Benefits of a Crappy Job

Benefits of crap jobsMost of us have probably had several jobs before age thirty. Sometimes you have to go through a few crappy jobs to make you appreciate that good one when it comes along. I thought it would be fun to revisit my younger days and look at some of the jobs I had prior to my current career. I actually learned something from each one.

Snow Cone Salesman

This was my first effort at earning money that didn’t come from my parents. A mother of a friend of mine worked at at a school that had a snow cone machine. She let us use it one summer to sit in front of the Piggly Wiggly and sell snow cones. It was not very fun, and we only did it once or twice a week for a few hours, but we could bring in $20/day or more after paying for ice and syrup. When you can’t drive and have no bills, $40/week goes a long way.

What I learned: Income-expenses (ice and syrup) = profit

Factory Worker

This was my first official W-2 job when I turned 16. In my hometown, there were 4 garment factories that made a variety of clothing. This was before everything was made in China. The one I worked for made Gap blue jeans. My job was to print those little labels that say “machine wash warm/tumble dry” with the correct size. You’d set up the machine and watch it print a thousand or more labels. Sometimes I hoped for a malfunction to break the monotony. It was minimum wage and around 10-15 hours a week. My lifestyle had inflated because I could drive now, but this was still way more money than I needed.

What I learned: I definitely wanted to go to college to provide a bit more variety in whatever career I chose.


After my junior year of high school, I took the class to become lifeguard certified. What a great job for a teenager! It was 40 hours a week in the summer, and I had to deal with bratty kids all day. I enjoyed it tremendously and had a great tan. My almost 40 year old self is not very happy with that, but my 17 year old self loved it. Again minimum wage, but I felt really rich.

What I learned: Working parents look for the cheapest baby sitter sometimes. You could drop your kid off at 10 AM,  and for $1, they could swim unitl 5PM. Often, I had to wait with some forlorn child whose Mom didn’t show up until almost 6PM. I never want my daughter to be that kid.

Convenience Store Worker

This was a college job. The store where I worked had a deli with fried chicken and other fried, unhealthy foods like most convenience stores in the south. I did a bit of everything from using a meat slicer, cleaning the soft serve yogurt machine, cashier, washing dishes, making pizza, and using a deep fryer. I’m sure it was also minimum wage and the night hours sucked.

What I Learned: Aside from how to take apart a meat slicer, I learned that I hate hair nets!
I also picked up a great slogan from one of the owners, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

Summer School Teacher

I did this one summer when I was in college. If you had a certain number of credits, you could teach summer school. Summer school is for the ones who didn’t pass. They REALLY enjoy summer school. (note sarcasm) I believe it paid $10/hour, which seemed like a lot at the time, but holy cow, this was the hardest job I’ve ever had.

What I learned: I could never be a teacher, and please parents, make sure your kid has on undies before they leave the house.

Wal Mart Vision Center

I worked part time at a Wal Mart vision center for a couple of years during optometry school. Since I already knew a bit about optical labs, they hired me on the spot. I sold cheap glasses and worked as a receptionist for the doctor. I was a victim of my first and only armed robbery while there. During my residency, I worked at another Wal Mart as a fill in doctor on the weekends. As a student, I think I made around $8/hour, and as a doctor, I sometimes made $800 a day.

What I learned: Unless there was no other option, I could not work for Wal Mart. I take pride in my skills, but all Wal Mart wants is volume. Patients expect fast and cheap. Heaven forbid I have to check you for glaucoma. Also, guns trump any sense of loyalty.


I have worked as a private practice optometrist for the same business for almost 13 years now. It has it’s ups and downs, but certainly is not a crappy job. I purchased the practice in 2002 and hope to sell it within the next few months. Wow, what haven’t I learned at this job? Aside from always striving to deliver the best eye care, I’ve picked up a few other gems.

  • Running an S-corporation
  • Hiring and firing
  • The customer is always right
  • Save 40% of any increase in income until you know how the taxes will turn out
  • How to deal with the public
  • How to understand and play the insurance game
  • How to choose which causes to support and who to turn down
  • Lots of psychology regarding people’s habits and what they deem necessary
  • How to know when to call a lawyer
  • Your lack of planning does not necessitate my emergency

I’ve also met some amazing people because I have the time to ask a few questions. Most of the people I see aren’t using cheap and fast as their main motivation for coming in. Obviously, there are providers who thrive in all kinds of settings, but this has been a great fit for me.

There were a few others that I won’t throw in, like my brief stint as a french fry expert at Dairy Queen. With a poor economy, any job can be a blessing. Even if you hate it, you can use that as a platform to find what you want to do eventually. I can honestly say that I have taken some excellent life lessons away from every crappy job I’ve ever held, and you can’t beat free snow cones!

What did you learn from a crappy job? Ever been robbed at gunpoint?

If you can’t get enough, head over to Monster Piggy Bank to check out my guest post today. 

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of


  1. Never been held at gun point. I’ve technically only had two jobs in my life (unless you count nannying and babysitting when I was younger than 16, netted me a lot of money though), the one I have now and the retail management job I had. I HATED the retail job, customers can be evil.

    1. I still run across the occasional devil in disguise now. They are usually more rude to my staff, but there are a few that make me want to poke something sharp into their eyes.

    1. My Dairy Queen experience only lasted a few weeks. It was worse than any of the ones I listed. I smelled like grease all the time.

      1. I am crying I’m laughing so hard – these crappy jobs are hysterical and I think I’ve done just about every one of them. I, however, loved my Dairy Queen job – they actually made us attend a class to learn how to make that little swirl on the sundaes and ice cream cones! Our son finally quit his Pizza Hut job after he delivered $19.95 worth of food to a million dollar plus home and the guy gave him a twenty and told him to keep the change.

  2. Love the positive attitude that resonates throughout this post! I’ve had many of the same jobs. But I have to say my waitress jobs were some of the most valuable, as they taught me how to truly serve others. Except for maybe the one at the local college town bar – that taught me how to throw a good left hook :-).

  3. I was pretty lucky in that my jobs in high school and college were pretty good. I worked for a family member at a store they owned, which was a lot better than flipping burgers, then during college I had a variety of jobs including computer lab rat and Resident Advisor. That was actually ‘really’ a crappy job at times, come to think of it, based on some situations that a couple of immature freshman created in the bathroom. But I’ll leave it at that 🙂

    1. I think RA’s have a really tough job. Trying to tell a bunch of kids who are of legal age to behave doesn’t always work out.

  4. Excellent post Kim! I worked at a convenience store myself my last few years in high school on in to college. I learned I hated hair nets as well, but I can make a mean sandwich! 😉 I quickly learned that I HATE the lottery as I saw so many people just throw their money away on it.

    1. I too was amazed at how much money people shelled out for cigarettes and lottery tickets. My Mom is really religious and was convinced I was going to Hell just for selling them to people.

  5. I’ve never been robbed at gun point before, but working where I am working now is pretty crappy. The pay is great, but I don’t like the work or many of the people 🙁

    As soon as our house is paid off I am moving to consulting so I don’t have to put up with the politics of the place.

    At least having this crappy job will help me appreciate other ones when I finally leave.

  6. I have had many crappy jobs. The worst ones were definitely when I cleaned houses and when I was a waitress. Food service is the worst job on the planet!

    I definitely learned from them. I learned that I didn’t want to do those jobs anymore and that I needed to get my act together =)

    1. Crappy jobs are wonderful for showing you what you don’t want to do. It’s sad that so many people get stuck in them or aren’t willing to get their act together to do something else.

  7. I worked at Pizza Hut which I guess would fit under this categorization 🙂 I learned a lot (wrote a whole post on it!) and I look back at it with fond memories. I suppose if I had to work there forever, though, I would dislike it more and more each year. Working at a tough job for low wages can cause burnout quick.

    1. I loved your Pizza Hut post. It’s one thing to do a crap job for lots of money. Look at all the people who go to North Dakota to work in the oil fields. When it is crap and the pay is crap, that’s why there is so much turnover and the good ones, like your supervisor at Pizza Hut, move on pretty quickly or you end up hiring high school or college kids.

  8. I’ve held several crappy jobs in my life, although I was never held up at gunpoint or otherwise.

    Most of my learning experiences come from dealing with insane bosses or just outright rude and inconsiderate customers. I did learn a couple of things.

    1)I loathe working in customer service.

    2) If things start looking bad, there’s no point in hanging in there, they aren’t going to get better. An abusive boss isn’t going to wake up one day and realize the error of his ways. So start planning your exit.

    1. Good points. Some people burn out and just stay there until they are shells of who they used to be. The smart ones start looking for a way out.

  9. I did the lifeguard gig as well for a couple of years in college. Of all my crappy jobs, that was the best one. I think your perspective is great. Even the crappy jobs teach lessons that prepare us for something later in life. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    1. Absolutely! I actually would be a lifeguard again if it paid more than minimum wage. Something about carrying around that whistle…..

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