My First Job


Lillian Tullio

Sixteen means a lot of things! It means you can finally get a driving permit, you are old enough for certain volunteer positions, and it means you’re eligible for working papers so you can land your first job! Like me, you may be asking, where will I work, what happens to my free time, and how much (or little) money will I earn? These are some of the many stresses that come along with getting your first job. For example, I worried about how l would get to the new job and how I would get home but there were bigger things that bothered me. Up until now, I’ve spent every weekend with my family and specifically, my mom doesn’t work on the weekends. Suddenly, I’m required to be at a job on the weekends and realize this is the first step in becoming separate from my family.

 My job search started by getting my working papers from high school. This was a back and forth situation with endless paperwork that required a signature from the principal, an updated physical from my doctor, and a signature from my future employer about the number of hours I would be working. Once the paperwork was finally completed I was put on the training schedule for my new job. This part of the process was stressful because I did not know what to expect. I’ve never worked before and I’ve certainly never run a cash register! 

The night before my job training began, I was calm but excited. The anxiety did not set in until I was in the car and on the way to my first training session. As I was getting closer and closer to work, more doubt creepy in my crazy mind about how prepared I was for this. Did I have on the right shoes? Was my shirt supposed to be tucked in or left out? This was a big step in the scheme of my life as I was NOW among the working class! My dad dropped me off, on time, and ready to learn. I know he said something positive to me as I exited the car, but I was so nervous that I don’t remember one word of what he said. I was greeted warmly and welcomed to the staff but I remained quiet. The boss introduced me to the head cashier who would be training me. He handed me a sheet which I was shocked to see was filled front to back with hundreds of item codes! He must have noticed the surprised look on my face and kindly informed me that I did not need to memorize all the codes on the sheet because over time, I would automatically know them. The rest of my first day was spent picking up items from around the store and simulating the process of a customer checking out on a register designated for a “cashier in training”. The first day went well but I had a little bit of anxiety about the expectations for the second day. 

On the second day, I knew they would expect much more from me. The codes were nowhere near memorized and I was so worried they would expect me to know more than I did! I continued to work on a training register until the last hour when I was put on my own REAL register with my trainer standing right behind me. I was aware he was watching the screen as every item passed through the scanner. As the first customer arrived in my line I felt my anxiety go through the roof. I attempted to analyze all the items in their hands in hopes of locating the item and its corresponding code on the sheet quicker to cover my anxiety about making the customer wait as I searched for the codes. I was so focused on trying to get myself ahead that I forgot to greet the customer with a simple, “Hi! How are you?”. The moment they put their items down, I had a plan! I would get the easier, scanner items out of the way first and then start looking up codes on the item sheet. So far so good!  I had to look up approximately five items and I did well with the exception of the most common item in the entire store! I had practiced with this item at least a hundred times but I was so nervous I couldn’t locate it on the code sheet. My trainer noticed me struggling and whispered the code to me. I was so proud of myself for completing the checkout that I completely forgot to total the order and read the price outloud to the customer! Everyone awkwardly stood there waiting for me to finish. The trainer looked at me and gestured for me to complete the transaction on the register. I snapped awake and accepted the payment.

The following weekend I felt more comfortable being an actual employee in the store. I used my card to punch in, was able to locate things easily in the store, and could easily access the employee area. The trainer was still watching over me for personal support which I appreciated because some of the customers were rude to employees in training. I immediately started checking customers out and the codes started coming to me more easily. While the scale was intimidating at first I noticed a few ways it was communicating with me. If I scanned a product and it beeped that meant I needed to type in the amount if there was no beep the product was weighed. I was learning and certain things were clear while other things were more confusing! It was not as simply as putting in a code or weighing an item on the scale. Some things needed to be manually entered and it was only time and experience that would teach me everything I needed to know. 

I’ve gained respect for the work cashiers put into their job. Before my first job I had no sense of job training or what a part-time wage job pays (not much)! I’ve seen cashiers my entire life and assumed they had an easy job until I realized how much brain power it takes to memorize hundreds of codes and to know the ins and outs of a cash register. When you are a student working part-time you have to accept that your social life takes a back seat. I am no longer free to go anywhere at any time. My first job has taught me a lot about time-management whether it’s punching in on time or tracking how long I’ve been out for lunch and breaks. I am happy I have my job to better myself and move me toward becoming a more responsible adult.