When I was still in school, I worked mornings, evenings, and weekends organizing a team of neighborhood kids to help shovel snow and rake leaves. Later, when I was working full-time as a teacher, I flipped houses, tackled remodeling projects, and sold everything under the sun.
While many people view part-time jobs as stopgap measures to make ends meet or to supplement their incomes during college, you can learn many valuable personal and professional lessons from these opportunities that will help define your life.
Part-Time Worker, Full-Time Learner
I learned my first lessons working part-time with my neighborhood clean-up crew and continued to learn new and valuable lessons with each job I tackled:
- Hard work doesn’t necessarily mean great pay. My raking and shoveling enterprise quickly taught me that it takes real effort for a kid to shovel piles of snow or rake a big yard clean. I soon realized the value of having employees and being the leader. I could motivate my crew and not end up with aching muscles at the end of the day.
- Earning your own money is a good feeling. I liked having my own money so I could buy things without asking my parents to spot me some cash. This reward for jobs well done also encouraged me to practice my financial management skills, a trait I continue to instill in my employees today.
- Reward those who work especially hard for you. When I was shoveling snow, I had a client who always gave me a little extra money for the job. Logically, I started shoveling this neighbor’s driveway first! I implement this lesson today by ensuring I always compensate employees for extra effort. Whether it’s a surprise dinner treat or a cash bonus for particularly effective sales work, rewarding extra effort can increase motivation and create a personal connection with those go-getters.
- Efficiency rules. During my years as a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher, ordering school supplies was always a big pain. It meant dealing with the administration and district and filling out forms in triplicate just to get the necessary supplies for my classroom. Nothing will convince you to commit to running your own (efficient) business faster than dealing with red tape. In my business, we employ a system of getting what you need with as little oversight and paperwork as possible.
- You can only make so many personal sales contacts. When I was first selling educational products, I realized I could only shake so many hands. To expand my sales reach, I incorporated telesales to conduct business on an international scale. In addition, my company was one of the first 10,000 businesses worldwide to offer e-commerce options. While personal relationships are the bread and butter of any business, you should always be looking for ways to expand your reach on a national or global scale.
With each part-time job, I gained valuable skills and tools to help me succeed. These experiences also showed me who I was and who I didn’t want to be. It can be almost impossible to figure out what you want to do with your life without first realizing what you don’t want to do.
You need failure. There is no better lesson than failure. I live and breathe the idea that failing fast and failing early is the best education you can get. The more bad ideas you endure, the more likely you are to strike gold with a winner.
While those odd hours and low-paying jobs may not seem like much, they can and will help shape your life. Focus on what you do and how you do it today. You’ll likely use those lessons when you’re in a line of work that truly ignites your passion. Experiences instruct us for the future, even if you’re learning them by the hour.
What odd part-time jobs have you held, and what lessons did you learn?
Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily managesGraduationSource andAvanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.