I didn’t enter the workforce until I became a college student. My parents have always told me how important work experience is for future jobs, so, when I began my freshman year, I immediately started filling out applications. I originally applied to work at an H-E-B Grocery Store. After receiving a kind, but firm, rejection, I applied at a restaurant and was hired as both a waitress and a cashier.

Through the experience of being an employee, I’ve learned many valuable lessons not only about myself, but also about others. Here are ten lessons for everyday life I learned by working at a restaurant:

1. The Value of Money

Until my employment, I never appreciated how hard my parents worked to earn their money. Now that I receive my own paychecks, no matter how small, I always take care to use it wisely and not to blow it on unnecessary things.

2. The Virtue of Patience

Working as both a cashier and a waitress, I interacted with kind and rude customers alike. While most customers are nice to you, some will take out their frustrations on you. I’ve learned not to take anything personally and to respond calmly to even the harshest comments. Overall, I have learned how to better communicate with others.

3. The Habit of Taking Care of Yourself

Make sure to take care of your body. Get plenty of rest so you can stay awake during a shift, stay hydrated so you have enough fluids and make sure to eat before work so you can focus on the customers, rather than their food. By taking care of yourself, you are able to care for the customers’ needs.

4. The Practice of Timeliness

Getting to work on time is crucial. This is not like high school where you get a tardy slip or detention. If you are late once, the managers will hopefully forgive you. If you are late twice or more, you are at high risk of losing your job. I learned that your work ethic includes not just working your shift well, but also actually showing up on time.

5. The Art of Saying “No”

Co-workers are a great part of work. However, at some point, something will happen in their lives that conflicts with work and they will ask you to cover for them. Sometimes it’s good because you can earn a little extra money, but don’t forget you have your own life as well. Sometimes the right word isn’t “yes,” but “no.”

6. The Expectations of Customers

After working several months in the same job, I sometimes think I have everything figured out. However, the wide variety of customers has taught me that despite my growing work experience, I still do not have the answers for every question thrown my way. In the workforce, it’s best to expect the occasional curveball.

7. The Feeling of Camaraderie

When I first started working, I was surrounded by strangers. After working with the same people for months, I developed a sense of camaraderie with them. I enjoy talking with them and seeing their familiar faces when I show up for work. They have become my second family. While there will be co-workers you do not get along with, never let that stop you from doing your very best.

8. The Scale of Emotions

Every day is different, ranging from predictable, to one-of-a-kind. There have been times when I wanted to quit. I’ve learned to remind myself why I have a job and the pride I get from being independent. No matter the job, there will be great days, boring days, unbearable days and even crazy days.

9. The Hierarchy of the Metaphorical Food Chain

As a part-time employee, it’s easy to forget the fact that for the managers and several of my co-workers, this is their full-time job. At times, the area manager and even his boss show up to evaluate the restaurant. Despite only working part-time, I remember that this is still an actual job and should be taken seriously, no matter how small or temporary my role is.  

10. The Permanence of Experience

For me, the first step of applying was the hardest part. Before, I was scared of putting myself out there and the commitment of working every week. Now that I have a job, I have no regrets. While the job itself is temporary, the experiences I have learned will far outlast how long I work there. I can apply all that I have learned from my first job in order to continue growing as an adult.