first jobsWhat was your first job? You know, that initial labor you invested in exchange for real money. Babysitting? Waiting tables? Flipping fast-food burgers?

Recently, Parade magazine ran a cover story on first jobs for the rich and famous. Jennifer Aniston cut hair for $10 a head in junior high. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson washed dishes at a Honolulu pizza restaurant for $3.45 an hour. Amy Poehler scooped ice cream for her summer job as did Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, and Kate McKinnon.

Ashton Kutcher at age 19 swept Cheerios dust off the floor of a General Mills plant in his Iowa hometown for $12 an hour. In the 1970s, Whoopi Goldberg worked as a bricklayer and morgue beautician before she earned her acting break.

A Real Workout

And what was my first official job? I had a number of summertime jobs growing up, but I consider my cemetery mowing work my first real break in earning moola. My two older brothers hired me to do the grass trimming around most of the memorial stones and grave markers. Oy! Dan and Doug handled the riding and push mowers and I was blessed with the lower-rung manual labor of wielding handheld grass clippers. (The new mower photo at left was taken about five years before I could mow on my own.)

For those who have never heard of this vintage landscaping tool, the clippers were like a pair of metal shears. Instead of today’s high-powered, cordless weed trimmers, the manual grass clippers were operated by the squeeze of my hand. Think tackling three-foot high grass in Midwest sweaty humidity with basically a pair of hefty scissors.

And, of course, the cemetery had hundreds of graves that needed my fine-sculpting detailing or a pull of the lanky grass around and between gravestones. The six-foot long memorial vaults resting side by side were a real workout for my hands. No mower could get between those grayish elongated stones. But I could with my trusty hand clippers.

Refining Our Character

Today, I still have slight calluses along the base of my fingers from those old-fashioned grass clippers. Gratefully, I graduated to battery-charged electric grass clippers by the time I took over the cemetery mowing biz in high school. When the battery charge faded in the middle of a muggy afternoon mow, my trusty hand clippers filled in. Squeeze. Clip. Squeeze.

But you know what? My hard work taught me megatons about discipline and a dedicated work ethic. First jobs tend to refine our character. Being newbies to the work world, we learn to manage our time and humble ourselves under the tutelage of others (yes, even our older siblings). First jobs guide us in self-confidence and being responsible. Learning at a younger age about working to earn money hones our appreciation for a little grit and gratitude.

As I moved into my high school years, I added a number of part-time jobs to my teen resume: babysitting, chopping weeds, painting, making and selling potholders. All these work opportunities taught me the value of resiliency and bending through the sweat, sore muscles, and calluses.

The Payoff Decades Later

As many of America’s celebrities learned early, hard work and tenacity pays off decades later. Just ask actress Megan Fox. For her first job, Megan dressed as a giant banana and stood by a highway to draw attention to her employer’s smoothie shop. My trimming grass around gravestones at least let me breathe clean air and gave me a golden tan. Plus, my brothers and I built our entrepreneurial camaraderie. And I earned about $1.75 an hour to boot.

Oh, the invaluable lessons of first jobs. Shoot me a comment with highlights of your first job. How did your debut in the workforce help shape who you are today? You may have a few calluses like me that serve as a reminder of the payoff of grit and gratitude.