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.
George Douglas is general manager of Indiana Beverage and chairman of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.
What was your first job as a teen?
As a youngster, I delivered papers, mowed lawns and shoveled snow, but my first “real” job was at Siever’s Pharmacy in downtown Valparaiso. I was 16 years old. It was a great job. I stocked shelves, ran the cash register and delivered drug prescriptions.
How did you find the job?
My dear, wonderful mom helped me find this position. She worked at a retail store down the street from Siever’s and frequently shopped at the pharmacy.
What was your work schedule?
I worked two or three afternoons a week from 3:30 to 8 p.m., but the owners were kind as they accommodated my participation in extracurricular activities and homework assignments.
What did you earn?
It was $4 to $4.50 an hour. It wasn’t a lot of money, but my living expenses were minimal living at home.
Who was your boss?
My boss was Paul Schreiner, the owner. He was a great person. He took the time to teach me the job, especially when I did not perform the tasks to his level of expectation. He genuinely cared about all of his employees.
Did you make any serious mistakes on the job?
On one occasion when I was delivering drug prescriptions to two nursing homes in Crown Point, I accidentally switched up the deliveries. Fortunately, I caught my mistake upon arrival at the second nursing home. As it took extra time to correct my error, I had to explain my delayed return to the pharmacy to Mr. Schriener. He understood, but he also impressed upon me the importance of delivering the orders accurately.
What did you like about the job?
It was a family business with Paul and his brother. But more than that, the people who worked there were like family, and they were always looking out for me. They made sure my homework was done, and they took an interest in what was going on in my life.
What did you learn about yourself?
I discovered I liked providing service to people and delivering great customer service. I learned the importance of being a good employee and ambassador for the company.
What advice do you have for a young person about to start his or her first job?
You have to be willing and open to learning new things. You have to be open to feedback, and you have to learn to meet employers' expectations.
What advice do you have for employers that hire youth?
Take the time to teach them the job. All too often, employers don’t adequately explain the expectations of the job nor what they expect of their people. If you care about making a difference with a young employee who is just beginning their work experience, you better expect to put some time into it.