey on a weekend is so hard. That I left after a month I believe. Plus the managers just sit around talking about you and hearing all your phone interviews.

  11. Eric Shun says

    Back in the mid 1970s, a young teen in MA could often simply walk into a store, restaurant, gas station, ask if they were hiring, and be working that day. Like my first two employers, many paid in cash.

    1. 1977, age 13, Dishwasher at an Italian Restaurant. Wednesday afternoons after school ’til closing time at 9:00p. At 7:00am on Sunday AM, the owner would lock me in the place to completely clean up from the night before and get ready for 11:00am opening. $2/hour cash. 20 hr/week.

    2. 1978, age 14. Gas jockey at a very busy Mobil gas station three blocks from home. Has my own key to the place – opened up Sat & Sun at 7:00am, and oftern worked 12+ hour days. Learned a lot about auto mechanics. Got held up by knife point, handcuffed, and beaten bloody one Sat night just before 11:00pm closing time. $2.10/hour cash. 25 hr/week.

    3. 1979, age 15. Tire changer at a Goodyear shop. Dirty, but learned a lot about auto mechanics. $3.00/hr, real pay check. 20 hr/week.

  12. says

    My first jobs were actually some of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had. I worked stocking shelves & bagging groceries at a grocery store in high school which was actually a pretty plush job compared to my friends working at fast food joints. In college I worked as a line cook in a restaurant, while the work was stressful with crappy hours…it was also the most fun job I’ve ever had due to the bonds you form with your coworkers trying to survive the most stressful rushes.

    My worst job was actually a temp job during college, I ended up processing mortgage payments for a summer. It was easily the most mindless, repetitive work I’ve ever done & it really motivated me to finish out college strong so I’d never have to work a job like that again.

  13. says

    Great insight Sam. The job I most often think about is when I worked for NAPA Auto Parts stuffing parts into boxes. I got paid by the piece and I learned a valuable lesson about the value of working harder than everyone else.

  14. nbsdmp says

    Love the post! I was fired from my first real company job at Kentucky Fried Chicken after only three weeks. It did not take long for me to figure out that was not the career path for me! But totally agree with your premise…you have to experience what you don’t want to know a good thing when you’ve got it (kind of like women).

    • JayCeezy says

      Awesome! Adam Carolla does a rap about applying for a job at Taco Bell, and being told by the manager that he “was not Taco Bell material.” That is the title of his latest bestselling book btw.

      Fast food may not be glamorous, and I have read the turnover at McD’s is 300% (avg 4 month tenure). But the management training is great, and for those who wind up sticking with it to become manager, the performance bonuses can bring the annual compensation to more than $100K/yr in big stores.

    • says

      The one thing I learned about being a Starbucks barista is how awesome the benefits are! I think being a barista is more prestigious than making Egg mcmuffins :) Heading to NYC later this year. Let’s all get some mocha fraps and hang. Will ping Ashley from Frugal model as well.

  15. Jason says

    I did work fast food for about 2 weeks but even back then, I was not a “fast moving” employee, so it was a terrible fit and I found something new pretty quickly. I still remember that the shift manager didn’t even turn around from what he was doing when I gave my notice. :)

    The new job was at a department store. I stood behind a counter, and sold computers, video games, cameras, and electronics. I was making way more than at the fast food job (almost 2 dollars an hour more) and there was no “hustle” to the job at all. Just talking with the customers that came in, telling them about the different products (which I actually *knew* something about, imagine that!) and keeping the glass counters smudge-free. It was a nice environment and was the most “free-feeling” job I ever had.

    • Jason says

      I forgot to add something to the above comment. The move from fast food to the department store was valuable because it taught me about the “job ladder” concept and how powerful moving from one rung to another would be. Here’s the levels of the ladder – you can get paid for any of the following activities

      * what you DO (e.g. manual labor)
      * what you KNOW (e.g. technical work)
      * WHO you know (e.g. sales, management)
      * who you ARE (e.g. a celebrity)
      * who your PARENTS are (e.g. heir to a family fortune, sometimes not included in the ladder since you can’t really move into it)

      Going down the list, there’s a large uptick in your salary for each level. I realized that my move into the store was a partial shift from a DOING job to a KNOWING job, and so I earned a bit more. So, it gave me a good motivation to stay the course and pursue technical work.

      Of course, every job has some components of each of the ladder rungs, but jobs tend to center around one particular rung.

  16. Lyle says

    I loved this post. The similarities between my life and yours are uncanny! I played tennis in high school (and love it today, but don’t get to play often), my first job was at McDonald’s (I speak Spanish as well) and my second job was this boring electrical job with little human interaction where I would walk around all day listening to music and spraying insulation foam and pulling wire. My job today has much more responsibility, but WAY better. And yes, I do think that those things help you become a much better person, that’s why I’m against unemployment benefits for so long (anything close to a year is way too much in my opinion). If people lose their jobs they should get any job fairly quickly! And if you’ve saved / invested then you have more of a cushion. At least that’s my thought.

  17. says

    My bad minimum wage jobs were pretty similar…and in a similar order. It was dishwasher/waiter, filing in an office, and landscaping. I do think it is a big contributor in learning to stick through things and then appreciating what you have because you know how hard it was to earn the money and obtain things.

    Actually, whenever I take on a DIY project, it reminds me of my high school days when I would complain to my dad that I didn’t want to do them. Now I remember how very little I had to complain about then and still do not have anything to complain about, which keeps me motivated.

  18. says

    Love the Mover job, it brings back memories. I too did that, but really enjoyed it. And I never came close to your weight or ability to bench press. I did learn how to properly lift and how to properly pack a tractor trailer.
    Imagine being all of 140lbs at 17 years old and having to properly lift a 12 foot high metal spiral staircase into the back of a tractor trailer with one other person (my dad) to only take it off when delivering everything else I had to pack up.
    Takeaway for me:
    * learned proper packing of tractor trailer so NOTHING breaks … including myself
    * learned how to balance weight properly and use every muscle in a coordinated way
    * buffet food at a truck stop is really filling after the first 3 plates of fried shrimp
    * this country has A LOT of beautiful cities and towns that should be visited

  19. says

    Loved this post. It’s definitely important to remember where you came from and the lessons you take from each experience. The fact that you had to work from a young age gives you so much character and work ethic (and appreciation for what you have). I worked at a nightclub until 5am 4 nights a week with slimy, drunk people – but the money was good and I knew that I could only keep it up in my 20′s before I got too old for that sh*t and punched someone in the face. Looking back I don’t know how I did it for as long as I did, but it was well worth it in the end when I was able to build a comfortable savings.

    • says

      Hi Ashley,

      Glad you got out before you punched someone in the face! Also glad you were about to make some good money while you had the willingness. I can imagine the tips must have been pretty good. I couldn’t believe how much some of my friends in manhattan were dropping at the clubs back then. I’m not a big drinker so the idea of spending $200 for a $30 bottle of Grey Goose.

      I read your fascinating story on HuffPo just now and it is a real eye opener. Can’t believe you only got $250 for being on the cover of Women’s Health?! I thank you for stopping by because you made me put down my Pocky Choco sticks and do some sit-ups :) I plan to make it out to NYC sometime this fall. Erin from comment above, you, me and perhaps a couple other bloggers should all hang out!

      Best,

      S

  20. says

    I thought McDonald’s used some sort of egg patty from a factory. I didn’t know they used fresh eggs.

    I am one of the few people in North America who has never worked at McDonald’s but I don’t have much saved for retirement so it could be in my future.

      • says

        I was the worst waitress in the world at a family style pizza place. Tips were based on performance and I was just bad. I am not very coordinated and can’t carry to much at a time so I would make multiple trips to a table while others could carry 4 and 5 plates at a time. There were plates of pasta and mugs of beer on the floor on a regular basis when I was working.

        My current job requires fast paced multi tasking but I don’t have to carry anything so I can handle it.

  21. says

    Glad to read that I’m not the only one who believes working tough and dirty jobs when you’re young builds character! I use to work in a Walmart Tire&Lube Express during college, and still remember trudging home exhausted with oil and grit in every pore. Now whenever I begin to get frustrated in my cushy, well paid office job I just look at old scars on my hands as a reminder of that past. Took away great lessons from that job and my coworkers at the time – work your ass off, appreciate the opportunities given to you, and don’t take s*%+ from anyone. Lol.

    • Eric Shun says

      Yep. Changed oil & tires and other maintenance at a Goodyear from ages 15 – 18 for $3/hr. Greasy, hot in the summer, cold in the winter. They offered a 25 cent raise when I told them I was leaving to go work at Radio Shack; turned it down.

  22. i dropped my burrito says

    Yes, this was a great post and subject, and the responses are great too.

    My father and a partner owned a printing and typesetting company when I was young, so I worked there summers and holidays. Not minimum wage, but dirty and sometimes noisy. But I learned how to work, and be technical, which has proved to be very useful in life.

    They did something that I only understood later in retrospect …. they put me on the payroll as a full time employee, but since I only worked holidays and summers, I got paid in cash only for the time I was there. The rest of my phantom “earnings” they used for payoffs to whomever they needed to payoff (cops, local mafia, whatever). O, the glories of business.

  23. says

    I had a job cold calling once and it was awful. My colleagues were nice folks and were great people but I sucked at the job and my clients hated getting my phone calls. I don’t blame them one bit though. I don’t think anyone enjoys getting phone calls asking for money! That’s when I knew I wouldn’t be happy in a sales type of role too. Thanks for sharing your stories!

  24. says

    My wife who is quite successful used to work in McDonalds. Maybe there is a trend or patten in the young.

    Working for a fast food chain might be the key that sets you up for a financially fit future. It would be an interesting study. Don’t you think?

  25. JayCeezy says

    These jobs do form us. I delivered papers in Jr. High, worked in a raquet shop (stringing, stocking, selling) in High School, drove a delivery truck and pulled cable and grunted for phone installers in college, and once I got my degree in 1983 (10.8% unemployment) I drove a truck nights while applying for over 200 jobs. My first ‘jobs’ were renting cars, and working in a bank branch; very hard with a lot of conflict (got robbed twice in 18 months) and stress. I have been doing what I do in my worklife (career is such a pretentious word, Winston Churchill had a ‘career’ and everyone else a ‘worklife’) for 27 years (project management), and last Friday was my last day. Doing unskilled jobs, trading time for money, dealing with people in a professional way (even when they are abusive or take advantage), showing up on time (harder than it seems, especially for some), bosses/co-workers/subordinates letting you down, putting in 10,000 hours to finally gain a competence (and all the mistakes that go with learning)…it has been a ride and though I’m glad I did it, I am glad it is over.

    One notable thing that stands out to me today; I have friends with grown children who have never held a job, well into their 20s. Never worked. Wow. They go to grad school, do internships with time-certain end dates, but that’s it. And not one kid would work in fast food, they think it is beneath them and would be embarrassed to have their friends come in and see them wearing a uniform. Meanwhile, degreed girls work part-time at Banana Republic where they hope to meet cute guys, and degreed guys work part-time at Home Depot while living at home and making $700/month truck payments. I do not get it at all, and wonder what the end game will be for them.

    Sam, one observation on the ‘speaking Spanish at the counter’ issue. Rather than attribute it to a ‘Spanish hating boss’, I think it may have been more about control and dominance. As a retail customer, I do know when I am being talked about (sometimes) and it is a drag. When I drove a truck, all my co-workers were Haitian/Carribean and spoke about me in Creole, and it was also a drag. Not even that they were saying anything bad, but they were excluding me intentionally. Anyway, the boss asked (with very good reason) for the frontline to speak English, and they passive-aggressively disobeyed to exert their own control. My two cents.

    • says

      The MCD boss has a good point about not speaking Spanish out of fear we were bad mouthing our customers. We understand that. It’s just the WAY he scolded us, as if we were imbeciles and other things he said when nobody was looking that got us down.

      If all you do is experience a cushy life, it’s very easy to get disenchanted very quickly. Any parents out there reading this, I hope they force their kids to eat a little mud growing up.

      • JayCeezy says

        Yes, tone is important. So is the way you handle your pride, which I am still learning. Sounds like he was attempting to humiliate the ‘offenders’; he may have been a mean person, but one possibility is that he had explained it a number of times, and asking nicely did not produce the results he desired. I have had difficulty with bosses who publicly humiliated me for ‘offenses’, and many times the criticism was deserved. But it didn’t make the tone any easier to take.

        A book that really helped me was “Super-Self” by Charles J. Givens; the main takeaway was, “don’t give them a reason to criticize.” (i.e. don’t be late, respond in a timely manner, and most of all do what the boss asks because he/she is the boss.” I had found myself ‘resisting’ with little passive-aggressive moves (i.e. being 10 minutes late, doing personal business on company time, etc.) but the bottom line is control and dominance for the boss. FS, you have been a boss and know about those employees that use every sick day, complain about assignments, have quality issues, etc.

        One other job (of many in my Factotum life) not mentioned above, I was a standup comedian for seven years in the ’80s. So this is my most humiliating work experience: I drove 40 miles for a $25 spot, and 30 minutes after showtime there was no audience. Zero people. The booker made us get up anyway, if we wanted to get paid. His explanation was “someone may walk in, and we want a show to be going on.” So…I got up and did my act (and a bunch of street jokes) to fill my contractual time and get my money; so did the other guys. Only years later did I tell that story to a friend, and he enlightened me: “he was f*cking with you. He didn’t think you would do it, and then he wouldn’t have to pay you. And he was going to get his money’s worth in humiliation, instead of alcohol sales.” Wow. It was a ‘truth bullet’, and I was humiliated just as much years later learning the truth.:-) Anyway, I have been screamed at in meetings, cursed, sabotaged, subject to personal attacks (both front and backstabs), had my work and billing questioned without cause, physically threatened, etc. Maybe that would be a good subject for a post, most humiliating work experience. Hmmmm…

  26. Fernando R says

    I have to agree with the statement you make about working tough jobs builds your character. I, too started my working experience in a low pay job at a wharehouse moving stock and loading trucks at the age of 17. The latter to where I am now has been a great one learning the value of education and motivating myself everyday to become better. Great stuff!

  27. says

    I used to work at Chick-Fil-A which is a fast food chain of chicken restaurants in the South. Believe it or not, it was one of the most fun jobs I have ever had. The people were crazy but the employees were even crazier…in a good way. The only bad thing was we didn’t get any free food even though they threw it out by the truck load. A kid even got fired for eating the chicken strips.

    • says

      We have those up around our neck of the woods, here in southern NJ. We all enjoy the food when we get to have those special treat nights of going out to eat.

      I can remember working at Wendy’s (fast food chain) some 28+ years ago. I can remember actually getting one of the managers fired by the store manager because he was being careless in the way he treated me (long story, but he was harrassing me into working more hours, even though I was OFF the clock for a couple hours already). Ah, the good old “easy” days.

  28. says

    When I was in high school I had 3 jobs my senior year. The only time I spent at home was to eat, shower, and sleep. I was thrilled to actually work because I was an athlete who never had time to hold a steady job but now I could actually earn my own money. No more relying on mom and dad to give me an allowance or pay for something if I begged long enough. I was finally my own man.

    Those jobs taught me things that I still hold valuable today. I will admit that sometimes (very rarely) I start thinking how much my job sucks some days but it could definitely be worse.

  29. says

    Sam, I needed to hear this today. I’m sure other individuals needed to hear this message as well. Crappy jobs suck, yes, they suck quite a lot. But there is a lesson in each one of them-it trains you and should motivate you to do something better for yourself than those jobs. They should motivate an individual to seek out new skills in order to be able to get better paying jobs. Thanks for posting this today!

  30. Mike Hunt says

    Minimum wage jobs are the key to appreciating the value of a dollar. It is those people who have never worked in jobs like these who are inevitably in public office, and throwing money around like drunken sailors.

    I used to work in a retail shop called Jamesway as the cashier making $5 per hour in the late 80′s… I remember there was the ‘Jamesway radio’ which played in a 45 minute loop interlaced with store commercials. In an 8 hour shift I heard that damn loop 10 times and I can still remember the songs on that more than 20 years later (It must’ve been love, etc…). I got so sick of it I would actually pick up my register phone and hit the page number and just keep the phone off the hook so the music would stop for a few minutes… I remember people were so petty there- a disgruntled employee keyed a managers car because they had a disagreement and he thought the manager thought she was hot shit for driving a Ford Taurus. The depressing thing is that people had that type of a job for decades, with no other exit plan in sight. I told myself there is NO WAY I am going to end up in a place like this and thanked my lucky stars. I only worked there for a summer or two.

    The other job I had that sucked was I was working as a stock boy and seller at a shoe store for a company called J.S. Raub, in the same mall as Jamesway. In this particular store the manager, assistant manager and another staff member were all chain smokers- this was back when smoking indoors was still accepted. I had just gotten contacts and my eyes would water and itch like crazy, not to mention my nose stuffing up. I tried my best but couldn’t take it and end up quitting after 3 weeks.

    Jobs like these keep you humble, and give you great life experience. I will always respect everyone regardless of their profession. We all have our crosses to bear in life. I will push any children we have to experience these type of jobs early in life.

    -Mike

  31. says

    The hardest jobs I had as a teenager: 1) dishwasher/janitor at a restaurant/bar. There is nothing worst than cleaning bathrooms in the morning after a hard night at a bar. Nothing. Plus pulling up sticky bar mats, mopping floors, etc. Then pile on a day of dishwashing afterward. 2) I once took a job to clear several acres of land, mostly on a hillside, with nothing more than tools like sickles, scythes, etc. I just put on my Walkman and started clearing… for weeks, in the summer. I actually liked this job because it was hard work, I was on my own, and I could be lost in my music and my thoughts.

  32. vdawgs says

    This is insane but I’ve had a couple of crazy under the table work:
    1) 6th grade-8th grade – worked at a hanger factory hooking the metal rod to the plastic part of a hanger. Usually this was just the on the weekends, but I had to get up before the crack of dawn, about 3 or 4am. The factory was also very dusty so by the end of the day, if I blew my nose, I would just see dust in the tissue. Looking around and seeing all the other immigrant workers hustling, I felt a great deal of motivation to study hard in school to avoid the same fate. The most suffocating thing is rushing through our “break”– we were allowed half an hour but of course the immigrants would take 10 minutes and my mom would yell at me I was eating too slow. I got paid about 5.25/hr but that was a lot of money for a 12 yo. My parents let me keep my earnings and I saved most of it in a teddy bear piggy bank. At some point, I was actually loaning money to my parents so in that way I learned just how powerful savings and in turn, having a big cash balance, was.

    2) High School – so called “piece work”. We made a bunch of necklaces that would eventually be sold at places like Claire’s. They were beaded necklaces or hemp necklaces (lots of braiding and dealing with cuts from the hardly hemp). I would come home from school, eat, do my homework for 3 hrs and then braid until 11pm at night. They were 10 cents per piece. I read while doing it.

    The last year of high school, I found an office job helping out HR at a clinic and kicked @ss at it. Everyone was so impressed by my work ethic and enthusiasm. They had no idea what I went through. I really do think that those jobs motivated me in life to do better and appreciate my jobs after. I also worked in the mailroom, day care center, and retail during college. All my peers were complaining. Ha.

  33. says

    Haha man, this post just takes me back to the crap jobs I’ve worked in the past too. But I like the way you gave them a twist and used that experience you learned to your advantage. When I really think about it, those jobs really did turn me into a better and more developed person whether it was the different personalities I dealt with or being able to think on your feet in an instant. Even the job I have now, I have to motivate myself EXTRA hard just to go in cause I hate it that much but the skillset I have learned from this job is something I cannot put a price tag on.

    Thanks for the insight my friend, putting it in a different perspective really changed my view on those jobs I had.

  34. says

    I’m 69 and my brother and I agreed to cut thorny bushes on both sides of a drive way 800 feet long for $5.00 took 2 days we wanted to quit and give the money back after being stung several times, the owner said we weren’t good workers and chalanged us to finish the job we did but learned not to be to eager to jump on a job until we were sure what was involved. I’ve had several yucky jobs but always worked to better myself, I now for several years enjoy retirment.

  35. says

    Taking these types of job give essential lessons to learn how to deal with human resource effectively for one’s own business in the future. As they say about leaders – to deserve the position of being followed, one must first be a good follower.

  36. says

    I like manual labor jobs because they keep me humble. I never worked fast food, but I did work in restaurants and that was tough. Never have I been yelled at so much in my life! But it made me tough, when the chef would yell at me for seating someone too quickly, I’d give my response. looking straight at him. I learned not to worry if he was “mad” at me, because he was always pissed at everyone. Chefs are moody! I also liked your line “following through on a commitment” This has been a huge deal for me. I started seeing much better results in life when I started following through on all my commitments, not just the ones I liked.

  37. says

    I started out my job experience at 16 working in a restaurant washing dishes. Now with more than 8 years experience, I am still involved in the restaurant and hospitality industry. I worked my way up from that position to a head cook, supervisor, and eventually kitchen chef. The general public has little respect for these jobs however many of them, as you have pointed out, build incredible workmanship, consistency and the ability to handle just about anything. Want a hard worker? I’ll take someone that can handle getting slammed on a lunch rush any day!

    The major drawback at this point is that these entry level positions are almost exclusively set at minimum wage. Of course, the opportunities to move up are available. Paying attention to a superior or other position enough and waiting for an opportunity or moving elsewhere is accomplish-able. Experience often trumps education in this industry.

  38. Ed says

    I’ve only had 2 paying jobs in my entire life thus far. The first lasted only about 3 months working in a library which ended up firing me, that was my first job, I was about 20 years old, just a petty student worker. My 2nd job was when I was away at college, I worked for a short time as an envelope stuffer and a nice handwriting person, sending thank you letters on behalf of a financial organization. For every 600 handwritten letters I would be paid 70 dollars. I had to walk several miles to deliver the letters on foot.

    So far that was the worst job, I hated the experience so much I don’t even bother putting it on my resume as work experience, I feel like it doesn’t count, I also feel like they weren’t paying me enough for that. That was about 4 almost 5 years ago and I have not worked since. However, the trouble now is that my lack of experience pretty much guarantees that I will have crap jobs that barely pay anything for who knows how long. Although, your post did give me a sliver of hope that things will even out in the future with enough perseverance.

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