After working in our family winery as a teen and during college, I set out to find a “real” job at 21. I remember how afraid I was that I wouldn’t be able to get a good job after college because I didn’t have any non-family work references.
At the time I didn’t value understand the value of my experience working at the winery and viewed my past work as only valuable if I could get a reference from it. But that fear was unfounded. I quickly found that employers valued that experience growing up around a business and got a job in the accounting department of a mid-size commercial flooring company. This was my first professional experience.
When I started I was responsible for invoicing (accounts receivable) and then moved into a utility player role where I learned and covered for all the other parts of the accounting team (payables, paying contractors, collections, and year-end).
At the time I didn’t have a good philosophy of work (or good philosophy of life overall), so I didn’t experience the work as being as valuable, but looking back now I can clearly see lots of valuable lessons from my first two years of professional work.
The three biggest lessons I learned from bookkeeping are:
- Professional communication. This was my first professional job. Simple things like how to send a professional email were completely new to me. To do my job I consistently had to communicate with others and get information for invoices we were sending out. I like to do independent work so having to rely on people and communicate to get what I needed to do my job was challenging and forced me to improve my communication. Beyond just learning how to communicate like a professional, it was an adjust spending my days around people older than me. After college, school, and manual labor work, I was used to spending all my time around people my own age. But now I was in a work environment where most of my coworkers were 15 years older than me. Just getting into a more diverse group and spending two years connecting with people there was very valuable for me.
- How to show up and work 50 weeks a year. I was used to working 40 hours a week in the summer, but doing it week after week for two years came with a lot of resistance. The short semesters and long breaks of college and school mean that you avoid long-term responsibilities. After college, you feel that you need a Christmas break, spring break, summer break, etc. We imagine that school is analogous to work, but you are paying for it, so of course, you get more breaks. It wasn’t fun showing up to work on Christmas eve, or only having a long-weekend off over the summer, but I learned a lot about being an adult.
- How to manage a heavy workload. I admit that I actually didn’t do very well at this. It was a large family business bringing millions of dollars of revenue. When I started I was responsible for invoicing for all our jobs. Because these were large construction jobs, the price of a job was always changing. It had to account for a ton of changes during the project and as a result, there was a large workload. The method I used for keeping track of this wasn’t great, and since we used paper work orders, I would often have a large pile of to-do’s growing on my desk. I learned a lot about the importance of organizing your work from that experience. I nature is to be a bit disorganized, but today I have created all sorts of systems that I use to keep me on track, organized, and productive.