Shaping Work Habits – High School Jobs Revisited – part 1

Part 1 of 3 – Winn-Dixie

2020 has been a disruptive year for everyone. Like millions of others, I’m wrestling with furlough and career choices. While we rarely list high school jobs on our resumes, I’ve been thinking about the three jobs I had during my teenage years. They all had an impact shaping my future professional career. So, I thought it would be a good exercise to document what I learned from each position. The innocence of youth meets reflection and learning. 

I was 16 and finding the freedom that comes with a car. I was also attracted to making some cash to fund my social life (before social media was a thing). I applied for a job at the local grocery store, Winn Dixie. My first week, I was assigned to clean bathrooms and bag groceries. Cleaning the bathrooms was icky. I saw things I can’t unsee. But then the store manager had an immediate/urgent need to fill a hole in the frozen food and dairy department. He assigned me to fill the position. As is with so many things in life, sometimes timing opens doors you don’t expect or in my case didn’t even really know existed. I stayed in that department until I left Winn Dixie because I moved. It was a good ride.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. How to work independently – The assignment in the frozen food and dairy department put me in the back of the store working shifts as the only department member. After a brief training, the department manager scheduled and assigned me to work single-man shifts. The full-time guys didn’t enjoy working nights and the 4-10 closing shift was perfect for a high school student working part-time (summer hours).
  2. How to take pride in my work – I quickly realized the condition of the shelves in the department reflected my work and was visible to customers and my fellow teammates. I approached each task as if mom were inspecting it; Fill empty holes, rotate dairy based on the expiration date, clean up spills, get rid of trash and misplaced items, etc.
  3. How to improve and challenge others – The condition in which I left the department, both merchandise point of sale and backroom inventory, became both a game and a challenge. When other guys in the department left messes for me to clean or straighten, I discussed it with my department manager. I approached him directly and talked about standards and the expectations he had for me and the department. I didn’t think about concepts like continuous improvement when I was 16, but that’s exactly what I was trying to accomplish. 
  4. How to create excellent customer experiences – It was not acceptable to me when the merchandise area of the department was dirty, unkept, or empty of product. The first and last thing I did on my shifts was to walk the floor and make sure the merchandise shelves were clean and orderly for customers. I didn’t know the phrase ‘customer experience’, but I knew the difference between a well-ordered and disorderly environment. I knew it was important to be visible and on occasion, when asked, I would go to the back to pull a dairy product with a later expiration date for a customer. 

My time at Winn Dixie was rewarding. I enjoyed the freedom of working independently, the pride of a clean department, and of course the spending cash so I could hang-out with my friends. It is forever part of my journey.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Cheese in the Supermarket – Alex Juel via Creative Commons –