Webb: Words of wisdom for my son on his first job

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rory dad

Life and work lessons from my father in 2013 during one of his biggest shows, where Rory found time to have fun while helping my dad run his booth in St. Charles, Missouri. Dad actually paid him, too. He did not pay his son. Work ethic runs in the family. I often envy my father for running his own business for 40 years.

A year into a job search, my son was frustrated. At one point after a promising interview didn’t result in work, he was exasperated: “Am I ever going to get a job?”

For those who don’t know Rory, he is autistic. Many things are a struggle. He thinks differently than most of us do, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. In fact, he has an admirable work ethic and gets more done around the house than any of us.

After graduating high school in 2014, Rory worked for his grandfather for several months, helping him remodel the in-laws’ home, among many other tasks. When he came home a year ago, he was eager to begin a career in Kansas City.

We did the best we could to help. My wife and mother-in-law took him job-hunting. He did exhaustive searches online. He even had a job coach. Nothing panned out.

Finally, more than a year into looking, a friend of the wife tipped us off on a gig that looked like a perfect fit at Waldo Pizza. On the night before the interview, Rory and I went over questions, and I ironed a pair of pants and shirt so he’d look the part. I’ve never enjoyed ironing clothes until that moment.

A few days after the interview, Rory told us that he had an email from the manager at Waldo. My wife opened it to discover that he was on the work schedule! He started on Monday and has thoroughly enjoyed his first two days of work. Most importantly, he’s proud and happy. That’s all you can ask for as a parent.

When he graduated, I wrote a blog to Rory offering him advice on being a man. Now that he’s secured a job, who better to offer advice about work than somebody who worked at six newspapers in 10 years and has had nine jobs in 17? (To be fair, most of those jobs were promotions, and I’ve never been fired or laid off).

Work hard: This will be easy for you. You already do it. Remember that you will never be successful without hard work.

Don’t work too hard: This is an easy mistake to make. There are times I look back on my career, especially in newspapers, and realize I did not take time to enjoy life. Work isn’t everything.

Learn as much as you can: This probably won’t be your last job. Take in as much as you can to prepare you for your next job. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

Know that you can’t please everybody: Regardless of how hard you try, someone is going to be unhappy. Don’t take it personally. Be courteous, kind and respectful. Remember that your job is to serve your customers.

The customer usually is right: At some point, your patience will be tested. Keep your cool, smile and say “thank you.”

Always say “thank you”: “Thank you” is the most important phrase in any workplace, not only to customers, but also co-workers.

Don’t sweat the small stuff: This will not be easy. You’re going to find that little things will gnaw at you, but don’t let them consume you. Focus on the positive.

Don’t be the suck-up: Every workplace has at least one. Be respectful, but don’t compromise your integrity. Rely on your work ethic and performance. That should always be good enough.

Build your network: More now than ever, it’s who you know. Build relationships with your co-workers. Those connections will lead to another job someday.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind: Honesty in the workplace isn’t guaranteed, but you can control your truth. Speak up if you have something to say. Be courteous and thoughtful in your delivery, and you’ll be respected for it.

Don’t worry too much about money: Said best by a journalist, right? Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not everything. Do not keep a job that you’re miserable in just for the money. Take less money if you’re going to be happy. That said, don’t take a job that leads to living in a van down by the river.

One last thing: I am proud of you, son.