I got fired from my first job 30 years ago at age 15.  Before you make an assumption, let me explain.  

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and couldn’t wait to work.  In my youth, I had lemonade stands and home stores where I would sell Country Time to few neighbors on a less traveled dirt road and random knickknacks back to my parents, who were already their rightful owners.  A natural salesman as well as shopper, I admired those glamorous ladies that were so helpful at the flagship Woodward and Lothrop in DC.   I would visit with my grandmother and they knew her style and shopping habits with skill and precision, always providing amazing customer service.  It was like they were psychic models in high heels and Elizabeth Arden red lipstick.   They were magical and I wanted to be just like them when I was 5.

From about the age of 12, I started filling out applications at local stores trying to get a job, but alas, I was told I was too young.  Finally, at the age of 15, a store in Tyson’s Corner called Scribbles hired me.  Scribbles was a far cry from Woodies, but it was the early 90’s and that kind of fashion was “in” for the yoots.   My mother, who deserves eternal homage for her goodness, would drive me from Bluemont to Tysons so I could fulfill my dream of being a shopgirl.   In my first two weeks, my sales were off the charts, which brought the attention of the regional manager who wanted to discuss my future with the company.   Upon finding out I was 15, he fired me on the spot because their minimum age for employment was 18, which, despite my appearance, I was not.

My point in telling you this tale of employment woe is to share what I feel are the most important jobs I held and how they shaped my professional life and work ethic.  

Retail.  There is no better way to learn business and people skills than to be in retail. Sales, management and loads of patience are just a few of the lessons learned.  You also can learn a whole lot about a person by the way they leave a dressing room.

Working in a bar or restaurant.   Also in the same vein as the skills you learn from retail, except the customers are generally hungry or drunk. 

Community Service.  It is always great to spend time giving back, with the only compensation being a full heart.

Hard, physical labor.  Getting your hands dirty and retiring at sundown exhausted, achy and sweaty is a surprisingly good feeling of accomplishment. 

Working with animals or children.  Though I don’t want to compare Fifi with Joe Jr, but the responsibility of caring for others is invaluable and an essential part of all life stages.

For those looking for summer jobs, I strongly encourage you to do any combination of the above, if for nothing else, fantastic life lessons.  You should start young, work hard and evolve with every single paycheck.  Get out there!

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