This the third in a series of Ready NWI columns in the First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series will review the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.
Karen Morlan is the senior human resources manager at American Licorice in LaPorte and a member of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.
What was your first job?
I worked 10 hours a week as a bus girl at Howard’s Restaurant in Michigan City. I worked every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. I cleared tables, reset them with silverware and a napkin and refilled coffee.
How did you find your job?
My family were regular patrons at Howard’s. One day, the owners mentioned to my parents they needed help. I applied and got the job. I was 14.
How much did you earn?
Three dollars an hour plus tips that the waitresses shared with us. I used the money for a variety of things. I no longer had to ask my folks for money. I felt empowered.
Are you a big tipper these days?
I am. Most waitresses don’t make that much, and I know many of them are paying their monthly bills with their earnings.
What did you like about the job?
I loved meeting new people and keeping up every week with the lives of our regular patrons. I enjoyed making their dining experience better. As an adult, I chose a profession that centered on helping people because that’s what I enjoy.
Why do you believe young people should hold a job?
I believe it is important because it helps instill good habits and the intrinsic feeling of a job well done.
What were the most important qualities or characteristics that you learned from bussing tables at the restaurant?
To be punctual. Getting to work no later than 8:00 a.m. I also learned the importance of providing a great customer experience even on the days when wearing a smile was a bit of a challenge.
What is your current position?
I am the senior human resources manager at American Licorice Co. in LaPorte. Our company employs 150 to 180 people in our warehouse and manufacturing facility and an additional 80 people in our corporate office.
When you are filling a job opening, what do you look for in job applicants?
First of all, if a candidate is late for their job interview, I won’t hire them. It’s the first lesson I learned as a teenager. Be on time.
American Licorice Co. wants to hire individuals with a strong work ethic. We are looking for people who are honest and can be held accountable for the work before them. We also want people who are drug-free. People using drugs pose safety issues in the workplace for themselves and their co-workers.
Does your company screen job candidates for drugs?
Yes we do. However, very few people fail the test as most people know our hiring process and know we test for drugs. So people using illegal drugs do not apply for work with us.
What advice do you have for a young person about to begin their first job?
Be on time. Be engaged in what you do. Listen.
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Be patient. For many, this is a first job, and they have no understanding of the expectations. Be clear about what is required of them. Remember you were once on the first day of your first job, too.