My First Job

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This week’s photo challenge is “nostalgic” and is coincidental with a short post I made on LinkedIn asking about first jobs and what it taught us.

My first job was working for family at a manufacturing company that we owned.  I learned the hard way how great it was to have a mentor when my father and grandfather both yelled at me for not doing their work first.  My great-aunt stepped in, told them in the future they would come to her for my work assignments and she would set priorities.  When they got mad because I didn’t know how to do the work they gave me, she showed me how to get it done.  She taught me that it was good to take breaks, get to know other people in the work place, and to ask questions of people who were willing to teach me.

I was only 14 years old, so those were all great lessons that I’ve applied to myself and when I’ve mentored others.  She treated me like all the other women that worked there.  While she wasn’t their boss, the women were always comfortable that she looked out for them and they would be treated fairly and with respect.

Interestingly, the same played out at family get-togethers.  She’d only put up with so much bickering and arguing before shutting it down.  My Dad and uncle knew not to backtalk when she scolded them for letting us kids run wild at the family get-togethers when they were supposed to be watching us.  When she passed away, my aunt stepped up and took over the role of managing family and business politics (having, of course, learned from the same source as I did).

Until that incident at my first job, I had no idea there was a stronger personality in the family than my father or grandfather.  I had no idea that the boss’s opinion on how to treat employees is not the last word or necessarily right.  And I had no idea how to get along with others in the workplace, make my own way regardless of who my father was, and to learn on the job.

I’ve been in the workplace now for many years.  I’ve repaid my great-aunt’s mentoring many times over, from coaching young employees on the expectations of the workplace to helping more experienced employees set boundaries and play the politics wisely.

My great-aunt was the working woman I had the most contact with as I grew up, other than my teachers.  She didn’t have children, but she loved us as fiercely as our grandmother did and we loved her back.  Expanding these thoughts for this post makes me miss her.  I miss her advice in the workplace and my own personal life.  She didn’t pry, but when I asked for help she didn’t varnish the truth either.  And nothing made any of us feel like kids again faster than having her address our latest shortcomings.  Of course, it was funnier when it was my Dad and uncle than myself.  We always knew who was the true boss in the family!

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