October 2, 2016
This is part of the Ready NWI and First Job series — an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. The series reviews the story behind some of Region leaders’ and residents’ first jobs.
Gary Olund is president and CEO of Northwest Indiana Community Action.
What was your first job?
I was a busboy at the Original Pancake House in South Bend. It was 1968, and I was 14 years old. I cleaned tables and occasionally ran the dishwasher at this very busy restaurant. I wore a white apron and usually worked about 20 hours a week.
How did you find the job?
A friend at school, who worked at the restaurant, told me of the job. So I applied and was hired that very same day.
What did you earn?
I made $1.15 per hour, and a portion of the tips customers gave to the waitresses. I opened a savings account, and I saved most of what I earned. Eventually, the money helped pay for a portion of my college expenses.
Did you make any serious mistakes on the job?
As I was clearing a table, I dropped and broke a plate. I was told that the cost of the next item I broke would be deducted from my paycheck. That was the first and last plate I broke.
At $1.15 an hour, I could not afford any more dishes hitting the ground.
I learned to not be in a hurry, to concentrate on what I was doing and to not stack the plates so high.
What did you like about the job?
Two things: I was getting a paycheck and got one free meal for every shift I worked. I especially loved the baked apple pancakes.
What did you not like about the job?
It was boring. I did the same thing every day.
What did you learn about yourself?
It gave me confidence that I could do a “real” job and that I felt comfortable working with people older than me.
What advice do you have for a young person about to start their first job?
Always be on time.
Work hard and do your very best.
Ask questions if you don’t know what to do.
If you make a mistake, own it. Don’t make excuses or blame someone else.
Look people in the eye when someone is speaking to you or you are speaking to others.
Smile and bring a positive attitude. People like to be around people who are positive and friendly.
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Be patient. Give them the training, support and tools they need to do the job correctly. Remember you once were young, too.