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A Detailed Look at My Job History Tracing Back to When I Was Thirteen: Part 2

By: Steve Johnson

8/26/2009 - 21 Comments

I started working when I was thirteen years old and I thought it would be fun to try and remember each job I’ve had and what I learned along the way.

This is Part 2 of an article series which takes a look at what I learned from each job that I have had since I started working at the age of thirteen.

2nd Job – My father worked at the Veterans Administration and they had a summer job program, which I applied for. I believe it was the summer of 1990 that I worked at the VA with the ground keeping crew.  That was my first look at a government job.  As you can imagine, we didn’t really do much. We watered trees, picked rocks out of the grass and tried to kill the gophers that were digging up the grass.  I soon realized that this was not the job for me.  After this summer job, I went back to working at the body shop during the school year – after football season.  I primarily took the job because the government was payment better than anyone else, like usual they were distorting the labor market by bidding up labor costs.  I think I was earning $5.25 per hour, while minimum wage was still $4.25.

3rd Job – I remember thinking about finding a summer job that was not as much hard work as the body shop but yet something that I could get at least 40 hour per week so that I could make the maximum amount of money during the summer.  I remember my mother driving me around town looking for jobs and it was her persistence that I got this one. It was the summer of 1991 and I went in to ask for the manager of a full service Car Wash called ‘Soft Touch’. 

They told me the manager was busy so I walked out and my mother told me to get back in there and wait until the manager will talk to you.  So, I waited and waited until the manager opened the door and told me I can start on Friday – and don’t be late.  I still remember that mean old lady.  She hated when people were late.  It was a good job for me because I was good at cleaning vehicles from working at the auto body shop.  For the most part I loved the work and the full time hours.  But as the summer ended, I quite the job as foot ball season approached.

4th Job – My father had a very difficult time getting his college education and because of that he realized the tremendous value is higher education.  Therefore he decided to send us kids to a private high school to give us the opportunity to get a head of the pack and have a better chance at achieving a higher paying job. The school was more than my parents could afford, but they sacrificed new cars and a new house so that we could attend that school.  The school also had a work program for parents that needed help covering the costs.  That meant that I had to work at the school cleaning and painting for a few weeks each summer or work at school during the year helping in the library or at the canteen. 

The first two summers I had to clean dorm rooms in the summer because the easy jobs during the year were taken by the juniors and seniors. The last two years, I was able to work during the school year helping in the library.  Of course I didn’t like having the work at school, but looking back, it was very good for me. Before working in the library I never spend much time in the library, but learning the system of finding books and material related to a topic became very valuable for writing reports in senior high. I worked this work study program for four years, from 1990-1993. I never got any money from it, because the money I earned was reduced from the school tuition.

5th Job – During high school I was always thinking of ways to make a little money to pay for my car and fun activities on the weekends.  What that translated into was using Christmas vacation and Spring break as an opportunity to work.  In 1992, during Christmas vacation I started working at a Mexican restaurant as a dish washer at minimum wage of $4.25 per hour. The work was hard but the hard work weeded out the kids that couldn’t keep up. The mangers were excellent to work for.  The pay was also higher than most other restaurants, even though I started at minimum wage within one year I was earning $5.75 per hour.  I mostly worked this job on weekends. The last summer I worked as a bartender in 1994 for $4.25 plus tips, which probably worked out to $6-7 per hour. I graduated from high school in 1993, so this must have been the summer after my first year of college.

6th Job – The restaurant job was great for the weekends and Christian vacation and Spring break, but I couldn’t get very many hours during the week and for that reason I also needed a full time summer job.  In fact if you look at when I worked all these jobs, many of them overlap, meaning that I was working two to three jobs at a time. In the summer of 1993, before my senior year of high school I landed a job at Moore Temporary Services to help a construction crew assembling a conveyer system for a local manufacturing business.  The job was a bit dangerous put the pay was $6.50 per hour - $2.25 more than minimum wage. They hired two kids to help with the project. Me and a farm kid that wasn’t afraid of heights, because our job was to help secure steel beams by walking across the steel beams 20-30 feet in the air. This is where I put all those years of tree climbing in the back woods as a kid to work for me.

During my high school years I also had a few other jobs like babysitting and picking rocks at my grandfather’s farm.  But I didn’t count those jobs because they never amounted to more than a few dollars.

In total, I worked six different jobs before completing high school.  It is no accident that my current financial position greatly benefited from all these jobs.  My personal financial education was built on this foundation.  These jobs provided me with the tools to learn how to work hard, how to save money and how to manage my money – all before I even started my college education.  My wife has a similar story to tell and together we learned about money the hard way, which some argue in the only way.

The current recession is going to send teenagers back to work and off the couch paying video games, just as I worked six jobs. Just last week I read that video games sales are down 30%. The party is over and it’s time to get back to work. The government hasn’t even begun to face the recession and when they do it will result is many more hours of work for the average teen.  It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of savings to rebuild a sound economy.   

In part 3 of this article series, I’m going to try and remember the jobs I had while I was in college and finally the jobs after college.

  • Series Introduction
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
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