I had a string of weird jobs before and during college

Our 13-year-old can’t wait to have a real job.

So far, she has done some pet sitting for neighbors and, of course, odd jobs around our house for cash.

Z also has a couple of very cool, animal-related volunteer gigs which I know will help her immensely when she gets her first paying job.

But at her tender age, we’re not finding too many places willing to hire her just yet. I’m thinking that next year when she turns the big one-four will be her first official year in the workforce.

All of this ruminating about our little Z getting her first job has made me think back on all the weird and wonderful jobs I had as a kid, back when I lived in NY and before I started my chosen career in public relations.

  • Babysitting. My first paying job was babysitting from about age 13 on. Several families in our neighborhood called me anytime they wanted a date night out. I enjoyed babysitting – especially since the families I sat for all got MTV and other cable channels long before we did. It paid well, but I have to admit my favorite part was getting to watch TV and eat snacks after the kids went to bed. Entertaining kids is exhausting, yo!
  • Barn flunky. Also around age 13-14, I mucked out horse stalls at Sandpiper Farm riding stables in trade for free trail rides through woods, fields and along the beach. While cleaning up after horses and wheelbarrowing manure around may not sound like the greatest gig, the resulting time on horseback was all I wanted at that age. Plus, the kids who hung around the barn got the coolest experiences of all, like getting to ride the horses down to the nearby beach and SWIM on and/or with them on nice summer days. Even though this didn’t pay actual cash, it was pure magic. I wish I had more pictures from that time.
  • Library page. At age 15, my first official, on-the-books summer job was as a library page at Northport Public Library. As an avid reader and lifelong bookworm, this job was heaven. I almost always took home a new novel to read because I scanned the cover and jacket copy of literally every book I shelved. I learned valuable skills like the Dewey Decimal system, plus how to shelve periodicals and use a microfiche machine. I especially loved my time in the children’s section of the library. The only downside to being a page is that it’s lonely work – you’re usually on your own.
  • Busser. Around that same time, I took my first restaurant job as a busser/bus girl at Karl’s Mariner’s Inn in Northport. Mariner’s Inn was a seafood restaurant right on Northport Harbor with a dock so boaters could tie up and come in for a meal. As someone who despises the smell of (and is allergic to some kinds of) seafood, don’t ask me why I took this job – but it was fairly close to home and had a good reputation. The place closed in the early 90s but nostalgic photos and postcards from Mariner’s Inn can be found online. I liked the social aspects of this job and bonding with the other bussers and waitstaff. I also loved getting cash tips to take home at the end of every shift.
  • Camp counselor. I had put in a few years at a local camp as a volunteer counselor in training (CIT) and loved it, so when I turned 17, I got the official paying counselor gig and it rocked. I did that for two wonderful summers. One of my fondest memories from those years was teaching a group of second graders choreography to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The 80s were a chaotic and wonderful time.
  • Salad bar prepper. During my summers home from college, my dad hooked me up with jobs where he worked. Grumman hired the teenage children of their employees as summer workers in many areas of the company. The first year, I applied late so all they had left were food-related jobs. I helped out as a cafeteria worker and, although it wasn’t super sexy, I learned how to prepare fruits and vegetables for a salad bar, how to grill burgers and of course lots of cleaning and sanitizing. The worst part was wearing a hair net while preparing food – gross!
  • Secretary. For my second year at Grumman, I got to work as a summer secretary. We basically filled in for the real secretaries when they went on vacation. I much preferred this role because I got to shop for cute office attire, wear heels and flirt with businessmen in between answering phones, delivering mail and taking messages. I improved my typing skills, perfected my Lawn Guyland accent (ask me for a demo sometime) and even got to read at my desk when my boss went on vacation. Imagine getting paid to read a good book! It was like a dream come true.
  • Gas station attendant. During the summers at home in Northport, and even back at school in Binghamton, I worked at Hess gas stations. I initially applied for the job on a dare from my then-boyfriend; he never thought I would do it because I was a total princess and a good girl who didn’t like to get dirty. The joke was on him because I ended up loving the job and working with all those grimy boys! We worked outside all summer under a canopy so if it rained, we didn’t get wet and if it was super hot, we always had shade. This job was honestly such a valuable learning experience that it probably deserves its own post.
  • Note-taker. During my first couple of years in college, I was a paid professional note-taker for students with disabilities. I’ve always taken great notes so I was a natural at this gig. I usually worked for older students so I got to sit in on more advanced classes; my favorites were the pre-med lectures. I also used to read textbooks onto audiotape for a student with vision problems. I’ve personally never liked the sound of my voice on tape, but the student never complained.
  • Aerobics instructor. During my last couple of years in college, I taught aerobics in my dorm and at a local fitness club. I even got certified by the International Dance-Exercise Association my senior year so I was all official and could teach classes at any gym. My favorite thing about getting paid to teach aerobics was that I could eat absolutely anything I wanted in those days and not gain a pound! Plus, being in great shape was fun – although would you believe that I still never thought I was thin enough and always wanted to lose more. Ughh. Diet culture, you suck!

So, there you have it. Some of those jobs are pretty on-brand for me but others are quite surprising, I think! I always wanted to work at a clothing store in a mall, but I found that those jobs were super hard to get.

I learned a lot from each of them and hope that Z decides to explore lots of different work experiences too, as I did. When you’re young and still in school is the perfect time to take on lots of different roles and find out what you like best.

What was your favorite – or least favorite – job before you started your career? I’d love to hear your work stories in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.

Hi there 👋
Thanks for reading!

Sign up to receive more awesome content in your inbox every Friday.

We don’t spam! Unsubscribe at any time - no hard feelings.

About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial