I have something from my past that many people would never want to admit: My first “real” job was at Walmart, and I worked there for more than two years during high school.
I know most people see it as the most evil place on earth. Well, I beg to differ. I had friends that worked there, I knew I could get lots of hours, I made a couple bucks more than minimum wage and $1 extra on Sundays. And at that time in my life, it was a great first job.
Before you get all hoighty toighty and stop following me, hear me out. I also learned a lot about myself during my time there. I worked with fabulous people — yes, there was some trash, but also some amazing people, too.
Here are 10 lessons I learned during my time under the blue top:
1. First impressions can last.
Occasionally I had to fill in for the door greeter while they went on breaks. It’s a very boring job – especially for a busybody like myself. I know not all door greeters are the most friendly, but if they are, make a little small talk. It’ll make them smile and you will walk away knowing you helped to make their shift go by a little bit faster.
2. Childbirth is painful.
I worked with an 18-year-old single mom who told me the real story of childbirth, sparing no gory details. That scared me out of having sex for a long time. I definitely thought of her while I experienced childbirth myself and now I can totally see where she was coming from.
3. Set a goal when saving money.
I worked my tail off for Walmart so I could pay for gas for my baby — my first car, save for college and go to Europe. By working hard and saving like mad, I was able to go to Europe and pay for my first two years of college tuition (with the help of a few scholarships). I worked 40 hours a week in the summer, and as many as they would allow during the school week. It taught me a ton about money!
4. A college degree gives you a head start in life.
Nearly everyone I worked with stressed the importance of college to me — they encouraged me to go, and were proud when I got accepted. Many had major struggles in their life – taking care of children, siblings and parents and carried financial burdens because of it. Many mentioned regretting not ever being able to go to college.
5. Be nice to the crazy couponers.
Some cashiers would moan at the sight of a lady with a bazillion coupons or ads to price match. I thought it was really refreshing to see people trying to save money. I like to think that might have been my inspiration behind becoming a couponer myself. I’d also like to note if you are a crazy coupon person, go to a young employee – they aren’t quite as jaded…and they’re faster!
6. Something is wrong with food pricing.
It really upset me to see nothing but junk food come through and then a swipe of the food stamps card. I have zero problem with people that need food stamps, but I do have an issue with not even trying to buy healthy stuff. I think our government needs to take a clue and aim to educate and perhaps even lower prices/give discounts on produce and fresh items for low-income folks.
7. Never shop at Walmart past 10 p.m.
This might be an obvious one, but it’s true. A lot of strange people start coming in at that time. Shop at your own risk.
8. People can be really mean for no apparent reason.
I answered phones, worked as a cashier and helped stock/maintain the clothing and infant departments. I remember walking in some mornings to absolute disasters. I’m telling you – folding baby clothing over and over again gets old. Please don’t throw things on the floor when you shop. Please at least try to refold clothing. Don’t hide ice cream in the middle of a clothing rack (true story). Shop with a conscious.
9. Don’t judge a person without loving them first.
OK, that’s a Mother Teresa quote, but working at Walmart proved this to be true wisdom. I met so many wonderful people that I might not of given a chance if I just looked at them and judged them by their appearance.
10. No two personalities are the same.
The diversity of Walmart employees and customers prepared me well for my college years and career in public relations. I’m pretty convinced I owe Walmart for helping me to have patience to work with all sorts of personalities.
Is Walmart the best place to work? No. But reflecting back to those days, I can’t help but be thankful for the interesting life lessons that big blue store taught me.
Are there any great lessons your first job taught you?
This post was written for Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. I chose prompt #1 about a memorable high school job.