Receiving an education on the job

By Rose Nolen Contributing Columnist

July 4, 2014

I remember I got my first job as soon as I finished high school. I went to work in a dry cleaning shop. I was the cashier. The owner went to school with my mother. He was impressed with my mother’s skills in arithmetic. Fortunately, he never learned that I wasn’t nearly as skilled in that subject. But as it was, I managed to keep my job.

My second job was in the city. I worked in an employment office. It was the best job I ever had. The woman who owned the business ran several operations within the shop and she insisted all of her employees become efficient in all of them. My sister had worked for the woman before me and I came to her, recommended.

In her business I learned every facet of office work. She also ran a small publishing company in her shop. She also ran a gift shop and helped other people with various aspects of their businesses. We would take in extra typing and take dictation for some of her clients. When a really good job came in, one of the people she had trained usually got it.

Later, when I had married and settled down, I would take jobs merely for the experience of learning a new a skill. At the time, there was one interior design specialty shop that I found out about, that was looking for a cleaning person. I had learned they were the only people in town that made handmade lamp shades. I took the job. One of the shade makers was a black woman. She and I became friends and in her spare time she taught me how to make handmade lamp shades.

I have made a living out of some of the jobs I learned secondhand. It was essentially an education I learned the hard way. There have been many skills and accomplishments that some of the people I have known have taught me how to acquire. And on the jobs I have taken in order to learn something, most of them have paid me very well in the end.

The one job I learned from a good friend was one I kept until I left the city. My friend was a real estate broker and I learned to become a sales agent. When my friend moved to California, I went to work for a husband and wife team of brokers. I kept my license for a long time.

All in all the best jobs I’ve had are ones I learned on my own. Still, it required education to get myself in the position to learn them. Staying in school is really a smart idea.