Magazine article Insight on the News

Value of First Job Measured over a Lifetime

Magazine article Insight on the News

Value of First Job Measured over a Lifetime

Article excerpt

For more than 30 years, the federal government has been trying to figure out ways to get people to work. It spends billions of taxpayer dollars each year on job-training and placement programs -- with questionable results.

For six years, I have been writing a series of articles for Reader's Digest titled "My First Job," in which successful people discuss the value of their early work experiences. Their jobs were not part of government-sponsored training or placement programs; they simply were low-level jobs earned through diligent effort. And what these individuals learned in their jobs goes a long way toward dispelling several liberal myths about entry-level jobs.

Myth No. 1: Low-paying jobs are a dead end. Roberto Suarez fled Fidel Castro's Cuba and arrived in Miami with just $5 in his pocket and a duffel bag of clothes. He pursued every job lead. When he heard of openings at the Herald, he had no idea what it was but went there and stood in line for hours, hoping to be called. Eventually he was picked for a 10-hour night shift bundling newspapers. Leaving work at 5 a.m., he was told to come back in five hours if he wanted to work again. He returned every day; after three months he was given a regular five-day shift. Suarez went on to become president of the Miami Herald Publishing Co.

Nothing makes Herman Cain, the chief executive officer of Godfather's. Pizza, quite so angry as youngsters who refuse jobs or complain about them because they do not pay enough or because they consider the work beneath them. Cain held a number of early jobs and says: "In every job I've held, I have learned something that helped me in my next job. If you look hard enough, you can learn from any job you do."

Though first jobs may be low-paying, they also can be among the most valuable experiences in people's lives. They expose people, often for the first time, to some of the basic requirements necessary to succeed, such as arriving on time, working with others, being polite and dressing presentably. First jobs help develop a strong work ethic and character.

New Jersey developer and trucking magnate Arthur E. Imperatore was 10 when he worked in a candy store. One day while sweeping, he found 15 cents under a table and gave it to the owner Imperatore was shocked when the owner admitted placing the coins there to see if he could be trusted. Says Imperatore: "I've never forgotten that honesty is what kept me in that job."

Oklahoma Republican Rep. J.C. Watts was a dishwasher when he discovered that his hard work and professionalism were not going unnoticed. …

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