The Jobs I’ve Had, The Work I’ve Done: PART 1 – The Teen Years
I mentioned previously on my “Who Is Mr. Happy Work” page that I wanted to dive into more personal blogging to share with my readers some more about myself and my life. I’m so happy to have all of you here and I think it’s nice to share our stories with one another.
Because this is a work-related website, I thought what better way to kick this off than with a post about all the different jobs and work I’ve done over the years! (Paid work only, the list would get too long if we counted volunteer or unpaid work, too!) My work history is quite extensive and varied, and some of these were even downright dreadful at the moment!
However, it was these experiences that made me so passionate about finding happiness in work in the first place. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to experience them and learn the lessons I could through all the ups and downs. Plus, they all led up to the happy work I do today.
So let’s dive right into it and take a trip down memory lane with Mr. Happy Work and all the jobs I’ve done!
The Jobs I’ve Had, The Work I’ve Done
The Pre-Teen Years (12 years and under)
Not counting the chores my parents had me do from a very young age to earn a weekly allowance, my first “real” job was working for our Family Business. My Dad ran a Restaurant and Bar Supply Business, and I started officially helping in the business for some extra pay at around 9 years old.
My work responsibilities were not terribly taxing by any means, though at the time, I remember hating having to do them! I usually got tasked with the boring and tedious jobs no one else wanted to do. My usual tasks were stapling blank forms and invoices, counting and bagging product, stocking shelves, and some occasional cleaning here and there.
I didn’t work a lot of hours at least. My family would all drive down to the office on Saturday or Sunday afternoon and spend about 3-4 hours working to get things ready for the week. I did this for two years until I was 11 years old and my Dad was able to hire some extra help. (Much to my relief!) I would return when I was older to help in the business some more, but for now, I would return to just being a kid.
The Teen Years (13-18)
In most states, you’re not allowed to work legally until you’re 16 years old, or 14 years old after having obtained a work permit signed by your parents. In my case, I had family members who were more than happy to give me some work to do instead.
I picked up working in my Father’s business again at the age of 13. Still was stuck with the tedious tasks no one else wanted to do, but I did start getting some opportunities to do Accounting, Order Filing, and other Data work on the computer. I actually liked this work quite a bit and even begged to do this versus having to mop the floor again. Unfortunately, the floors got dirtier faster than the computer work piled up, but I was thankful I got the experience to try this type of computer work for the first time – it was enjoyable!
I also got involved with some more physical work around this time as well. I started cutting the grass for family and neighbors and also doing some landscaping projects here and there. It might have been painting or staining a deck, weeding and planting a garden, or trimming trees or hedges. I’ve always have been drawn to working outside and I actually still love it today. I have a garden and I enjoy doing projects and landscaping maintenance – it’s a chore I won’t complain too much about doing!
I think the most interesting realization was the amount of money I could make with landscaping work. Mow someone’s lawn in the summer or shovel a driveway of snow in the winter and it would be anywhere from $20-$40 for about an hour or two of my time. I was making roughly $20/hour on my landscaping projects and services I did, and as a teenager, this was super big money!
I remember some summers literally saving up thousands of dollars from my work around the neighborhood doing landscaping. Most went into my savings, but it also allowed me to have some nice things I have never been able to afford before. It really showed me the value of work and how it can help us have the lives we really want to live.
And next enter getting my driver’s license
Once I got my driver’s license when I turned 16, I jumped into many different work opportunities nearly all at once. I was still working part-time for my Father’s business, but he needed Delivery Drivers and that is what I became. My dad had me work on Saturdays and days off from school, and I would do this job all the way until I was 23 years old!
Delivering was honestly not bad. It was much better than being stuck in the office doing the tedious jobs. The driving part itself was kind of boring, but getting to stop at each customer’s business and unload their deliveries offered some nice variety I enjoyed. I always liked physical work as well, so doing all the deliveries and hauling heavy boxes around left me feeling good at the end of the day.
Now that I could drive, I also ramped up my landscaping services work. I started loading up my landscaping tools and lawn mower and took my business on the road. My first customers were friends of family, and neighbors of neighbors, but quickly I had built up quite a nice little business for myself.
I was probably working about 15 hours a week doing fairly routine work like lawn cutting, leaf removal, or snow shoveling, but made a healthy $250-300 a week which I was more than happy with as a teenager! That combined with some of the other work and jobs I was doing helped me save a lot and have some good spending money too.
Then I got my first real job!
Despite having a fairly successful little landscaping gig going on and my weekend delivery work in my Dad’s business, I was desperately trying to find “real work”. (What I naively called it back then). I just really wanted to experience what all my friends from school were starting to experience and see what it was like to work for someone else.
I applied and I applied and literally got endless rejections. Seriously, I was going EVERYWHERE asking for applications. Back then, you usually had to do them my paper and pen, too! Still, despite my best efforts, I never even got a single interview.
I asked my friends how they were getting their jobs, and I came to learn nearly all of them had gotten them through some family connection, a referral of a friend, or something similar. (In hindsight, this was a great precursor to the importance of our networks when it comes to finding employment, but back then I just thought I was having bad luck!)
Finally, when I was 17 years old, I had a friend who had started working a new job and mentioned to me they were looking for more help. I excitedly asked him for details, and he told me it was for a Laborer position with an off-road park.
Not my ideal position… I didn’t even know what an “off-road park” was. The job title “Laborer” didn’t sound too appealing either. I’ve always been a very optimistic person however and decided to look at the bright side. It was a job working with someone else which I wanted. I like physical work because it helps my mind and body feel good. Why not give it a go?
So I decided to take the plunge, and I got the job. (Wow, that “who you know” thing is pretty powerful after all!) I learned what the heck an offroad park actually was. Apparently, it was a big piece of land where people could take dirtbikes, ATVs, Jeeps, and other off-road vehicles for romps through the wilderness. All kinds of hills and mountains to climb, rivers and streams to drive through, and piles of mud and dirt to make a mess with. It was actually pretty fun once I had the opportunity to drive around with the owners through the park in their rigged out vehicles and see some of the stuff you can do.
The “Labor Park” Job
I’ve always joked with family and friends and call this my job at the “labor park”. It was truly a labor position. Most of my work was hauling heavy stuff from one place to another, over and over and over. It was minimum wage and I basically hammered stuff, dug holes, carried stuff endlessly, and other heavy labor we probably should have had machines doing.
I remember one frequent task I had to do was pick up all the rocks from the parking lot… Now, this is a gigantic dirt parking lot, in the middle of the woods… There were rocks everywhere. The owner was obsessed with getting all the rocks out of the parking lot, small ones included (think marble sized!)
I thought this might just be the stupidest thing ever, but the boss was the boss. Nearly every day I was seen out in the parking lot with a wheelbarrow picking up rocks for a good 2-3 hours before the bosses called me to do something else. I still laugh about this task to this day!
Another silly task I had was picking up all the trash from the dumpster each week because a bear would decide to raid the trash and make a gigantic mess of it. I begged the owners to buy a lock for the dumpster, but apparently, they thought it was easier to have me just pick up the trash when it happened??? Seriously, they told me putting a lock on it would be too inconvenient and then they would need to get all the employees keys for the dumpster lock. WHAT…
As you can maybe tell, the job itself was pretty terrible. So much for this always being what I had been so desperately looking to find. To make matters worse, the primary owner, the big boss, was not great at being a boss. He was nice most of the times, but he had an extremely short temper and would fly off the rails at even the slightest thing. Chair out of place in the office, MASSIVE RAGE and screaming at the top of his lungs…
His wife was the Office Manager, and frankly, she was just the worst. Super controlling, very arrogant, and just downright mean. She would jump on any opportunity to berate someone for messing up but would never say a kind word when someone did a job well done. Between the owner’s anger and his wife’s domineering, they were a miserable duo to work for. In hindsight though, not the worst bosses I would run in to later in my career!
I worked there for about a year and a half wavering between full-time and part-time depending on the time of year and whether I had school or not. In my senior year of high school, I decided to quit because I wanted to focus on school more and I had enough rock picking work to fill a lifetime.
One last line of work I started pursuing when I was 18 was actually starting my own eBay Business. eBay was fairly new back then, but it was also super popular at the time. They had still not fully entered the age of “the customer is always right” and the platform was quite favorable to sellers then. Low fees, good margins, and great support for sellers.
My Mom actually had started selling on eBay a couple years prior and was having fairly good success with it. She was making homemade crafts and candles and selling them for a decent profit. She also was a big yard sale junkie and starting turning “junk collecting” into a profitable business by reselling her finds (well, the ones she would part with…) for a nice profit.
This is the approach I took. I started joining my Mom on thrift store, yard sale, flea market, etc. runs and purchasing items for resale. I decided to focus mostly on video games, toys, electronics, and other geeky items because I knew these products best and they were easy to ship and sell.
It worked out well! It was fun and not a terrible amount of work. I did this fairly heavily for about a year until I started College, and then did it for about another 2 years off and on throughout College as I had the time.
I’m thankful I did this, too. I would honestly say learning the ability to sell and market items is a great skill for anyone to learn. At the very least, you can turn stuff you don’t need anymore into nice pocket money for fairly little effort!
Reflections on my Teen Years Working
I’m pretty happy with how my teenage years turned out with work, but those years aren’t with some regrets. I think my biggest regret is that I never was able to really find the type of job I really wanted as a teenager. Yes, I had more than enough work to keep me busy between my landscaping job and my Dad’s business, but there were some particular jobs I was super interested in trying to get to no avail.
For example, I have always loved cooking and I desperately tried to get a job as a line cook or something similar. Nope, I never got a single interview. I remember being super bummed about this at the time, but in hindsight, I’m sort of glad I’ve kept cooking as a hobby. Maybe I wouldn’t still like it as much now if I turned it into a job back then.
Another particular instance that comes to mind was a job at my local gym. This is a story for another day, but I was very heavy as a kid. I lost all the weight and got REALLY into weight-lifting when I was 16. I was at the gym 5 to 6 days a week easily. Often 2-4 hours a day. It was nearly my second home. I knew so many of the members and employees and was well-liked in return.
They often hired helpers for the gym. Minimum wage workers to just tidy things up, clean exercise equipment, pick up weights and help gym-goers. I applied for this job TIME and TIME AGAIN. No luck, always rejected! Yet… they always were hiring someone for the position because their hires would come in for about 2-3 months and would either quit or get fired. I could never understand it.
Years later, however, I actually found out the reason I was not hired. A former worker of the gym and a friend of mine disclosed why I never got the job. They said the managers actually wanted to hire me, but the organization was receiving a grant to hire minorities so senior leadership opted for alternate candidates.
Overall, though, I can’t complain. I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve had and the place they have led me to today.
Onto Part 2 Next!
That wraps up Part 1 of this series. We’ll look back to my job and work history during the young adult years in my next post, which will include my time working some pretty interesting jobs!
It’s been great getting to share this with you, but I want to hear about your jobs and the work you’ve done as well!
What type of jobs have you had over the years? Any favorites? Which ones were the worst? I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below!
– Mr. Happy Work
This series has four parts – keep reading with the links below!