What was your first job?

Although the overall employment picture is improving, the job market remains tight for young people. High school students especially are having a hard time finding summer jobs. Today’s Question: What was your first job?

  • deborah davis

    I hoed sugar beets in North Dakota the summer of my Junior year in high school . This was before the farmers sprayed them so much. It was hot work but paid Better than my night job as counter cook at the Casselton Lanes Bowling Alley.

  • At 15, I worked at a dry cleaners and laundry in Columbia Heights. Cleaned the washing machines; washed, dried and folded personal laundry; cleaned the building; helped customers; ate too many snacks from the vending machine. Eventually graduated to dry cleaning clothes. School, sports and a job. Oh, for my youth of 1975!

  • Rich

    I delivered newspapers. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, fair weather or foul.

  • mark Countryman

    Ditto to Rich: I was a newspaper foot carrier all through high school & college, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, twice a day (except Sundays). Back then, they dropped the papers off at the corner, and foot carriers picked up the bundle and delivered to subscribers’ homes. The carrier collected money from the subscribers, and received a bill from the paper. Our pay was the profit between the subscriber’s subscription price and what we payed the newspaper (a nickle a copy on weekdays; 12 cents for Sunday–the Sunday copy was larger). Nowadays, that isn’t possible simply because of the size of the paper: a typical weekday paper today is equal in size to the Sunday paper back then, and yet the actual news content is less.

  • Dianne

    I helped our neighbors who ran a marina along the Kankakee River. I fetched oil and treats for the boaters. My pay was a can of Fresca. My first job with a paycheck was for the town’s water company where I was the receptionist and backup cashier, and I did other office work.

  • My first paying job was in 1992. I was a dog grooming assistant for my sister who had recently purchased a dog grooming business from the original owner. She had a well-established clientele, but needed a bit of help keeping up, so she gave me a job helping out.

    I would clip nails, brush/comb, bathe, and dry the dogs & she would do the finishing touches.

    I made $2.00 a dog (not a particularly great wage considering even small dogs would fetch at least $30 at that time), but I was happy for the extra money & I learned how to do something a lot people are not terribly confident doing…

    Now that I think about it, I have never had to take any of my pets to a groomer as a result of my job as a grooming assistant. I guess my mere $2.00/dog has saved me a ton of money throughout my life.

    Thanks, sis!

  • Chris Oinonen Ehren

    I’m another newspaper carrier, I don’t think the papers are any bigger than they were when I carried them in the late 70’s/early 80’s, the sunday papers certainly aren’t, I just went back to the house a couple times for the next load. It was an amazing job for a kid, extremely good for your character, people were always trying to avoid me when I came to collect (I delivered to an apartment building) and I had to learn to be persistent in order to get paid and not let these people eat up my profits with their dodging. There were some old ladies who would be up early on Sunday (probably getting ready for church) who would come out and talk to me, one nearly always fed me something when I came with her paper. “I made this for my grandkids, tell me if its good.” It always was. I understand why they have adults do it now, but it seems like a shame that those experiences aren’t available for kids anymore.

  • GaryF

    Age 12, delivering the afternoon Minneapolis Star and Sunday Minneapolis Tribune.

    What a racket they had going back then. Making kids collect the money and be responsible for slow payers.

  • Cate Ellis

    Started working at age 12 as a choir accompanist; organist by 14. Best possible introduction to paid employment, and I have better potential social security benefits than any other 28 year old I know!

  • Luke

    At age 15 I was working construction full-time, and coaching youth baseball in the West-Central region of Minnesota. They were very formative years of my life that helped me observe a variety of interests in rural Minnesota life, from the typical working-persons life, to the development of youth, and the importance of rural community and family necessarily intertwined.

  • As a preteen, I babysat an occasional Saturday night for the neighbor kids for 25 cents an hour.

    My first summer job was detasseling corn in the farm fields of southwestern Minnesota. I may have earned $1.25 an hour, if that. Can’t remember. I just remember that this was incredibly tough work with corn leaves razoring into my skin, dew rolling down my arms in the morning and then in the afternoon, sweat pouring from seemingly every pore. Hands down, this was even harder work than walking beans and picking rock, which I also did. Not many jobs for kids in rural Minnesota back in the early 1970s.

  • milojo

    I sold women’s accessories at the Southdale Donaldson’s in the mid-80s. Mostly purses and pantyhose, but there was also a huge display of jelly shoes that constantly needed sorting. And they had a glove counter with cotton, crocheted, and silk gloves.

  • Chris

    When I was 8 we lived in an apartment, I took out peoples garbage’s for .50, no matter how many trips it took. From 14-17 I worked for Burger King.

  • dum dum alouwishes

    Although we were born in separate States/Cities, and nearly 10 years apart, both, my Wife and Myself were Corn Tassle pickers as our first job.

    Destiny I Tell You.

  • bsimon

    first under-the-table job: mowing lawns. first over-the-table job: washing dishes.

  • Amy

    I started babysitting around age 12 for the neighbor kids. At 15, I got a job working at a grocery store bagging groceries and eventually moved up to a cashier and did that throughout the remainder of high school. Also worked as a softball umpire in the summers for the local park and rec league. Its too bad to hear teens are having a hard time finding jobs now because it was all good experience for me as a teenager

  • Daniel J

    Notwithstanding countless lawns mowed as a preteen, my first real job was in the summers with an asphalt company, putting down seal coat on driveways and putting the color on tennis courts.

  • Adam

    Aside from odd jobs in my mom’s pottery studio, my first “real job” was as a grill jockey at the Durango, CO, dairy queen.

  • Sieglinde Gassman

    After a Mon-Fri after-school babysitting job at age 12, got an after-school job at a medical laboratory at age 16. Cleaning glassware, sterilizing, sharpening needles (as was done before disposables), preparing culture dishes and sometimes filling in for the receptionist. 5 days a week from 1:30 until 5 pm. Both of those jobs provided me with valuable experiences; receiving credit and pay for being responsible. Continued in the medical lab part-time while a commuter freshman in college.

  • Jim G

    Another newspaper boy here. At the age of 11 during the winter of 1963-64, I delivered the Minneapolis Tribune. I remember that winter as brutally cold and snowy. I have to be honest that when collecting, I usually ate up my profits in apple turnovers purchased at the local Dell. A winter of getting up every morning at 4:45 a.m. was enough to convince me that journalism has its pitfalls as a career choice. I did enjoy using my paper-bag as a sled. On the shortcut on my route my “sled” would would zoom me to bottom of a sliding hill. Of course, I then had to climb this same hill. Choosing the wrong path up the frozen hill had it’s own logical consequence. “Oh no, not again!”

  • Jaime Berglund

    My first job was as a lifeguard/swim lesson teacher. I loved it, and was making way more money than all of my friends!

  • David

    I too was a newspaper deliver boy, but only for about 3-4 months. Fortunately it was in the mid 80s and I didn’t have to collect money from people. All I remember about that job is often getting shorted on papers, or my route manager not letting me know about changes in subscriptions. He was the first super lazy boss I ever had. Anyway I saved all my money from that job and bought a 12 speed road racing bicycle which lead to a much better and fun job at a bike shop. Thirty-five years later I still sometimes daydream about opening a bike shop while I sit here in front of my computer with another way to short deadline. If the price of gas keeps going up I just might.

  • James

    My first job was to be a finical drain on my parents.

    My first paying job at age 13 was to load clay pigeons on a trap machine for skeet.

    In 1982 working for $1.25/hour.

    My advice to “young people” get off your dead ass and find ANY job. And God forbid if you have to get your hands dirty and work in a “S@#$ hole”… Good Luck!


  • Diane

    At 15 I started working for the Dairy Queen in my hometown for $1.65/hour. It was the early 70’s and only girls were hired. Our uniforms consisted of very short, white dresses (nursing uniforms) with red smocks.

  • Paul- St. Paul

    Picking rasberries at Kopeskies Farm in Hopkins. I must have been eleven. Maybe twelve. I worked side by side with adults who actually needed the job and kids who were saving up for comic books.

    We received a few cents for each pint picked.

    It didn’t add up to a lot of money, even in mid-1960’s dollars.

    Mostly I remember having red stains on my white t-shirts from the rasberry fights that the kids had pretty much every day.

    Newspaper and cutting lawns came second and third for me. Then washing dishes.

  • Chris

    I was raised on a Farm, so my first job was the old 5:00 am – 7:00 pm 7 days a week one, doing all kinds of terrible work from age 7-18. School was my only time off, so surprise surprise I stayed in school until I was 25.

    Only later did I find out my parents intended on making our lives on the farm hard so we all got super educated…It worked like a charm and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • Dick

    Early 1950’s at age 12/13 delivering prescriptions neighborhood families from a local drug store. Summer and winter…5 or 10 cents a delivery based on distance walked or biked.

  • Jim Shapiro

    My first job was a summer gig as a grocery clerk in a mom and pop store on Madeline island.

  • Lawrence

    Great question. During the 1980s in Chicago, the economy experienced a similar downturn. Responding to that situation, then Mayor Harold Washington, established a summer jobs program for youth. It was as you may have guessed an income based program, for which my family met. I worked at Chicago State University, as a media technician, taking student ID photos and setting up film projectors for professors. The following year, Mayor Harold Washington’s program took applications for jobs again. This time, my brother and I were placed at Mendel High School, where we both were janitors. I took the next summer off to enroll in a college prep course at Illinois Institute of Technology, and then entered Hamline University where my work study job was dishwasher at the University cafeteria. Today, I have more education than I dreamed possible, and I work two jobs that I love doing.

  • Snyder

    First paying job was mowing my next-door neighbor’s lawn. I think I was 9 or 10 when I started that. First “real” job was cashier at the old St. Anthony Fun Center arcade when I was 16.

  • Steve

    My first income-tax-paying job was washing windshields at a drive-in theater for 35 cents an hour. After the gate closed, I helped in the concession stand and the projection booth depending on what was needed.

    I learned the value of good work and tips. (The better the cleaning, the bigger the tip).

  • Steve the Cynic

    Babysitting my younger siblings, and later a few neighbor kids. It was unusual for a boy back then, but it was good experience. It taught me that work isn’t just about getting paid, but doing something worthwhile that actually helps others.

  • T

    My first real job was washing trucks for a contracting company. $2.75/hour in 1985.

  • William

    Worked for a newspaper delivering papers every Tuesday night. I was 10 yrs old and I got fired 🙁 Missed too many houses and happy to say that was the only job I ever got fired from!

  • I started my own paper route. I bought the newspapers and delivered them to workers in downtown Devils Lake, North Dakota. The paper convinced me to give up my independent route and take on of theirs. I hated it and didn’t last 6 months.

    I learned something from this experience. I’m always happiest working for myself.

  • Matthew

    Picking rocks on my uncle’s farm near Spring Hill, Minnesota. Since that experience, I’ve approached mowing lawn and raking leaves as pleasurable experiences.

  • Carrie

    I had done babysitting work for my family since I was about 10 or 11 but my first real job was at 16 and I worked part time as a “master bear builder” at Build-a-Bear workshop at a mall near my house. I definitely enjoyed the interaction with kids, especially growing up in a family with 9 younger siblings. 🙂

  • Stuie klipper

    I was a Good Humor Man in a neighborhood near where I grew up in the Bronx. I pedaled a 3-wheeled bike with the freezer box forward — filled with dry-ice cooled Good Humor bars and cups.

    I was the low guy on the summer totem-pole and was given a crummy route in a poor neighborhood. “Mister, can I have a Good Humor, please …?” –meaning for free. Well, the ice cream was frozen and hard, but my heart was warm and soft.

    Didn’t earn all that much that summer. On the other hand I did put on some weight — those fudge bars were hard to resist.

    I still have my Good Humor Man badge. No need to sport it, I’ve always been a good humored man

  • My first job was with the Cedar Rapids Recreation Department in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1989 when I was 16. I organized summer activities for children.

  • Neil

    At age 12, a paper route. I don’t miss getting up at 4:30 in the morning to cart around a stack of papers that weighed more than me in minus 20 degree weather. But it taught me the value of an earned dollar and established a work ethic I still have today.

  • David Rogde

    Working for George Barkley at the Barkley Hotel in Fergus Falls (1968). A late 19th century structure with most of it’s rooms in extreme disrepair. The Barkley family had made their fortune in this old structure from time gone by. We did little work. I think George just wanted company, he and his eccentric brother who looked like a deranged Bob Hope were all that was left of the family, and the hotel was now their final home. A hotel that boasted a ballroom and was successful enough in the early part of the 20th century to have sent George as a boy out of state to private boarding school. Which is one of many reasons that George did not feel connected to the last community that he would live in.

  • Joan Knight

    My first job was repairing text books with my best friend in an attic cubby of our very old high school in Ashland, Wisconsin. Her mother was a librarian there, and got us the “job.” We spent lots of time leaning out of the window smoking.

    She saw us and often tried to sneak up the stairs to catch us, but the highly varnished wood floors creaked so we were forewarned every time.

  • Will

    I worked at a summer camp up on the St. Croix. It paid enough for the gas to drive up there.

  • Bagging groceries at the old Jewel Food Store for $1.00 per hour, after school and Saturdays. (Most stores weren’t open on Sundays back then!

  • Roxanne

    My first job was babysitting the summer after 8th grade. Then in 9th grade I helped elementary kids with their homework and got my first real paycheck. This was in 2002 and I think I made $5.15/hour. Not making much more than that now almost ten years later!

  • Krista

    My first real job was making copies for a trucking company. I made minimum wage: $4.25 an hour. Eight years later, I got my first real teaching job. I worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, and had 175 students. I think I made minimum wage on that job, too.

  • Dave

    Washing dishes for $1 an hour at the Doll House Restaurant in Winthrop Harbor. Friday and Saturday evvenings and Sunday afternoon. It was a job-share arrangement with Karl Riipi.