What time is it? I pull out my phone and look at the time. 10:30?! It’s Friday, and we have been closed for two and a half hours! Why is it taking so long? I see Kevin walk past the aisle me and Caleb are working in. “Hey guys! There should be more wrapping paper in the back!” he said. He walks happily on to the next aisle. It’s hard to be mad at Kevin, he’s always so nice, but do we really need to restock a couple more rolls of wrapping paper? This happens all the time when Kevin is in charge of closing. It’s either restocking what feels like millions of shelves, or making sure every aisle is perfectly clean and sometimes dusted. I look over at Caleb and he seems as annoyed as I am. “Let’s go get the wrapping paper I guess.” He says in a frustrated tone, “I don’t understand why the morning shift can’t do this all tomorrow.” He’s totally right. They have to get here an hour early anyway, might as well give them something to do. I’ve only been working at Hobby Lobby for the past two and a half months, and I’m already wanting to quit.
In this essay I will talk about my experience with my first job working as a cashier at Hobby Lobby and teach you how to survive your first job, no matter how bad it is. My first job experience was honestly really bad, so I’m here to tell you that you can succeed in a job no matter how much you hate it. All you need to do is be friends with your coworkers, try to have a positive perspective, and ignore your manager. I’ve learned that doing these things really helped me to succeed in my job even though it wasn’t what I expected or wanted.
Be Friends With Your Coworkers
My first interaction with my managers, Shelly and Kevin, was the interview; it went well and I thought they seemed pretty nice. Two of my closest friends had already been working at Hobby Lobby, so I wanted the job so that I could spend more time with them. When I got the job, I was so excited to start working because I could hang out with my friends on weekdays and get paid for it. I learned quickly that this was my first mistake. I misjudged my managers and thought that just because my friends were there, it would be an easy, fun, and super chill job. Just because I had friends working there, didn’t change what I was doing at work. One of the biggest reasons for this was that soon after we all were working together, my manager, Shelly, moved us all to different sections of the store. I was a cashier and worked in the front most of the time, my friend Maryn worked in home decor, and my friend Morgan worked in the seasonal department. So, we wouldn’t even really see each other, especially on the busy days. I’m a very social person, so not talking to anyone during a grueling 10 hour Saturday shift was very hard for me. The first couple weeks of working, I kept to myself and didn’t really talk to anyone. I dreaded coming to work and hated every second of being there.
What I didn’t realize at the beginning was how in control of my own attitude I was. I know now that my personal happiness while I was working relied a lot on social interactions with other people. If you’re like me and being around other people brings you joy, one of the best ways to get through a hard job is to make friends. Alie Wood, who’s first job was also in the retail business, said, “get to know your coworkers because you’ll be with them a lot, and it’s more fun when you’re best friends with them.” The only way you can really get to know your coworkers is through talking to them. I’ve learned that a lot of people don’t mind talking and making casual conversation, and most enjoy it. One of the easiest ways to do this is through compliments. Compliments make not only the people you’re complimenting happy, they also make you happy. I started trying to compliment each customer I had. Sometimes it was easier than others, but seeing their faces light up after I complimented them made it all worth it.
Those first couple weeks of hating my job, I found it hard to get close to my coworkers. Most of the other people who worked at Hobby Lobby were a lot older than me, had different interests, and were just in a completely different stage of life than me. But I started talking to the people around me when there wasn’t anyone in my line. I learned their names, their hobbies, how many kids they had, where they grew up, and just about everything else. Once I got to know them, I walked to them almost every shift and that made it easier for me to survive. On top of becoming close with my coworkers, I continued to compliment and make casual and brief conversations with the customers that came to my register.
Try and Have a Positive Perspective
I look down at the register. The time 5:03 is shining brightly back up at me. I started my shift at 4, and time is dragging by slower than a sloth. It feels like I have already been here for hours. The store was empty, but I couldn’t leave my register. I have a huge assignment due tonight at midnight, and that’s all I think about. It’s Tuesday; no one goes shopping at Hobby Lobby at 5 o’clock on a Tuesday in October. My boredom is making me spiral slowly out of control. I lock my eyes on the clock at my register. I watch as it changes to 5:04. How has it only been one minute? I think about my assignment again. What if I don’t have enough time to do it? What if I stay up too late doing it and can’t stay awake at school tomorrow? What if I fail my class and can’t graduate anymore? What would happen if I didn’t graduate?
A customer comes to my register. She’s a couple inches shorter than me, she has obviously dyed hair and looks about 65. A classic Hobby Lobby goer. She’s buying a Christmas wreath, a decorative spoon, and a sign that says, “Fall for Jesus, he will never leaf you.” It was too Hobby Lobby and I hate it. It’s $25 and 40% off for the Fall sale, making it $15, but apparently this lady thinks that isn’t good enough. “Excuse me, I can’t find your 30% off coupon on your website.” I don’t understand why people keep asking about the coupon. I answer the same way I always do, “I’m sorry, corporate discontinued that in March.” She looks at me confused. “Are you sure? My friend Janice was just showing me one yesterday. I swear it was there.” I sigh and repeat what I said before. “I guess I won’t get that one then.” I wasn’t that surprised, this happens all the time.
As the woman walks out the doors my thoughts start spiraling again. How am I going to finish that assignment? Is it really only 5:07? My mom’s going to kill me when I fail my classes. Where would I even live if I don’t graduate high school? I would rather be homeless than a super senior. I don’t have the motivation to stop them. I’m just so bored. And besides, what if it’s all true? What if my life starts spiraling exactly like my thoughts all because of this stupid job.
I’m normally a positive person, but sometimes work would just really get to me. Going into something with a bad attitude doesn’t help anyone, especially not yourself. No matter how bad the situation is, you should always try to have a positive outlook. It changes everything. When you have a positive perspective, it can help the time go by faster, and it’s honestly better for your health. My mom always tells me to be where I am, and not focus on things that are out of my control at the moment. In this scenario, I was letting my worry about my assignment get in the way of my emotions and the way I was acting at work. There was nothing I could’ve done during work to finish my assignment, I should’ve just been where I was and focused positively on work. It’s also important to remember why you’re working. Jared Russel, who works in the career center of Brigham Young University-Idaho, said, “Never quit a job just because you may not love it, keep your commitment to your company and they will make it worth your time eventually, whether you get a new job in the company or the job experience helps you get another job that you like.” He’s completely right; Even if you hate the job, it could be able to help you in the future.
I’ve been getting better at seeing the positive side of things at work. And even when it’s hard, I just try and remember why I’m here in the first place. Today has been pretty slow, but the people who have come to my register have been really nice. I look over at the customer service manager (CSM) who’s in charge of running the front end of the store and smile at her. She smiles back and waves. I’ve learned that smiling is one of the easiest ways to stay positive. Even if I was faking the smiles at first, the more I did it, the more my brain believed me, and the more it actually made me happy and have more of a positive outlook on things. Just seeing my CSM react the way she did made me happy. Time is going by pretty quickly today, it’s already 6 and it feels like I’ve only been here for a few minutes!
Ignore Your Manager
It’s late October now, and Hobby Lobby is starting to get super busy. It’s not even Halloween yet and people are buying our overpriced Christmas decorations by the pound. Shelly has been getting on my nerves a lot. It feels like she doesn’t like me just because I’m a highschooler cashier. She always talks to me in such a condescending way, and is so strict about everything I do. She doesn’t seem to care if my coworkers walk around the store after closing doing nothing, but when I talk to one of my coworkers while putting stuff away, she yells at me. Today, I was putting away some Christmas ornaments with a coworker when Shelly caught us having a normal conversation. “Girls!” She says, “I know this is just some highschool side job for you guys, but some of us need to make a living. Stop talking to each other and actually do your job.” I just look up at her in shock and go to a different aisle so Shelly won’t get mad at me again. I need to do a better job of watching for her so I can know when to stop talking to whoever I’m with.
It’s even worse when I try to ask for time off. Even though I’m requesting time off the required 2 weeks before, when I hand her the time out slip she looks at me like I’m committing a crime. “I mean, I guess I can see if we won’t need you those days.” she says, acting like she’s the victim in this situation. It drives me crazy. Why can’t she just treat me fairly? For the rest of the work day I feel the need to prove myself to Shelly. I try complimenting her, doing exactly what she asks, keeping to myself and not talking to my other coworkers too much, everything I could possibly do to get on her good side. It doesn’t work.
I think that in certain cases, the best way you can succeed in your job is through ignoring your boss. You should listen to their directions, don’t go against their will, but don’t pay too much attention to what they’re telling you. My manager at Hobby Lobby was never really nice to me, and the things that she would say to me would often hurt my feelings. I learned that the only way I could get around this was through ignoring things she said that made me mad or sad. Wood said, “if you feel like you’re going to be mean or harsh to your manager just when you’re talking to them, stay away from them. Try to have the least amount of contact with them as possible.” If you feel like you can’t control your emotions and attitude toward your manager, change what you can control. For example, try not to take their words to heart, or try to avoid situations where you would have to talk with them for a long time.
It’s a Thursday, and we’re almost ready to close. Everyone’s just waiting for the all clear from the seasonal department, making sure that there’s nobody left in the store. Finally someone calls out over the intercom, “seasonal is all clear!” All of the cashiers start cleaning everything out and putting the money away. As soon as everything is clean and ready up at the front, I go and grab a cart filled with returns that go in places throughout the store and start putting things away. I put in my headphones and focused on working. I turn a corner and see Shelly working in the jewelry aisle. I put back the beads that somebody had returned. Shelly looked over at me, “Ella, you’re not allowed to have headphones in while working,” she rolled her eyes, “I’ve literally told you this a million times.” I fight the urge to say, “no you haven’t, you ‘literally’ have only told me one other time, and what right do you have to talk to me like that” and then storm out of the building and quit. Instead, I take a deep breath and say, “Ok” and take out my headphones. I quickly walk to another aisle and avoid her for the rest of her night. I don’t let Shelly get to my head for the rest of the night, and finish everything I need to do quickly.
When you start your first job, you will be able to use these three strategies to help you succeed no matter how hard or frustrating your job may be. The purpose of this essay is to help you overcome a lot of the challenges that you will probably face with your first job.
Ella Mear was born in South Bend, Indiana in 2004. She grew up largely in Mesa, AZ and graduated from High School there. She is currently attending BYU Idaho studying political science and international relations.