PF Confession: My Teenager Jobs

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When I saw Young and Thrifty’s post on her worst jobs held as a teenager, I couldn’t help by smile and think back to own horror stories learning experiences.

When I turned 16, I desperately wanted to work part-time to supplement my meager $5 a week allowance.  I wanted to make extra money for 2 reasons: (i) to save for my education (ii) to buy clothes.  My parents were adamant and refused to let me take on a part-time job during the school year for fear it would interfere with my studies; however, they were open to me working during the summer break.

During the summer of grade 11, I started my first job ever.

1. Pantry Staff

I worked at a summer camp in Orillia as a “pantry staff”.  We stayed in the (nasty) cabins onsite and were responsible for all the cleaning/preparation of the dining hall and serving meals for the campers.  This included preparing the dining area (setting tables, chairs, utensils), cleaning of dining hall, cleaning of dishes – for all meals.

The work week was 6 days a week, but since Orillia is a 3-hour drive from Toronto (aka out in the middle of nowhere to a city girl, like myself), we had to accumulate our “days off”, thus most of the staff worked 7 days a week.  The days were long, started around 6:30 – 7:00am in the morning with a very short break between meals (usually 30min), and ending between 11:00pm and midnight.

I was exhausted every day.  The last straw was when my acne flared right back up, due to all the stress and lack of sleep.  And I lasted about 2 weeks before I quit.

There was a “completion bonus” of about $2,000 in my contract.  Which is the sneakiest thing ever – if you ever see something like that in a contract – RUN!  When I told the director I was quitting, he reminded me of the completion bonus and told me that I could expect a cheque for no more than about $60 if I decided to leave.  I left anyway, and I got a cheque for $300 a couple weeks later.

Worst job ever.

2. Donut maker

After my failed attempt at my first summer job, I sent out my application everywhere.  I was hopeful – I now had some “experience” even if it was only 2 weeks.

I got a job at a local amusement park making donuts.

It paid minimum wage, but I was over the moon.  I only had to work 6 to 8 hour shifts and I easily made way more money while working less than I had at my previous job!

Bonus: I got a free season’s pass to the amusement park.

3. McDonald’s

I worked as a cashier full-time during the summer and then convinced my parents to let me work part-time during the school year if I kept my grades up.

Even though many people came out of McDonald’s with horror stories, I come out of my 1 year stint relatively unscathed.  The work schedule was extremely flexible, and I mostly worked on Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays.   Often times, I’d work 6:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday and Sundays, and still had lots of time to homework/group projects, while still making about $200 per pay cheque during the school year.

Bonus: The McDonald’s I worked at was out in the middle of nowhere, and so I wasn’t able to blow my paycheques at the mall.

4. Ride Operator

During my last summer before entering university, I decided the leave the glamorous world of the fast food industry and move onto amusement park rides.  The ride operator position paid more than minimum wage (what I was getting in the fast food industry), and I was rolling in the dough making $9 an hour in the summer of 2003.

Turns out that the summer of 2003 was when the tourism industry was really slow – it was the SARS scare, and instead of having 5 – 7 shifts a week, I was only getting about 3 – 4.  But, I had a great summer hanging out in the sun, making new friends, and enjoying my season pass on my days off with my friends.

5. Math & Science Tutor

Since math was a strong suit of mine, my high school teachers encouraged me to tutor fellow classmates and lower grade students.

I learned that a lot of people who don’t “get” math, are simply missing a lot of fundamentals, but expect a “quick fix” from a tutor.  I usually go over class notes and examples with my students, and try to take them through the steps, at a slower pace.  We’d also go over assignments or past tests and I’d go over where and how they lost marks, and how to improve their future scores.

This was my most lucrative gig at $15 – $20 per hour cash.  But I also only worked 1 to 2 hours at a time.


There you have it!  All the jobs I held as a teenager.

Growing in a poor family, I always had a fear that I would not be able to afford attending university, which was the main motivation for me to work.  Even though these jobs aren’t super high paying, I manager to scrounge together about $8,000 in the 3 years I worked prior to entering university.

I think it’s really important to work part-time, or know (some) hardship, so one can truly appreciate the value of a dollar.  And I hope it’s a lesson I am able to pass on to my kids someday.

Readers, what kind of jobs did you hold during your teenage years and what did you learn?  What was your motivation for working at a young age?



Filed under PF Confession

14 responses to “PF Confession: My Teenager Jobs

  1. I had a slew of teenage jobs too. Funny thing is I always wanted to work at a retail or food place but could never get jobs there. So I stuck with teaching hip-hop dance classes to kids, selling cell phones for T-Mobile and Sprint, and then started working at call centers in college followed by a law firm. That’s pretty much it! Nothing too crazy.

  2. I worked at KFC in the afternoons and on the weekends. Working behind the scenes, I learned what to order and what not to order! Just kidding! But, I did enjoy my shift more when certain people (those that were like me and were able to multi-task) were working with me.

    During the summer months, I worked for the university with their housekeeping staff. We would keep the dorm rooms clean for the summer students and guests. I didn’t mind that type of work (I was used to cleaning up at home, with a neat-freak of a dad).

    At the end of the day, I wish I would have saved my money, instead of spending it as soon as I got paid!

  3. I was lucky in that I didn’t have to work until senior year of high school. I spent most of my summers away at special educational programs. Anyway I was a receptionist for H&R Block. So many disgruntled customers during the tax season!

  4. belowhermeans

    Adore this post! I might have to write one like it.

  5. I love the donut maker at the amusement park job! Not that I’d want to do it but I was always curious what those people thought of their jobs (I’m weird). My only job I had when I was in high school as a hostess at a restaurant which wasn’t bad at all.

  6. Amy

    I didn’t do paid work (other than babysitting gigs) until the summer I graduated from high school, during grades 10-12 I volunteered at our local hospital in the kids ward. I had friends who had paid jobs and hearing the complaints didn’t motivate me to join them, but volunteer work gave me experience without the headaches.

  7. I had pretty unique jobs (at least, I think I did) when I was a teenager. When I was 14, I got my first summer job working as a tour guide at a lighthouse. I ended up working my way up the lighthouse ranks until they eventually put me in charge of the place. I loved that job – exercise (lighthouses were the original stairmasters), talking to people about history, and it taught me lots about the tourism industry and managing people of the teenage-type. My other teenage job was working at the store part of a cheese factory, selling cheese and making cheese baskets come Christmas time. Again, awesome job because I got to eat fresh cheese curds.

  8. My first job, that I got at around age 16, was selling programs to a festival on a purely commission scale. WORST JOB EVER. I’m introverted, so I felt weird approaching people; I was 16 and insecure, so I was afraid to talk to 50% of the possible buyers (i.e. men); and I hated the festival, so couldn’t muster up much enthusiasm for selling them. Also, it was outdoors in the summer and I burn like crazy, so it wasn’t even a good tan-getting experience.

  9. Pingback: Weekend Ramblings & PF Blog Love: A Nickel for Your Thoughts Edition |

  10. Youth Tobacco Investigator (insert theme music as I flip my cape around!)

    Also worked for eco organization. Don’t remember the title I had but essentially we were like jail birds riding around in a van to different neighborhoods cleaning, “beautifying” and painting trash cans. Tons of fun. Best part: Friday beach parties (EVERY.SINGLE.FRIDAY) It was a summer job.

  11. I worked at GAP, A&W, Blockbuster and Jacob Connexion, and 3 out of 4 of those stores actually closed down. It’s a running joke in my family that when I get hired I’ll probably make the company go bankrupt somehow. The jobs weren’t the best (though Blockbuster was by far the funnest place to work while at university) but they taught me how to have a good work ethic and the value of a dollar. Great post!

  12. I have had so many jobs it’s not even funny. I’ve always wanted to work at McDonalds though. Is the GOLD card a myth? Or does that thing really exist.

  13. LittleFrugalista

    I’ve heard that McD’s is a fun place to work as a teenager!
    I only ever worked at a hardware store (Rona) and it was a blast. I was a cashier and everyone was around my age and we all became friends, all went off to university at the same time, and all remained in touch!

  14. I wish I had taken more summer jobs when I was in high school but alas. Only thing I ever did was sell music zines and local band cds which weren’t very lucrative. My older sister also paid me to be her sort of secretary – not really much either. I wish I had a job in an amusement park!

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