March 12, 2017
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.
Sue Reed is the President and CEO of the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce.
What was your first job?
I was the hostess at the Golden Bear Restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois. I was 16 and I was horrible at it!
Yes. The primary job of the hostess is to seat guests in each section of the dining area. But, for some reason, I would end up seating everyone in the same area. Boy, the waitresses were really ticked off at me! They were either overwhelmed with serving guests or had no customers at their table.
Did you get fired?
Not exactly. I had a really nice manager who worked with me and hoped my performance would improve. Finally, he just said, “I don’t think this is a good fit for you.” He was right.
How did that experience mold your leadership approach?
In a big way. I have always been supportive of my employees. If someone makes a bad decision, we talk about the error but I never hold it over their head. We move on.
Following your brief time at the restaurant, where did you work?
I worked for a hospital in their dietary department. I worked with a small group of high school and college students preparing food trays for patient rooms. It was a great experience; I held that job every summer through the end of my four years in college.
Did you enjoy the work?
I did. I enjoyed being part of a team. I also came to appreciate the value and importance of teams. It’s helped me assemble good, effective groups of workers throughout my career.
Was there a downside to the hospital job?
The long days. It was not unusual to begin my shift at 6:00 a.m. in the morning and work until 8:00 p.m. But, I loved to work and the money paid for my college tuition.
Where did you acquire this desire to work?
My mom and dad set the example for me. They were both hard workers.
I understand you had an interesting experience in your job at a summer day camp?
Yes. One of my duties at the camp was to drive the kids around in a mini bus. In my haste to park the vehicle, I drove it under the overhang of the dormitory building. Unfortunately, the height of the overhang was not high enough for my bus, and my vehicle got wedged in. The camp owners later gave me an award for driving the only bus in the fleet with a sunroof.
What advice do you have for a young person thinking about that first job?
Be on the lookout for mentoring and internships. Start with something you are passionate about. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one area. Explore as many jobs as possible. Don’t be afraid to take chances.
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Hiring young people is a great idea. Be gentle. Youth learn and grow by making mistakes. My manager at the restaurant clearly understood my first job was a learning experience. Now is the time to prepare our workforce of the future by offering them that very first job.
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.