In the short term, they are probably most excited about having their own income, independent of allowance or money earned for chores or as birthday gifts. In the long term, though, the benefits are less tangible, and longer lasting.
My co-workers at Susquehanna were happy to share the lessons they learned from early employment, whether it was taking surveys on the phone or waitressing. Many of those lessons involved the importance of giving good customer service, no matter what.
Steven shared the unexpected challenge of meeting high expectations in grocery bagging, and how that taught him to keep his customers’ needs a high priority. Several people remembered working as photo lab technicians, and the realization they were entrusted with people’s memories – priceless commodities that deserved careful attention.
A lesson that sticks with Lori from her phone-survey days is: Sometimes we can provide more than we thought, just by listening to our customers. She recalls reaching many lonely people who cherished having someone to talk to, no matter the topic, and once helped refer a “very troubled person [to] a social service agency.” Talk about going the extra mile!
Chuck shared a lesson from his days working at an amusement park: “The most significant thing that I absorbed was the importance of delivering on the expectations you set for your customers. It costs a lot of money to take a family to an amusement park. If something happens that makes their day less than they expected, you have to do the very best you can to make it right.”
Other simple yet crucial lessons from people’s first jobs? Helping customers fulfill Christmas lists of unfamiliar CDs helped Ashley learn that “a little bit of patience can go a long way!” By becoming a favorite of her regular customers, she demonstrated just how valuable that patience was.
Meghan had a fairly unusual job working at her grandparents’ balloon and decorating business. That experience taught her to value time with clients and co-workers, and to remember to share a smile. It may have helped that she was often dressed as a clown, but I am sure there is truth in that for all of us.
Reading over all the responses I got from my colleagues, I was struck by a theme: Everyone’s lesson can be summed up under “the importance of good customer service by way of developing empathy for the needs and challenges the customer may be facing.”
Alyssa may have summed it up best: “People can tell if your smile or voice are not real. I think my face and voice just fall into that mode with muscle memory, and TA DA! Instant Star Service!”