Anthony Iannarino: What I Learned from My First Job

I was just 13 years old the summer between middle school and high school. My friend, Michael Coonrod, invited me to go to work with him and his mother at Villa Milano. My mom had just started her business, and we didn’t have much money (an early version of this business, in fact), so I jumped at the chance to work.

Villa Milano is an enormous banquet center, and they were doing a booming business and needed help. My job was to wash dishes. That sounded easy enough. But Michael and I had no idea how many dishes need to be washed in order to serve 1,000 people a full 7-course meal. Sometimes we had to wash dishes as fast as they were returned in order to keep up with all the different events going on at the same time.

The first lesson I learned washing dishes is that someone always complains about work that is nowhere near as bad as they make it out to be.

The person who worked at the front of the station had to rinse the dishes, run the garbage disposal, and load the dishwasher. There was no way you were going home wearing dry clothes at the end of the shift. And it could be kind of gross. When another dishwasher complained, I took the nozzle at the front of the station.

Other people complained about taking the dishes off the dishwasher. They griped about the dishes being too hot and burning their hands. The dishes were hot. They had to be in order to kill all the germs and be ready for use. But if you grabbed the dishes along the outside edges with both hands, it wasn’t a big deal. So when someone whined about the hot dishes, I took the back of the station.

By volunteering to do the work that other people complained about, I was always given more work, and I ended up getting more hours than almost everyone else–hours I desperately wanted.

Most of the work that people complain about isn’t anywhere near as bad as they describe it. Volunteer for the assignment no one wants.

This lesson has always served me well. In the jobs I’ve held since that time, I’ve always taken responsibility for work that others avoided. And I was always given greater responsibility and higher wages for having done so.

Anthony Iannarino is the President and Chief Sales Officer at SOLUTIONS Staffing.