A counter girl prepares an order at a French bakery. Customer service jobs can increase an individual’s communications skills, preparing them for higher-level work. OPEN-ARMS/FLICKR VIA CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’ve had two part-time jobs and one internship since I was 15 years old. I am now 19, working my third job. And no, I was not fired from any of them. Some people may feel 15 is a young age to start working. But because I started work at such a young age, I noticed that compared to my peers, I am advanced in communications skills and job interviews. I haven’t had that “real job” yet, but the past two jobs and my current one all fall into the customer service field.

Having small customer service jobs before starting your career allows you to experiment and discover your work habits. My first job was as a counter girl at a bakery. At the time, I didn’t even think about getting a job. I only took it because my brother’s girlfriend at the time guaranteed I would get the spot. Being a counter girl isn’t just tying boxes and and looking cute. The job cured my fear of talking to strangers and inspired me to have more confidence in my speech. When I trained, I got constructive criticism on how I need to be louder and more open with customers. I worked at the bakery for three years, and I still go help out on holidays when I’m home. I also now have the habit of talking too much with my customers.

I took on my second job, along with my bakery job, when I was 17. I honestly feel I nailed my interview during this experience because of the skills I learned from my first job. My second job fell into the retail field instead of the food industry. I only applied for a second job because I needed some extra cash for prom and other senior year events. This was my first retail experience, but I depended on my friendly personality and customer service knowledge to guide me along the adjustment to a new field of work. Although I was still working the register, I had to adjust to new types of customers, staff and procedures. Obviously my customer service skills increased because I dealt with new types of people. But I learned how to adjust to change, as well. Both of these skills are very basic but necessary for future careers.

I hated retail, so now I’m back at serving my favorite thing ever: food. Getting to work can be a challenge, and so can having limited availability because of my commute. I could take the Long Island Rail Road, which leaves me with a 20-minute walk to my job. Or, I could drag myself on the Suffolk County bus, which stops running after 6:40 p.m. Having this challenge builds determination and responsibility within me.

This applies to my workload, too. I flip crepes for a living. Cool right? Not when you have to ring up people, make crepes and serve one person or eight college kids while prepping ingredients for the days ahead. I wouldn’t be able to be composed in the workplace from all of the traveling to making crepes for two straight hours without a friendly smile, organization and motivation. These skills also apply to my daily routine of going to class and squeezing in time for extracurriculars.

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Everyone comes from different economic classes, some more fortunate than others. Some teens might have to start working at an early age and some might not have a job at all or won’t get one until their early 20s. I may have earned minimum wage for four years with no benefits, but I did earn skills and knowledge that can be used for the rest of my career. I am always hungry, literally, but also to learn anything. Small customer service jobs provide us with a source of income at a young age, a platform to discover our strengths and weaknesses and a safety net to catch our mistakes. Even if your mom and dad can afford to give you money every week, don’t be a couch potato to suddenly wake up and do something with your life. Get on Handshake or visit local businesses to discover your path to growth.

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