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Important Lessons Learned from Your First Job

A man and a woman working at a coffee shop.
​This is the 13th in a series of compilations of answers to #NextChat questions of the day. 

Your first job can teach important lessons that guide you in how you perform on the job throughout your working life. What was the most important lesson you learned from your first job? That was the question of the day posed on a recent SHRM #NextChat by Mary Kaylor, SHRM-SCP, manager of public affairs at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The following is a compilation of responses from LinkedIn and Twitter


As a general helper at a local newspaper in high school, I learned the benefit of being cross-trained. I was trained to do typesetting, ad layout, selling in person and over the phone, answering phones, payroll, proofreading, photo printing and developing, customer service, reporting, writing news articles, accounts payable, collecting money, and other general office duties. It was an amazing first job.
Robbin R., recruiter at HCA Healthcare in Fleming Island, Fla., on LinkedIn.  

Exceeding Expectations 

Paperboy at 8 years old, how to go above and beyond customer expectations. As well, cross sell. Walking up to the rural town homes of the elderly, noticing the lawn needed attention, a simple question, "I can come back and mow your yard for $5?" Five dollars! It was 1966 after all.
Kevin Epley, SHRM-SCP, HR manager at Landmark Automotive Group in Springfield, Ill., on LinkedIn. 

Speaking Up 

Character Counts 

Responsibility, Punctuality 

My very first job was in retail, and the key lesson I learned was the importance of being ready to work at your start time, not just walking into the building and clocking in. My first professional job was at a staffing company, and one of the most important lessons I learned was to be willing to do anything and everything, and proactively seek out projects.
Amanda Robinson, SHRM-CP, senior talent acquisition specialist for ProAssurance in Lancaster, Pa., on LinkedIn.

Learning Is Ongoing 

My first office job was as a receptionist for an insurance company when I was 19 years old. The best lesson learned was looking up to older/seasoned workers and just soaking in what they were teaching me—life lessons, advice, culture, etc. ... It was extremely helpful in my work life and personal life as well.
Maria Galarza, SHRM-CP, manager of administration and special projects at Northeastern University in Boston, on LinkedIn. 

Real World 

Taking Things in Stride 

My first job was as a party planner for Chuck E. Cheese. What I learned is that it's important to be humble and to make sure that you're giving your best, no matter if a kid spits on your face. HARD WORK!
Bria Sanford, recruiter at Dynamic BDC in the Detroit metropolitan area, on LinkedIn. 



Age Doesn't Matter

Work Ethic

More from this series:
  1. Juggling Child Care with Telework? Here Are Some Tips
  2. Bone Broth Cleanse, Push-Up Clubs: HR Pros Share COVID-19 Workout Routines
  3. For Better or Worse During COVID-19: Sharing Telework Space
  4. Tips for Employee Orientation During COVID-19
  5. COVID-19 Continuity Planning: Identify Critical Tasks, Broaden Tech Use
  6. Pet Pals Are 'Co-Workers' During Quarantine
  7. People Look Forward to Simple Pleasures After COVID-19
  8. Performance Reviews During COVID-19: Should You Suspend Them?
  9. Safety, Poor Planning Among Concerns as Employers Plan a Return to the Workplace
  10. Monday, Monday: How Do You Gear Up for the Week?
  11. Virtual Happy Hours, Games and Meals: Team Building Varies During COVID-19
  12. Pandemic Poses Recruiting, Hiring Challenges


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.