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.
Matt Saltanovitz is Director-NW Region at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
What was your first job as a teen?
I was a newspaper carrier for The Times in the early 1990’s. And, when I got my driver’s license, I then worked at Red Lobster. When I went to college at IU-Bloomington, I worked at several restaurants.
Tell us more about your newspaper route. Morning or afternoon?
It was a morning route.
What was your work schedule?
Papers had to be delivered by 7 a.m. on weekdays so I would get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to give me enough time to do my route and get ready for school. It took me 30 minutes to deliver papers Monday through Saturday and an hour on Sunday.
What did you earn?
I don’t remember the exact amount but it was likely equivalent to minimum wage. It was good money for a teenager without a driver’s license as the route was in my neighborhood.
Did you make any serious mistakes on your paper route?
I do recall one Sunday morning when I dented the screen door of a customer. He was not very happy. I had only myself to blame. I had no problem in tossing smaller, daily papers on porches; but large Sunday papers were more difficult to control. My customer calmed down after I offered to pay for the damages caused by my wild pitch.
What did you learn from that mistake?
Focus on every aspect of the job. If you succeed in every facet of your job but fail in another part, it can reflect poorly upon you and overshadow the parts you performed successfully.
What did you like about the job?
I got in some light exercise every day. I also enjoyed the independence of the job. It was up to me if the job was done well or not. And when I had to collect money from my customers, I was essentially learning how to interact with people in a business setting.
What did you not like about your paper route?
Getting up early every day! But, the worst days were delivering papers in the pouring rain or a snowstorm. Not pleasant.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I had the drive to complete a job every day, no matter the weather conditions or how I was feeling. Delivering newspapers seven days a week also gave me a sense of responsibility.
What advice do you have for a young person about to start their first job?
Young people should take any job, no matter how seemingly insignificant, as a learning opportunity. Many entry-level jobs are an important part of how a company operates, and you can still learn valuable skills such as customer service. I still take pride in the way I cook food for my family on my grill at home, and I owe that approach to my days at various restaurants.
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Employers who hire youth should realize that most of them are working their first jobs and learning adult skills for the first time. Keep in mind that they will make some mistakes, but most want to learn how to do the job correctly. If you show trust and respect to your employees, no matter how young they are, they will show you trust and respect right back. And if they don’t, there are plenty of other young people who will.