Your first job is all about attitude

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But I found myself watching a flustered 17-year-old scramble at the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant just trying to do her job. Her actions clearly communicated that she was scared and baffled.

Now, we all know that working the counter at a fast-food business isn't the toughest or most challenging work out there. That's one of the reasons tens of thousands of American teens each year get their first jobs doing just that.

But it can be the toughest job in the world if you lack the preparation or confidence it requires.

That's an easy thing to forget as we look back.

Job performance is tied directly to training, temperament and confidence. If you feel that you understand your job duties, have been trained to perform them and like the work you are doing, you probably will be a success in that job.

Yet, things often are not that black and white.

How many times have you seen a new employee in a retail shop asking for assistance to complete a simple task? How often have you seen new employees take interminable periods to complete a transaction?

Your first job is often a very important life event. It could be one of the first times that you have been in the world alone with responsibilities. Often, you don't have friends or family to lean on and you have to handle issues smoothly as they arise.

This is a great jumpstart to maturity, but it also can be intimidating.

I like to tell people that in my first job, I was in charge of paper clips.

At the time, I had just started as an 18-year-old copy boy working for a newspaper. My department used hundreds of paper clips each week, but the penny-pinching publisher rarely let the newsroom have new supplies.

That meant that someone had to figure out a way to recycle paper clips.

I simply traced the path of paper clips after they left our department and found those spots where they would accumulate. Each day, I would take some from here, some from there and my department would have an adequate supply for its needs.

This wasn't brain surgery. It also wasn't exciting work. Yet, it was a job that needed to be done and I did it. Because I was successful in that, they soon gave me additional jobs that were more important and more meaningful.

Your first job is all about attitude. Nearly everyone has a job early in their career with mundane tasks, yet they still must be done. Our willingness to deal with those tasks as part of the whole job can often set a tone for our tenure in that job.

I felt sorry for the girl at the drive-through window because I could see she was flustered, but still trying to do her job.

Even when she shortchanged me a few cents, I couldn't say anything to her because she was obviously shaken.

Employers who hire young people have a responsibility to us all. These are the future workers of our country and employers need to instill proper workplace values and expectations in these young people.

It might seem academic to older people that teenagers need to learn about job expectations and opportunities when they start out. They also need to understand corporate culture and how they contribute to it.

These things are givens. But employers also have a responsibility to make sure that when they hire young people, they have given those people the proper training and education they will need to handle the job.

Employers need to make certain that young hires have a chance to succeed in their first jobs. It can set a tone for their entire career and it's simply a good business strategy.

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