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Skills Your First Job Taught You (Without You Even Realizing It)

First jobs can be educational ... just not in the way you thought.

For most of us, a first job is all about mindless, repetitive days spent hoping to make enough money to get the new Nintendo -- but, unbeknownst to us, we were actually learning some valuable lessons, aside from the necessity of always looking busy. Here's how your first bout of employment made you understand life slightly more than you had before:

  • You learned how to talk to people you don't really like

    School teaches you how to meet people, socialize and make friends. Jobs teach you how to meet people, socialize and still talk to those people even though you think they're the absolute worst. It's easy to be buddies with somebody when they like they same music as you; it's way harder to talk to the guy who works the fry cooker about his pet lizard for an hour.

    As you get older, you meet more and more of those weirdos, and thanks to that summer job, you know how to handle them without having to run away scared. It's the adult thing to do.

  • You learned the difference between being nice and being creepy

    This is the first time you're surrounded by many different people -- of many different attractiveness levels -- in a tight space working for a common goal: to do as little as possible 'til you get to go home. Keeping your hormones in check is a valuable lesson that will prevent many lawsuits in your future.

    There's a fine line between that fun, flirty interaction with a coworker ... and having to start every subsequent job interview saying, "I don't know, I thought we were all having a good time."

  • You learned how to have fun on the cheap

    First jobs usually pay minimum wage (unless you're some sort of rich kid, and then you've never learned anything anyway, so it's fine), and your parents may explain you're getting paid "in experience." Which is true: you're learning how to experience a good time with no money!

    By necessity, you'll find out which days local museums offer free admittance, which bars have the best happy hours, and just how many aluminum cans you need to save to go to the amusement park and forget how poor you are. Thank that job at the grocery store every time you have enough money for your date this weekend.

  • You learned that, yeah, you've gotta clean that up

    If first jobs teach you anything, it's that you're not special -- and that's probably the most important thing for a teenager to realize. Whether you're working in retail, fast food or babysitting, nothing gives you perspective faster than having to clean up somebody else's puke ... or some far, far worse substance. The sooner you learn that you're not above anyone else in society (probably by touching something you never wanted to be touching), the better.

  • You learned how to hold your tongue -- even when you really, really didn't want to

    Your parents get to make you do whatever they want. Teachers will just keep givin' that homework. And now there's some new person who also thinks they're the boss of you. 'Cause they are. They're your boss; that's how that works.

    Accepting this is an important step in the process of becoming a boring adult ... and now that you are one, you have the night manager at Burger Barn to thank. Did your supervisor use (and abuse) every ounce of their power in a sick attempt to justify their own misery at work?

    Sure, but that made you bulletproof, because you realized that you don't get back at them by yelling "fu-- you" and quitting; you get back at them by doing the *absolute minimum required* to keep getting their money. It's not just a first job ... it's the American Dream.