I don't think I have ever talked about where my career started on this blog, and the older and more experienced I get, the more I realize how valuable those first few working years were.
Like a huge majority of young girls, my first paying gig was babysitting. I took the whole Red Cross babysitting safety course, and I had quite the operation going with great word-of-mouth references. I volunteered at my dance studio as a teacher's assistant, so the moms began asking me to watch their kids outside of dance class for money, which was great. My neighbors started telling their friends, who started calling me and asking if I was available. It was a racket, I tell you.
Once I turned 16, though, my parents were eager for me to get an "official" job. You know, the kind where you have to report your income to the government and they send you a W-2. I refused to work in the food service industry, so I did what any teenager would do: I hit the mall.
I showed up for my interview at Baby GAP (back then, it was a separate store from GAP) in my high school uniform, and I professed my (fake) love for the brand. And I got the job.
Back then, GAP was all khakis and black or white t-shirts or button-downs. How times have changed! I remember the three managers at the store when I started so fondly. They really took the time to teach me so much. In fact, most of the managers I worked with in my six years there were just incredible. We had great times and awful times, but we usually had fun.
I made life-long friends at that job, people I still count on today even though I no longer call them coworkers. We are the #8938 crew (that was our store number, which is now defunct since the baby store closed and consolidated with the other GAP stores in the mall). I trained many of them, including my mother who still works there today!
I had such a love-hate relationship with retail and GAP, but they were really good to me through my formative years. When I went to college in Boston, I transferred to two different stores in the city, guaranteeing me a job when I need that part-time money. My home store always took me back during school breaks and summer holidays -- they made transferring back and forth a breeze and always accommodated me. Once I graduated, they loved me so much, they gave me a full-time, non-manager position, which is extremely rare in the retail world. I was the store expert, having worked there longer than any of the managers, and I pretty much got to do whatever I wanted.
I spent most of my time on visual and merchandising projects, rearranging the store, working in new seasonal lines, setting the store windows, and styling baby and toddler mannequins. I learned responsibility, accountability, customer service and communication. I learned how to work with and train others, even some difficult personalities. Oh, and I was usually well-dressed with a 50% discount! They gave me a Tiffany bracelet for my five-year anniversary with the company.
I left GAP in 2004 to work at Victoria's Secret before leaving retail for good a year later. As much as I hated being on my feet all day and retail politics and difficult customers, I miss those "good old days" at GAP. They were some of the best days of my life, and I could always "escape" to work when life got overwhelming. I credit my time there for making me the hard worker and problem-solver I am today. I don't think I'd be where I am without those first six years.
Your turn! What was your first job? What did it teach you? Have you ever worked in retail?
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