Hope for your financial life and beyond

Every Job Teaches a Lesson

Lifeguard Tower“In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty.” – King Solomon, Proverbs 14:23

All labor brings a profit, as it should. We use that profit to provide the basic necessities for living, to purchase items we want and to create more profit by investing in the marketplace.  The desire to take care of ourselves and build wealth is a huge reason we work each day.

However, the term “profit” can convey more than just financial gain. We also use that term to describe how something is beneficial or will give us an advantage in some way. For example, it would not be profitable for me to drive in the wrong direction on the freeway. It would be deadly!

So in relation to work, personal profit could mean more than just money. Through work we can also learn about ourselves. We learn about relationships. We learn about influence, perseverance, and sacrifice. We learn, in many ways, simply how the world operates.

I’ve had eight jobs in my life and each one taught me a different, valuable lesson. So here are the life lessons I’ve learned from work, from my first job to my present one.

Job #1 – Weekly paper route

There is a lot of behind the scenes work the consumer never sees. That paper doesn’t magically show up on the doorstep each morning without being written, printed, picked up by the delivery boy, folded, bagged, double-bagged in case of rain, and lugged in a shoulder bag (or in my case a wagon) from house to house.

Job #2 – Daily paper route

When I started my daily paper route I realized the more you work the more you get paid. (I also found out that collecting money from subscribers was a hassle, especially when they think the bill is wrong.)

Job #3 – Concession stand worker at community swimming pool

I learned how to be as efficient as possible in order to move customers along quickly. Those lines for French fries and soft drinks can grow to be mighty long in the middle of the afternoon.

(I also learned the grossness that goes on in a commercial kitchen. I won’t share that now because you might be reading this over lunch at Applebees.)

Job #4 – Concession stand supervisor at community swimming pool

Besides managing product, I learned that there is NOTHING more important in life than orderliness and cleanliness (Of course that’s an exaggeration but it didn’t seem that way when the health department dropped in.) I think that lesson plagues me to this day.

Job #5 – Lifeguard at community swimming pool

When I was young I thought the lifeguard job looked so cool. You get to wear a swim suit to work while sitting in the sun all day and getting a tan. And the lifeguard always gets the girl. That’s what I’m talking about!

What I really found out when I became a lifeguard was even jobs that look really glamorous could be a tedious and boring. Eight hours a day in the hot sun whistling at children breaking the rules all of a sudden didn’t seem so glamorous. And I don’t know why I had thought the lifeguard always gets the girl. I didn’t see any of that action.

Oh, and they don’t tell you in lifeguard training school that you also might have to come in early to suction sweep the pool bottom, spray the deck area, check the chemicals in the water, conduct swimming lessons for little kids, mow the lawn around the pool, empty the trash and clean the bathhouse.

Job #6 – Construction worker

Although this was a lot of hard work, I really enjoyed it. Something about it clicked with my spirit.

Constructing custom homes taught me that I love building things and seeing a project through to the end. Finishing a house was a goal that brought a lot of personal satisfaction to me.

I also gained many valuable carpentry skills that have saved me a ton of money as I do my own projects around the house. I believe it’s also the reason I have developed a love for rental real estate as a side business.

Job #7 – Sales Associate at a sporting goods store

I really had to work at being a good salesperson because I am a natural introvert. But even an introvert who can demonstrate passion and knowledge about a product and give the customer great service can be a success.

Job #8 – Education

16 years in education cannot be adequately summed up in a few short sentences. Maybe one day I will write an ebook. However, I can boil the big lessons down to these:

1. Don’t expect to see results overnight. Educators must think long term with their students and peers.

2. Take time to rejuvenate your mind and body. Burn out will come quickly if you don’t because the job is so demanding.

3. Leadership is mostly about influence and leading by example. Fail at either of these and you can’t adequately lead.

That’s it for me. If I have any other jobs in the future, I hope they teach me lessons as good as these.

What is the best lesson you have ever learned from a job?

Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. This is such a great post. I’d definitely say my time spent on staff at Camp Barnabas and Kids Across America taught me the most. The were really challenging but also really rewarding. The ability to have relationships with some of those campers is just awesome. Some of their parents needed a break and some of the campers have nothing else to look forward to because of their special needs.

    I’m also looking forward to being a professor one day. I hope I can make an impact on a few students!

    • That sounds like an awesome experience. Teaching is definitely a rewarding profession. I’m at the high school level so the most difficult thing for me is waiting on the students to mature. You usually don’t see your impact happen overnight…it takes years of pouring into student’s lives to see lasting change. Perhaps at the college level it would be different. Are you in school now preparing to become a professor?

  2. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    Great post, Brian. Of all of the different jobs I’ve held, I have to say waitressing was the most valuable. It taught me so much about serving others. The second most valuable were my jobs in personal banking as I saw firsthand people’s incorrect attitudes about handling money. As long as it took us to get out of falling into the debt hole along with them, I’ll never forget all of the lessons I learned from others in terms of handling money. Might make a great post some time.

    • That does sound like a good post. I’ll bet you saw some very interesting things. I’ve always enjoyed waitresses and waiters who were professional and served us well. That’s a tough profession because you have to “be on” for every customer if you want to receive good tips. That has to be tough to do as the day wears on and you get tired.

  3. I can totally relate to the lifeguard job. I used to think it would be so cool, and I did enjoy the job, but there was lots of trash and cleaning that weren’t too glamorous, and lots of the time I felt like an underpaid babysitter. My past jobs all taught me some good life lessons and some of the showed me what I didn’t want to do. I wouldn’t trade any of them.

    • I wouldn’t trade them either Kim. I think every job I’ve had served me well at that given time of my life. I wouldn’t consider any of them a waste of my time.

  4. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says

    Even the less-rewarding jobs on the surface still have great lessons (sometimes the most salient…). Great points.

  5. Holly Johnson says

    Great lessons =)
    I’ve had a ton of crappy jobs in my lifetime and the cumulative lesson from all of them is that I don’t want to work in crappy jobs.

  6. Financial Black Sheep says

    Best lesson I learned is don’t burn bridges, because eventually someone will know someone who knows someone that helps you land a job haha.

    I delivered papers as an adult, so I didn’t have to collect money which was fine by me! That’s cool you did construction work and used it to save money. My father owns a construction business and taught me way too much about home improvement haha. It saves me lots of money too. I just finished putting in laminate hardwood flooring into the master bedroom, something I would have never done if it wasn’t for all the times I help put in real hardwood flooring 😀

    • “Don’t burn bridges” That’s a fabulous lesson! It really takes a great deal of skill and tact to leave a company and have everyone still feel good about you.

  7. Great lessons, Brian! I delivered newspapers when I was young too. And it was hassle getting paid by some people. 🙂 I think my biggest lesson was realizing how much of a difference I could make. Seeing people shift their money mindset to an abundant thinking and achieving their goals is exhilarating. I also learned to surround yourself with good mentors and a great team.

  8. Well thought out Brian. I enjoyed the lessons. My biggest lesson what what I learned when I collected late mortgage payments. I learned a lot about mortgages and how to track down habitual offenders.

    • Thanks Grayson. I bet collecting put you into some tense and emotional situations with people who were late on their payments. That doesn’t sound appealing to me…I hate conflict.


  1. […] of my jobs taught me things about life, but I have to say that it was my career in banking that taught me the most about people and how […]

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