• Category Archives Disability History and Education
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  • Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Job

    By Harmony Tarrant

    They say school is supposed to prepare you for life, even for a job. But going to school, and going to a job, are different ballparks.

    I got my first job as a cashier at Rice Lovers right out of high school.

    Not Like High School

    At first, I was used to the structure and rules of school. I still thought you had to ask to go to the bathroom. So, I would be waiting for my boss or the manager to walk by, to ask to go to the bathroom. Most of the time, they just said “yes”.

    Male, blue shirt, city background

    Until one day, one of them said, “You’re an adult now, you don’t need permission, just go”.

    That sentence kind of blew my mind, because even though in the rest of the world this was true: I don’t need permission to go to the bathroom in my own house (most of the time), or at Target, but when surrounded by authority figures, in a routine structure, I thought you always needed permission no matter how old you are. However, that is not the case and you don’t need permission to do every little thing at work. In fact, your boss isn’t going to be around you most of the time to even do that.

    Figuring It Out on My Own

    In school, you get a schedule on when your classes would be, where, and a syllabus of what you will be doing in those classes. Everything you have to do is chosen for you down to the letter.

    Which got me completely lost on what I should do first in the job. Should I be counting the receipts right now? Should I be arranging menus? Should I be taking orders? Do I give these people beverages now, or wait for their waiter?

    I knew a handful of the things I should be doing but got lost on the order of when I should do them. And when there was nothing left to do, with no customers, I felt guilty for standing there waiting for something to do. Every minute should be spent working, but I didn’t know what to do except wait for the next phone call or customer.

    This is very similar to school actually, except nobody teaches you, you have to just know it. Usually, at school you are taught information that will be on the test, you study for it, and see what grade you get.

    At work, if you work in a restaurant, you need to memorize the entire menu, and “table numbers” in a week. You just have to take the menu with you, as well as the outline of tables with numbers, to study for it yourself. I was particularly bad at this, because I couldn’t memorize everything in 7 days, and my mind worked differently from paper to tables. On paper I knew where the numbers were for each table, but in 3D I got a lot of things backwards, or just outright wrong, or forgotten altogether.

    And at work, you don’t get a bad grade, you just get fired.

    Unexpected Triggers

    At school, you’re not allowed to use the phones at all. Teachers had to call others; nurses called your parents if something was wrong. Although I did have a cell phone, I prefer texting than calling because I feel like I communicate better at writing than speaking. So, I had no idea that I had phone anxiety. Until my first job.

    Picking up the phone was something I did as a cashier a LOT, to fill in pick up orders most of the time. It also meant I had to know all the meals in a snap. The pressure of talking to a stranger, while trying to remember the menu, and putting in an order on this weird computer while I barely knew how to work a regular one at the time, put me in a lot of anxiety. There were people who would yell at me through the phone, or I would get the flavor of the chicken wrong, just all kinds of things. My main concern a lot of the times was fearing a customer was going to hit me if they got mad, but that never happened. It just made answering the phone a lot harder, and keeping up with conversation without wanting to shut down.

    Being a cashier, you would think I know how to handle money. Only a tiny bit. To this day, I don’t quite know how to count money. “Why would you put yourself down to be a cashier then?” You ask. Because I was told to apply for any jobs available, regardless if I thought I could do them or not. Here is my advice on that: DON’T do that. Apply to jobs you know you can do, or at least learn quickly how to.

    Ironically, I actually didn’t have to do much money exchange being a cashier, my job mostly consisted of answering the phone, filling in pick up orders, counting receipts, and filling beverages. However, the little money exchange I did do, was difficult for me to the point my boss asked me a math question on the spot and scoffed when I couldn’t say the answer right away.

    My Advice

    Learn from my mistakes, boys and girls:

    • Apply for jobs you *know* you can do
    • Go to the bathroom whenever you need to go
    • Do your work routine in whatever way is most productive for you
    • Answer your cell phone more often
    • And be sure to study and memorize things just like in school

    About Harmony

    Harmony is a YO! Volunteer at the Dayle McIntosh Center (DMC) in Anaheim. Harmony shows his passion for disability rights and the youth voice by co-facilitating DMC’s Youth Connect Advocacy group and participates in the Youth Advisory Committee.

  • California’s Black Disability History

    In honor of Black History Month, we at the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers felt that it was only fitting to highlight a few of the Black leaders with disabilities who pioneered the Independent Living Movement: Johnnie Lacy, Joyce Jackson, Donald Galloway, and Bradley Lomax.