March 26, 2017
The First Job series is an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.
Kevin Comerford is director of professional development at the Construction Advancement Foundation.
What was your first job?
I mowed two of my neighbor’s yards. I earned $5 per yard, which I thought was good money for an 11-year-old kid. However, during the winter months, I earned much more shoveling snow. After one big snowfall, I worked 10 hours shoveling out driveways and made $250.
Did your parents require you to save some of your earnings?
I wish they had! Instead I spent most of it on candy and baseball, football and basketball cards. But I was required to put money I received as gifts into a savings account which enabled me to purchase my first vehicle.
What is your most valuable card?
Michael Jordan’s second year card. It is worth around $1000-$2000.
What other jobs did you hold?
I was a paper boy. I delivered the Gary Post Tribune. In the beginning, I had 50 customers in Hobart but grew the route to 68 customers.
How did you get the additional customers?
I knocked on doors. I got a lot of “no’s” but I was persistent. I wanted to make more money.
What did you not like about the paper route?
Getting up around 4:30 in the morning. I was fortunate as my dad would wake me up every morning as he was leaving for work. It took about an hour every morning—a little longer on Sunday—to deliver the papers by the morning deadline.
What did you learn from your work?
Never be discouraged by people who say no to what you are selling. I also learned the importance of being dependable and reliable. My newspaper customers counted on me to have that paper on their doorstep at a certain time. I liked to work (and make money) but these jobs helped me develop a strong work ethic.
Is a strong work ethic critical to your current position?
Absolutely. As I develop training curriculum and organize programs, no one is looking over my shoulder. I make a “To Do” list every day. I feel a sense of satisfaction every time I can cross off another task as having been completed.
What advice do you have for a teen-ager looking for work?
Be persistent. If you have applied for work, always follow up with the boss or hiring manager. Ask that person what additional information they need as they try to fill that position. Having these conversations will impress on them your desire to work. I also tell young construction apprentices to avoid the “wrong crowd.” If you get to work on time and come prepared to work, your employer will see the value of having you around and it may eventually lead to promotional opportunities within the company.
What advice do you have for employers?
Never judge a book buy its cover. In the construction industry, some of the smartest and hardest working individuals I have met do not have some of the common sought after traits of a construction worker. I have discovered that many people have great qualities if we would just give them a shot at joining the workforce.
The READY NWI partnership supports the unique aspects of community, school, and student, and embraces a commitment to regional thinking and acting in order to ensure prosperity by meeting the skill and education needs of employers throughout Northwest Indiana.