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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

First Jobs

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Yesterday I did a segment on my law partner Larry Hilton’s first job as a hockey rink employee and the hours and hours he spent on a Zamboni, cleaning the johns, passing out skates. The point was that first jobs teach young people a great deal about how hard work is and why hard work succeeds. (Larry is a tremendous litigator who puts in the hours without complaint, and we were discussing how lawyers ought never to complain about how “hard” their work is given the nature of truly hard work.) I closed by urging employers to keep finding work for people in their teens and then to work them as hard as possible within the law and reason.

A pile of e-mails later, there is near-universal agreement that “first jobs” are indeed crucial to forming young people’s understanding of what work is and how your life is deeply affected by your attitude towards work often forged in those first few weeks and certainly months of employment. My favorite:

I caught your piece yesterday urging employers to hire and work the pants off of young people. I was reminded of one of those first jobs of mine (and I could do it perfectly today, 45 years later), packing popsicles from 2 AM to 10:30 AM. A few minutes after being put on the line, the easiest part of the line, I began to fall behind as box after box of popsicles headed my way along the conveyor belt. I was meant to put the boxes in larger boxes and I could not keep up. I had been at it all of ten minutes with the line having to slow to a creep to allow me to catch up. The supervisor strolled over and told me that if I could not do the job he would get someone who could. Literally TEN minutes into the job.
By the end of the summer I was packing the popsicles straight out of the machine and into their first boxes, packing so fast that the supervisor asked me to slow it down, asked me what the rush was. And from then on, in whatever manual labor job I had, I observed that with only a little time under my belt I could outwork anybody. And every single job I had I was asked by the foreman or the supervisor to slow it down. That is when I realized that much of American labor is invested in stretching out the task, pacing the work, making it last. Most jobs can probably be done in half the time with half the people. I once worked for the Schulman company, the makers of Old Spice and my job was to hide and look busy from 7 AM until 3:00 PM and then to get the job done by 6:00 PM. This ensured that our “manager” was made to look like he was busting it with the daily overtime. We got paid a lot for that overtime. It was disgusting.
great segment!!!
W. Michael Murphy


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