How to Build Your Resume and Survive a Difficult First Job

Hey! You just got your first job!? Congrats! That’s a HUGE accomplishment, and surely something to feel proud of. Emma and I met while working one of our very first jobs at a fashion retail store in a local mall.

A first job is a huge milestone and also an incredibly scary undertaking. Oftentimes, a first job will be something entry-level right out of high school—fast food, retail, the list goes on. There were countless moments when I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. However, I didn’t – not until I had a more stable job after interning countless days and working hard to make something of myself.

Sticking with a first job for many months and years shows commitment, solid work ethic and responsibility. It also looks GREAT on a resume for these reasons. Showing that you were able to provide stability to this workplace is what employers will look at first, aside from your impressive skills and past experience. Did you job hop, or did you stay in the same place for a considerable amount of time?

Not only did I have to deal with annoying, complaining customers, I had a horrible boss who emotionally scarred pretty much anyone who came into contact with her. Of course, corporate had little to nothing to say about this, other than to remark: “You know, Kathryn, this sounds like a personality difference to me, and in your future career endeavors, you’ll experience a lot of similar problems so you better get used to it!”

Even though every employee was saying the same thing… I suppose it could be that we just didn’t have the right “personality”. I'd like to state that I’ve never had an experience quite like that since December when I left, and since then I’ve worked in a variety of work environments. I would never foster such hostile, abusive behavior in my own business relationships, nor tolerate it in an employment setting ever again.

So, with all this being said: prepare yourself. Your first job will likely test you. You will likely break down. You will likely want to quit. Unless you have a super amazing job that doesn’t require much emotional labor and has an excellent manager – which is totally possible! Most of the time, however, entry level jobs have a lot of drama and often poor management situations. More important to remember: corporate doesn’t give A CRAP.

It’s so, so important to hang in there, take the punches and rise above. Here’s a few tricks that worked for me in the 4 long years I worked at this retail establishment:

LEAN ON EACH OTHER

More often than not, your coworkers will be a fabulous source of support for you during this crazy journey. You will be able to sympathize with each other and build each other up in the worst of times. In my situation, all the girls in our store were very aware of our boss’ behavior and venting was the way we released our anger and disappointment. At the point of contacting corporate, a few girls took the reigns and led others through the process - something I'm very thankful for.

SAY, "YES, LET ME DO THAT FOR YOU!"

No matter what happens, the best response to your difficult boss is: "Yes, let me do that for you!" Live to serve and live to please. It's hard, but it pays off over anything else you could possibly offer them. Bite your tongue and move forward. Do as they say, don't ask questions and make the best impression you possibly can.

UTILIZE YOUR SKILLS

Offer to help the business succeed with the assistance of your strongest skills. For me, this was marketing, which I often spoke to my boss about and ended up suggesting a few social media tactics that she could report to her corporate supervisor. Do I think she actually told them? Of course not, but it's the thought that counts. Her eyes lit up and you could tell she acknowledged my effort. The notion that you care about the business is all it takes. Offering up something you truly enjoy can be equally satisfying for you as well!

USE THE EXPERIENCE AS A FOUNDATION

Not only will this first job prepare you for a life's worth of future work, it will also show you what you do and do not want to find in another manager (or in yourself AS a manager)! Use this experience as the foundation upon which you judge all other work experiences.

If the experience fulfills you and gives you great respect every day, never settle for anything less in your future endeavors. If it's a horrible experience like mine, take this as a learning opportunity and vow to never be horrible to someone else like your boss was to you. Know your worth, sister.

REMEMBER WHO YOU DO THIS FOR

Who do you work for? Who do you long to serve? At my retail store, I LOVED our customers and really connected with them, especially when things went wrong. More often than not, my customers hated the management and would vocally express this to me whenever they visited.

Remember who you're doing the work for and why you're there - what attracted you to applying for the job in the first place? Is it something you really love? I didn't have to love management in order to LOVE fashion, and that's what kept me going each day (I mean, the deep discount wasn't bad, either).

LAUGH

I'm not even kidding. Laughter is the best medicine. Give yourself space to breathe and relax. Make yourself a bubble bath at home and put on some hilarious Kevin Hart specials. Allowing yourself to have a pamper session with a good dose of laughter is necessary.

Did any of these tricks work for you? If you've survived your first job, leave advice for others in the comments below!