Most of us remember our first jobs. Whether it was working at a pizza joint or a grocery store, a lifeguard station or a clothing outlet, flipping burgers or mopping floors or stocking shelves, there were many common experiences.
We remember our parents encouraging us to find work for the summer. We remember applying for positions and getting hired. We remember our bosses and co-workers, and getting our first paychecks, and how good it felt to have some extra money in our pockets.
Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons. We learned that being on time was important, unless you wanted the manager to chew you out. We learned that, whatever our parents said, the world didn’t revolve around us, and our bosses and co-workers didn’t think we were anything special. We learned to listen, take instruction, bite our tongues now and then, and do the work as we were told. We learned what makes a good boss and what makes a bad boss, and that lazy co-workers who always wanted you to cover for them were a pain in the posterior, that our co-workers who didn’t live in our neighborhood or go to our schools were nice people, and that a kind word from an appreciative customer could be a beautiful thing.
All of these are reasons why I fear that our never-ending recession will have lasting consequences — for there are many teenagers and young adults who have been unable to land that first job and learn those valuable life lessons that have served the rest of us so well. Instead of working at those first jobs, they’ve been sitting at home, listening to their parents tell them how great they are and that it isn’t their fault that no jobs are available. When they finally do get that first job — whenever that might be — how well equipped will they be to succeed, without those memorable first job experiences to fall back on?