July 31, 2016
This is part of the Ready NWI and First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series reviews the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.
Clausell Harding is assistant principal at AK Smith Career Center and coordinator of adult education for Michigan City Schools.
What was your first summer job?
My first job for pay was at Carter’s grocery store. I was 16 years old. However, I had been working since I was 6 years old. I grew up on a farm in Henning, Tennessee, and everyone had chores assigned them.
Tell us more about the job at the grocery store?
I worked the weekends, about 15 to 20 hours a week. There was no uniform to wear, but I did put on an apron and gloves when I worked in the meat department.
Do you remember what you were paid?
I earned minimum wage. It wasn’t much, but the money went a long way in covering the cost of clothes and other items I wanted. I had spending money in my pocket.
What did you like about your job?
I was the youngest employee at the store, and I enjoyed my co-workers and the chance to speak with the customers. One additional benefit: My work on our farm was outdoors, but the grocery store was an indoor job.
Do you recall if you made any serious mistakes on the job?
No. I was fortunate that I never made any serious mistakes, but I learned to pay careful attention to directions, to be aware of safety rules (especially in the meat and deli area), to show respect and to report to work on time.
Did the job help you discover what you were good at doing?
Yes. I found out that my people skills were very good and that I had a very strong work ethic. I have no doubt that those early years of chores on the farm contributed to that “soft skill.”
What did you not like about the job?
I had less time to spend with my friends and to play sports.
What advice do you have for young people as they begin their first jobs for pay?
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Give young people a chance to be successful by:
The READY NWI partnership supports the unique aspects of community, school, and student, and embraces a commitment to regional thinking and acting in order to ensure prosperity by meeting the skill and education needs of employers throughout Northwest Indiana.