My First Job

Sunday, February 05, 2017
A commercial for McDonald's claims they're striving to be the best first job for people by offering college scholarships and high school completion assistance to their employees. That made me remember my first job, which was the neighborhood Dairy Queen... and I thought of all the lessons I learned there.

1. Mistakes can be a good thing.  If we made the wrong kind of sundae, the owner/boss encouraged us to put the mistake in the walk-in freezer... and we could eat it later. Of course, I caught on quickly. I'd deliberately make a hot fudge sundae when they really wanted a strawberry one. "Oh, I'm sooo sorry. Just a minute and I'll make you another one," as I scurried to put away my treat--to be eaten later on.

Perhaps you've veered off into another genre while wading through a WIP? 
Going off-track might inspire a new project. Maybe you accidentally
deleted part of a piece? Having to rewrite it might give it a freshness it otherwise wouldn't have.

photo by

2. Sometimes people are wrong. When I got the job (I was 15) my parents were sure I'd get tired of chocolate since I was going to be surrounded by it. I was (and still am) a serious chocoholic. And Mom and Dad were wrong. When things were slow, I'd take a spoonful of nut topping and dip it into the hot fudge warmer... and gobble it up. Making milkshakes and concretes and sundaes did nothing to make my chocolate addiction dissipate. Working a full shift meant we got a free lunch, and lunch at this DQ meant a burger or hot dog, fries (covered in Cheez Whiz), a drink (which to me meant a malt, because you drink a malt, right?) and dessert (a sundae).

Is it any wonder I now have food issues?

So you send off a manuscript or an article or a story to an editor or a publisher
and they don't like it. They might be the wrong person/house for your work.
Send it off, over and over again, until you find the right one.

3. Keep trying.  I never could get the signature Dairy Queen curlicue down. I made thousands and thousands of sundaes and cones, would let up on the handle of the ice cream server as I twirled the cup or cone... and it didn't ever look like it was supposed to.

Your book isn't published? There's a magazine/anthology you keep submitting to,
but you haven't made it yet? Keep trying. Don't give up. I thought I'd never get published
in a romance anthology, yet after some rejections (one was even a projectile rejection--quite ugly), I finally succeeded.

What about your first job? What did you learn from it, and how can you connect your lesson to the craft of writing? Chocolate-coated minds want to know...

Since working at Dairy Queen, Sioux has had many jobs including a (literal) pill factory and a position selling pre-arranged funerals--her favorite job by far is teaching. She's currently working on a middle-grades historical fiction manuscript. If you'd like to read more, go to her blog.


Margo Dill said...

My first job was at Spanky's Frozen Custard and I learned that fruit can ferment overnight. LOL I'm not sure how that can relate to writing but I will try to think of something and get back to you!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--What about this?

If you let your ideas ferment overnight or for a few days, they will transform into something intoxicating.

Thanks for sharing.

Jodi Webb said...

Weirdly, my first job was as a writing tutor. I was surprised when I learned that the SUPER smart people were most likely to make what seemed to me to be simple mistakes in grammar and spelling. So I guess I learned that what comes easy to one person might not come easy to another so play to your strengths.So don't attempt a sci-fi thriller if you love romances.

Val said...

My first job was umpiring a fast-pitch softball league for girls 16-18. Some of those gals had pretty good arms.

The first night, a well-padded catcher JUMPED out of the way, and the pitch hit me on my unpadded thigh. I bore a softball-shaped bruise (stitches well-defined) for over a week.

I learned that no matter how optimistic you are about other people doing their job, or looking out for you...the buck (or the fast-pitched softball) stops with YOU.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--What a peach of a job--unless convincing those super smart people that their work was not perfect was a pain in the rear to do... Thanks for sharing, Jodi. I have first-job envy. (Although you didn't have a steady supply of chocolate with your tutoring job.)

Val--My daughter (sometimes) was a catcher. Her best friend was a pitcher, and quite a good one, and when those balls came in at 70 or 80 mph, they were scary.

I do NOT envy you and your first job...

Renee Roberson said...

Well, first off I had to say that this post made me really, really hungry. Yum!

My first job was at a movie theater, which I coincidentally learned is going to be shut down soon. I learned so many things there--how fake the movie theater butter really is, not to walk to my car alone after a late-night shift, how good Reese's Cups tasted after being put in the refrigerator, and how my popularity at school skyrocketed after my classmates learned I could give out a certain number of free ticket passes each week! It also helped cement my love of storytelling as I saw so many great movies there on my days off.

But seriously, these were all great tips. I've got one manuscript I've been working on and working on, and I finally decided I'm going to send the first 10 pages and synopsis out to a few agents and see where it goes. If I get several similar "no" responses, I'll know to get back to work. But I'll never know unless I try, right?

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh my word, I'm seriously craving a DQ cone right now, Sioux!

Hmmm...I think my first job was working in a computer lab (at college)and what I learned was that sitting at a computer, doing computer stuff was not fun. But helping people figure out how to work the computer appealed to my bossy nature. :-)

And the writing connection? I like helping other people with their writing...and I still get a little antsy if I'm sitting at my computer, writing for too long. Best to get up, take a break, and come back with fresh eyes. And maybe a chocolate dipped DQ cone. :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--You might be in for a shocker. They might get lured in by your manuscript and perhaps you'll get some nibbles...

Cathy--It's obvious you don't get too antsy or take too many breaks... otherwise, you wouldn't have so many publishing notches on your belt.

Donna Volkenannt said...

It's hard to say what my first job was. I babysat for kids in our neighborhood. But the job outside someone's home that I consider my first paid job was when I was thirteen and was hired to help a neighbor who owned a confectionary. She was an older Jewish woman (probably younger than I am now) in a mostly Catholic neighborhood. Her son was our landlord, so basically what I did was keep his mom company, stock candy in the displays, dust shelves, sweep the floor, take out trash, scrub the front steps, and help load soda bottles in the cooler. One of the benefits was she let me drink ice cold sodas, which were a treat, and she occasionally let me eat lunch with her. She introduced me to Waldorf salad, which I had never experienced before. What I learned on that job was that people are different, old people are fun, and to enjoy the differences in life.

Linda O'Connell said...

My first job was filing at the Board of Education office. After one day, I decided the job was not worth $1.25 an hour. I do have an alphabetical file of Signed contracts. Like Donna, I also worked a candy could ter I. A confectionery and got paid in candy.

Linda O'Connell said...

Counter at a counter at a confectionery.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Donna--I still remember 16-ounce glass bottles of Vess Cream soda (or Whistle Orange). It sounds like it was a great first job.

Linda--Getting paid in candy? That is heaven on earth for a kid. What a lucky kid you were...

Pat Wahler said...

My first job was during the summer as a telemarketer, selling magazine subscriptions by reciting by spiel from a script. Only worked one day. The next day, the organization mysteriously disappeared-without paying me, of course!


Mary Horner said...

I also babysat, but but first steady job was at a steakhouse in high school. Made many friends there and learned a lot about working with others to achieve a goal. Not always as easy as it sounds!

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