My First Job

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!


Family Weekly Photo Challenge

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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

19 Comments Leave a comment

  1. One of the things I learned at my first job was to be willing to learn anything anyone would teach me. It has served me well.

    • That’s a good one too! The discussion on LinkedIn triggered a bunch of responses and they were all over the board what people learned. It was really interesting to see what people did and what they learned from it. Thanks (as always) for leaving a comment.

  2. A lovely tribute to your great aunt. Thanks for sharing the memories. I know it can yank on our heart strings to revisit the past, but I usually find it worthwhile to do.

    • You’re right about our memories yanking on our heart strings. I think about my grandmother and great aunt frequently – I missed them so much when they died. I don’t think my cousins feel the same way, but I’m not sure any of them remained close after they grew up and moved away. I did – I saw them frequently for years after I was an adult.

  3. It is so important to be mentored and then to pass that on. It makes such a difference. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of it these days. My first job was delivering newspapers after school. I made like $5 a day, but it was awesome. I also mowed the cemetery lawn, bussed tables and washed dishes. I learned a lot there, but I am glad to be done with those jobs for sure.

    • That’s the great thing about the jobs we have when we’re young – they make us money, teach us lessons, and especially teach us that we don’t want to be doing that the rest of our lives!

      There is a real lack of mentoring these days, even in the corporate world. Staff is left to flounder or create mistakes they can’t recover from. Bosses need to be more accountable for developing the less experienced staff. There is a lack of time – tremendous time pressures these days – but the workplace is much better when expectations are discussed and missing expectations is worked out.

    • I wish I’d asked for her mentoring more when I started working after college. I think she would have helped me avoid a lot of the mistakes I made at that time. I had a good boss, but he was pretty indifferent to lack of maturity with young staff.

  4. I love the photos. They so perfectly fit the challenge! And, it is interesting that you could pair it with your blog article. Sounds like you had great women in your family :)

  5. Wish companies here would spend more time and care training new employees…and that the new ones would listen.
    On my first job in a big office I learned it’s important to never take your shoes off no matter how much they hurt – always look professional. About a dozen of us were hired at the same time to do lowly work, but shortly I was given a permanent desk and more and more interesting work and responsibility. A boss said I was the only one who kept my shoes on and worked efficiently and quietly.
    Your great aunt sounds very cool!

    • The lack of on-boarding for new employees is a real gripe of mine. I try to help out new employees in my own department, even though they mostly never report to me. I think it helps them get off to a better start and keep a most positive attitude about the garbage at work.

      That shoe story is good and a good lesson for younger staff. Between the excessive talking and lack of professionalism, I don’t know how any of them are going to get ahead when so few managers take time to mentor.

      My great aunt was actually not very cool. She was fussy, prim, and proper at all times. But she didn’t play games, gossip, or play favorites. And man, oh man, what a backbone in a time when women let men run the show. It was a good lesson in being a good person and not caring how society is acting around you.

  6. Having such a strong woman for a mentor had to be a wonderful boost through your growing up years. This is a lovely post! It clearly shows the influence of other women, at home, in the workplace, and in all areas of our lives.

    • I agree with you, but I didn’t realize it for a long time. As a child, you think that’s how everyone’s family is and how everyone’s great-aunts act. It isn’t until later that you realize how special someone was.

  7. What a wonderful lesson in life and work your aunt gave you. She sounds like a strong force that helped you see how the world and the work place could run. It would be a better working environment if your aunt had given those lessons to many many more who never got to know her.

    • I think today’s workforce would be a much better place all around if she were here. VP’s would think before acting and staff would stop bickering and complaining. I’m glad though that I’ve paid it forward – there are a lot of people in the workplace that I’ve mentored and who are doing the same for others.

      Thanks as always for stopping by!

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