A first job happened today

Posted by | March 18, 2014 | Uncategorized

Those of you in the DC area know that it snowed today… again.  I was just talking with a neighbor who knows about FORCE and he shared this story…

He has two daughters, a 10 year old and a 14 year old.  This family, like others with young kids, asks their kids to focus on education and they try to get their kids all of the things they need and want.  But recently, the younger girl decided she wanted a pair of $100 Ugg boots and dad said he wouldn’t pay for them.  When the girl asked if she could save up for them, he said yes.

As of this morning, the girl was up to $40, and seeing the snow, she asked her dad if she could go out and shovel driveways for the Ugg Fund.  Dad told the older girl to go with her sister and split the money.  Today, they earned over $150, and tonight they went and bought the Uggs.  #myfirstjob

Thanks to my wife, Paula Ross, for writing this blog post.  Paula graduated from Allegheny College and is currently the Director of Marketing and Development for the Metropolitan Ballet Theater and Academy in Rockville, MD.  Previously, she has run her own environmental risk communications firm and has run Great Kids Events (with me) for the past 10 years.  

I grew up on a swim team. It seemed logical then, that my first “real” job was teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding for the local American Red Cross programs, which were conveniently held at my high school pool. As soon as I was old enough (15), I took the required lifeguard courses (offered as a PE credit) and got to work. It may seem inconsequential, but in hindsight, that first job was really a petri dish for growing skills I would need for the rest of my life. Here are those skills and how they impacted my career and life choices:

1) Customer relations: talking to a parent about his/her child’s safety and progression in the water was a basis for the community relations part of my career.

2) Handling a crisis: when a child breaks down in the water, or a parent gets upset because their child was not advanced to the next level, you learn how to communicate in a crisis. This was the basis for risk communications work.

3) Teamwork and adaptability: teaching different groups of children every 6 weeks, and changing co-teachers nearly as frequently, taught me to adapt and learn.

4) Networking: a supervisor at that swimming lesson position recommended me for my second job, which I held in tandem for several months/year, working at a swimming pool store. Supervisors in both locations also recommended me for lifeguard positions with other employers, which helped me gain experience with various types of supervisors and customers, and also helped me save for college. These supervisors also were key college and scholarship recommenders.

5) Key Academic Interests: At the swimming pool store, I performed chemical analysis and helped customers fix water issues in their pools. This set me up for an interest in chemistry, which perhaps helped inform my desire for an Environmental Science degree.

6) Sales: I was first taught sales by a local entrepreneur family who owned that store. I learned I was good at an upsell, and learned to know my facts. The ability to sell is still important in my work. I also grew respect for entrepreneurism.

After getting my undergraduate degrees in English and Environmental Studies, I have gone on to open a successful independent communications practice, and a successful event business. Entrepreneurism and small business feeds the greater economy and I have enjoyed being a part of that. Those experiences, combined with volunteer work, led me to the nonprofit management position I am enjoying now, working for the Metropolitan Ballet. What is interesting to me, is that while all of my first jobs were happening (ages 15-18), I was not cognizant of the skills I was gaining. Only upon reflection years later can I see the foundations for success in my adult life were built then.


We will do a more in-depth look at some scholarships, but here is a good overview with links to a bunch of available scholarships, courtesy of the MCPS website.


Thanks to Brian Cornell for writing this blog post.  Brian graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and has been an investment banker and finance professional for the past 13 years.  Brian is an accomplished musician and has performed in bands in the Colorado area including Gravity.  Brian co-authors a private investor blog called Against The Grain Investments.

“Lessons Learned From My First Job”

After over 10 jobs in the last 20 years, few working memories are as a vivid for me as those experienced in my very first job as a groundskeeper for a golf course. No extracurricular sport or AP class can provide the training, excitement, and stress that comes with a real employer/ employee relationship. Little did I know the value and benefit of the lessons I learned in one summer as “Bunker Boy Butch” at age 16!
1. Being on time gives you immediate “street cred”. My job entailed getting to the golf course by 5:30 AM so that the greens could be mowed and bunkers could be raked before golfers hit their rounds. Just by simply committing to always be on time earned my supervisor’s trust and respect more quickly than any other attribute. I also got to see how quickly that trust and respect can erode when you fail to get to work on time ;)

2. A commitment to doing your best work is the best antidote to monotony. If your first job doesn’t entail a significant amount of monotony, you are lucky and definitely in the minority! Once I stopped fighting the monotony and focused my energy on improvement and efficiencies, it became my friend. By striving to mow each tee box as straight and clean as possible, I improved and graduated to mowing the greens by the end of the summer, which had a great deal more prestige and importance in the grounds keeping world. In many respects, the specific task of a job is less relevant than the manner in which that task is carried out and the pride you take home each day in knowing you put forth your best effort. Over time, you will be rewarded and recognized if you consistently put forth your very best effort.

3. When in doubt, ask questions! Nobody likes to ask what they perceive as dumb questions, but it can save a ton of heartache and stress in your first job. In my circumstance, I was embarrassed to ask for help in driving the stick-shift golf carts; I had only spent an afternoon trying to learn to drive stick-shift previous to this job. Instead of asking for assistance and training up front, I ran the cart into a muddy ditch and caused damage to the vehicle- not a great way to start off!! Once I asked for help, it was a matter of a few quick training sessions and I was off to the races. People like to help others- your supervisor may give you a hard time when asking for help, but ultimately they enjoy passing on knowledge and enjoy helping you became a more effective employee.

4. Nothing is more important than treating everyone with respect. There is no room for divas in the work place until you are either a brilliant billionaire, virtuoso musician, or star pro athlete. Pretty much every body else has to follow the golden room of treating others with respect (as you would like to be treated) or face the consequences. A safe rule of thumb is to treat everyone around you as if they are your boss- your customers, your co-workers, your supervisors, etc. Particularly in later life I’ve seen many talented employees lose their jobs and respect in the work place by not simply showing respect and decency with all those around them.
There may be more to it, but I think if you show up on time, do your best, ask questions, and treat people with respect, you’re likely to have a fantastic first work experience and the start of a rewarding career in whatever field you choose!

Brian Cornell

Thanks to Sarah Long for writing this blog post.  Sarah graduated from the University of Michigan in 2003 with Bachelors of Engineering, Industrial and Operations and is currently completing her Masters of Science in Biotechnology and she has experience in sales for a few pharmaceutical companies.

My first job was in high school as a lifeguard for a community pool. I worked 3 days a week teaching swim lessons and helping children learn to be safe around the pool. It was rewarding to interact with the community independently and receive a modest paycheck for the first time. It was such a valuable experience for me because I was able to begin to understand what it means to be a reliable employee and how important it is to do your best at work. Most importantly, I was able to develop skills that I would build upon later in my professional career.  Having my first job in high school definitely made me a better person.  I would encourage high school teens to log on to FORCE and see what opportunities are waiting for them. Every job opportunity could be a stepping stone to building the career of their dreams! Why wait?

I just saw a new McDonalds commercial about a kid working his first day at McDonalds – he’s working the drive thru window with a trainer over his shoulder.  His first customers are… his parents… and they are elated.  And embarrassing to the trainee…

I’m 36 years old, so I’m not ancient or anything, but when I was younger, working fast food was a fairly standard first job.  My first job was at Domino’s hanging flyers on doorknobs in the summer.  I loved making money, loved the independence, and it was even better when my boss would give me a few extra dollars for working hard and for having a positive attitude.

In college, I waited tables at a few places, including a rib joint in Philly (Rib-It).  I worked hard, but I learned that if I could keep people’s drinks full and made good small talk, I could get $1 dollar more than a customary tip per table.  I’d look at the check total and guess what I would have tipped (eg. $30 check, I may have expected $4-$5, so I aimed for a $5-$6 tip).  And I consistently got that extra dollar per table and I loved that the harder I worked and the more I paid attention to the table, the more I could make – $10-20 extra per day.

These days, at my event company, I talk a lot with my staff about providing strong customer service to earn tips – they make decent money without tips, but with tips, they can make great wages (at least for a teen).  That value exchange has been the key to growing my business, and it’s what I learned at my first job at Dominos…

So, the moral of the story – get a job, work hard, even it’s perceived as a “crappy” job.  As a teen, you never know where your path will lead and while your job may not give you tips, some customer may see that you are a hard worker and be a connection one day, or your boss may be willing to vouch for you as a college reference or when you apply to a future job.  You never know where your path will lead, but it’s always better when you work hard and keep a positive outlook.

W. Edward Bohrer, Jr. Memorial
in partnership with The W. Edward Bohrer Memorial Fund, DRS Signal Solutions and Rodgers Consulting, Inc., Covenant Life Church and City of Gaithersburg Student Union.

Applicants must be seniors in high school and residents of the City of Gaithersburg.

In tribute to former Mayor Ed Bohrer’s commitment to character education, the W. Edward Bohrer, Jr. Memorial CHARACTER COUNTS! Scholarship Program was established with the support of his family. In the past 16 years, 73 high school seniors have received more than $139,000 in college scholarships to help them achieve their educational goals.

These scholarships are intended for exceptional individuals who embody the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship. The recipients must be high school seniors who will be pursuing post high school education at a college, university or trade school and who are residents of the City of Gaithersburg. Please see application form for selection criteria and instructions.

Scholarships will be awarded at the discretion of the selection committee. Previous scholarships have ranged from $500 to $2,000.

Timeline of Scholarship

February 2014
Applications available online and through school guidance counselors, principals and senior class sponsors, or by calling the Gaithersburg Community Services Division Program Coordinator at 301-258-6395 x3.

March 3, 2014
Applications are due by 4 p.m. LATE APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE REVIEWED.

April 1, 2014
Notifications made to finalists.

April/May 2014
An awards luncheon will be held with program sponsors and City officials. Recognition will occur at Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council meeting at the City Hall Council Chambers, 31 S. Summit Avenue.

Winners of the scholarships who are involved in illegal, unethical or immoral activities between time of announcement and time of presentation, or any other activities deemed to be detrimental to the CHARACTER COUNTS! Philosophy, may forfeit the scholarship.

From https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/curriculum/careercenter/financialaid/scholarshipsearches.aspx

Central Scholarship Bureau

The Central Scholarship Bureau is a nonprofit organization founded in 1924 with the mission of providing grants, scholarships, and interest-free loans for postsecondary education.

Matches individual preferences and profiles to private, public and need-based award money.

Compares your background with a database of awards. Only those awards that fit your profile are identified as matches.

MHEC Financial Aid and Scholarships
Research into Maryland state financial assistance programs for which you may be eligible. The State of Maryland offers legislative scholarships, merit and career based scholarships, and need-based grants.

Unusual Scholarships – FinAid
A compilation of interesting, esoteric and unusual scholarships such as the Left-handed Scholarship, scholarships for twins, etc.

Search the Mach25 database containing over 600,000 awards totaling over $1.6 billion.

FinAid: Specific Majors or Course of Study Scholarship Opportunities
A list of several scholarship databases as well individual scholarships and awards aimed at assisting students pursuing specific majors or courses of study.


Has over $11 billion in scholarships included in their database.

Christian Connector

A free Christian college resource providing over $150 million in scholarships to Christian Colleges.

Merit Aid

A directory of merit scholarships and academic scholarships from colleges across the country.

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Coming soon!

Posted by | February 27, 2014 | Scholarships

We’ll be posting scholarship information that we find… coming soon!  Please email andrew@worktheforce.com with any scholarship information that you would like posted on the FORCE!

We’re goin’ live!

Posted by | February 27, 2014 | Uncategorized

Hi FORCE Users,


Thanks so much for trying this site.  Please tell us what you think!  We want FORCE to be your go-to source for finding jobs.  Always feel free to email andrew@worktheforce.com with any questions or to report bugs.

Happy Job Searching!