Three Jobs Great for Building Important Career Skills

Have you ever wondered why some people are so wonderful with handling conflict?

Or maybe how they remain calm under pressure? What about your co-workers who always seem to manage their time so well? While some people a just natural, or maybe were nurtured with those skills, many build or refine those skills through their experience.

What is the ideal first job? Well, it can vary based on your natural skills, your desired career field, and your education or training. However, there are three types of first jobs that set you up with some pretty critical skills.

Food Service

From serving parties of twenty to all the burger-flipping glory, food service can teach many of the critical skills you may use in any career in the future. Some of these valued skills include:

Ability to Adapt

Whether you’re cooking 80 dishes an hour, washing them or serving them, you priorities could change at a moments notice in food service. A customer may have a specific request that requires much of your time and attention, a large party may walk in or a whole tray of food could be dropped. Whatever it is, you have to be able to adapt to your changing surroundings – just like in almost any other workplace.

Time Management

People in food service know that timing matters. You don’t want to wait too long to greet a table or have all the dishes come out at different times. Timing has a big impact on customer satisfaction and the entire meal experience. The same is true for fast food, perhaps even more so. I have never seen such pure anger than when customers would wait more than six minutes for food at McDonald's. Time management also helps you in other careers. In an office job, this could translate to being able to manage your meetings or project deadlines.


Retail is a great place to learn a lot about sales and what compels people to purchase items. There are also some bonus skills, depending on which type of retail you end up in.

Customer Service

One of the most prominent skills you will find in retail is customer service. What does that mean? Well, it means you know how to address the customer’s concerns and provide them with solutions. It could mean helping them navigate the store for a particular item, or picking out the perfect outfit for their upcoming event. 

In any case, people who excel at customer service first listen to the customer. What are they really looking for? If you ever want a great example, check out Disney’s philosophy on this.


In some retail positions, employees are required to meet certain sales quotas or are paid on commission. These skills will help you in any role as you move through your career. Why? Because sales are money. You’ll have to sell products, services, your brand – even if you work for a non-profit. Non-profits have to sell their mission to people who volunteer or donate. Plan to work for yourself? Then make sure you develop these skills even more. When you work for yourself, you may not have savvy sales pros to get your brand out there initially. 

Dressing for Success

A bonus skill of certain retail opportunities is the development of your wardrobe. In some clothing establishments, you will have to coordinate outfits for working professionals. This will give you insight into current trends and practice coordinator fabrics, colors, and patterns. That means you’ll be extra prepared for your interview!

Property Maintenance – Lawn Care, Snow Removal, Car Washes

Was your first job working for the neighbors on the block? Perhaps you mowed lawns, shoveled snow or washed cars? Maybe it was something else, but either way, there are plenty of skills you can build for your career and life.

Money Management

Many people underestimate the power of being able to manage money. In corporate America, there are thousands of professionals taking classes just on how to manage department budgets. After all, there are entire departments focused on it (hello, finance friends!). Being able to understand basic cash flow, operating expenses and profit margins will allow you to be a part of some major conversations. Of course, the larger the corporation the more complex the conversations may seem, but the basic principles are still there!


Entrepreneurship (or the lesser known intrapreneurship) is a word quickly finding it’s way onto the list of common corporate values. Why is this skill important? Because entrepreneurs are known to have a specific quality, the desire to drive the business forward through taking ownership and accountability.

It sounds vague but take a look around next time you are at work, and you ’ll start to realize not everyone has built an entrepreneurship attitude into their work.

Any others?

Of course, these are the only first jobs out there that will set you up for success! But if you happen to land one of them, or are still working in these fields, keep in mind that you are constantly building some critical skills for your career and your life!

Let us know in the comments, what was your first job?