Young labour An early-onset work ethic can be a career builder
Verity Edwards on why it's never too early to build a work ethic
Michael Dell, the founder of the multi-billion dollar Dell Computer Company, began his working life washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant at the age of 12. Former Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly was a teacher before going into banking. Billionaire Warren Buffett had a paper round, and filed his first tax return when he was 14.
An economist I know worked in a hairdressing salon on Saturday mornings until the dyes kept making her faint, and a high-profile executive, who did not want to be named, was a trolleyologist at a local supermarket.
Each of these executives had a strong work ethic, which employers say can be sadly lacking as Gen-Y workers graduate from high school or university, and look for career ladders to climb.
It can be difficult for young people to gain experience with high youth unemployment and fewer companies hiring. With better economic conditions than 30 years ago, there is less pressure from parents for teenagers to find their first job. Labour laws mean kids no longer work at fast food joints at 12 or have paper rounds.
InfoTrack’s Stephen Wood says the first thing he looks for in resumes is whether an applicant has worked at McDonald’s, KFC or Baker’s Delight. He sees it as teaching commitment, building a strong work ethic, learning customer service and communication strategies. Fast food staff learn from an early age the value of earning money and becoming task-oriented.
Adecco marketing and communications director Rick Khinda started voluntarily in the mailroom at his first company, showing he was prepared to put in the hard yards to get a job.
He learnt different roles, met people from all levels and turned up every day, until he was offered a paid internship up the ladder.
Young people with a good work ethic, who give up weekends to stock supermarket shelves, are the ones who usually succeed. They get jobs straight out of university because they did unpaid internships and were happy to start at the bottom.
For the record, my first job was also a paper round, aged 10. I wrapped the local paper, The
Messenger, and rode my bike around the streets, throwing copies on to 300 lawns for $5 a week. I have not made quite so much money as Buffett, but it was a good lesson in commitment in the rain, hail or shine.