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11 Lifelong Leadership Lessons That Can Be Learned on Minimum Wage

A little while back, Geoff Williams, a writer for U.S. News and World Report reached out for some thoughts regarding advice for teens heading off for their first job. (You can find a copy of Geoff’s article here).

As my teenage daughter had recently embarked on her first job, so I shared some thoughts with Geoff regarding his article and this got me thinking about the best Lifelong Leadership Lessons that can be Learned on Minimum Wage.

I reflected on the many conversations I had with my daughter, Catherine, as she was looking for a job. As well as the advice I had given her as she headed off into the work world. I also thought about the comments she has made based upon her first impressions of being a “working woman”.

She is learning many things, none the least of which was the shocking view of her first paycheck. Even with the raised minimum wage, she was stunned to see that working ten hours does not afford you the same comfortable lifestyle that Mom and Dad have. She also wondered, “who is this FICA person and why are they taking so much of my money?”

Some words of wisdom I shared as she was heading out into the work world for the first time:

  1. Everything you do (no matter how trivial you may think it is) can teach you some valuable life lesson. Don’t grumble that the job seems beneath you, look for the lessons you can learn. In the end, these lessons will be far more valuable than minimum wage.
  2.  Nothing frustrates your boss more than making excuses. Conversely, there is nothing they value more than a person who isn’t afraid to take ownership. Victims gets passed over or let go, people who take ownership get raises and promotions.
  3. Figure out who is the best at doing the most important things for the business’ success, study and learn from them. They will teach you how to become a highly valued employee.
  4. Get to know as many people as you can, building strong relationships is the foundation of success and a life well lived.
  5. You are going to be working with a lot of people. Some will come from different social and financial backgrounds. Others will have grown up with vastly different family dynamics. These different experiences will provide them varied perspectives. Appreciate the differences and work to understand their perspective. Embracing the diversity in people is a great asset.
  6. Be nice to everyone you work with, kindness is a virtue that everyone appreciates and it costs you nothing to give it. Plus, you never know if they will be someone you will be working for later – or they may know someone you will be working for.
  7. Be mindful of the people you hang out with at work as we take on the traits and attributes of the people we spend the most time with. Make a conscious choice to hang with the people you want to be like, not the people you don’t want to be like.
  8. Never wait to be told what to do, find out what needs to be done and do it, you will quickly become your boss’ favorite employee.
  9. If there is nothing to do, find a broom and clean something. Always be looking to do something that will make a positive difference.
  10. Figure out what is the biggest problem your boss is having at work and help them find a solution.
  11. The rule of thirds: Take 1/3 of your paycheck and put it in savings, use 1/3 for your expenses (gas, food, dating, etc.), take the final 1/3 and do/buy something fun with it.
  12. Ten minutes early means you are arriving on time. Punctuality shows respect for the job and your manager. Being late sends the message that you don’t care.

Sometimes life’s most valuable lessons don’t come pre-package from an Ivy League education or by sitting at the feet of the Dalai Lama – they come from standing behind a cash register or making hamburgers. The secrets to great success, really aren’t all that secret. You just have to look for them.

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