In an exclusive Q&A with Renée Ward, David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com an online marketplace that connects businesses with professional voice actors, shares his first job experiences and what he learned along the way that still help him today. This is the eighth in a series of articles about the “first paying jobs” of successful people, their advice for today’s teens, and the value of work early in life.
Ward: What were your first paying job experiences?
Ciccareli: My earliest memory of making money was from doing chores around the house. My dad paid me a dime for doing the lunch dishes one Saturday afternoon. As a child, I likely used that coin in a gum machine at the local corner store.
Growing up, I had a knack for earning money. Doing odd jobs, being entrepreneurial by having a lemonade stand, buying and selling hockey cards at card shows in hotel ballrooms and even selling soda for $1.00 a can from my locker in grade school. That lasted until the school principal found out and told me to stop selling sugar water to the other children.
In high school, I joined the mountain biking team and took a course at the local bike show on bicycle mechanics. A few weeks later, I caught wind that Wal-Mart was hiring people in their toy department who could assemble bikes. While others built tricycles, I showed my manager that I was willing to take on the hard work by building 12-speed bikes, tuning them up and understanding their key features. I was quickly promoted to sales in the summer where I got my first customer-facing position - and a chance to sell!
My next job, which I landed during my last two years of high school, was at a family-owned grocery store that was located in the downtown core. As a clerk at the Quality Market, I stocked shelves, created displays and kept the back room clean and organized.
Ward: How did you learn about this opportunity?
Ciccareli: I first learned of this opportunity through band practice at church. The saying, “It’s all who you know” is certainly true, which demonstrates the importance of building your personal network.
Ward: What qualities did you bring to the job? That is, why do you think you “earned” the job?
Ciccareli: The store owner played in the band and since he already knew my work ethic, character and personal qualities, I immediately had an edge over other candidates.
So what were the qualities that my soon-to-be boss was likely looking for? Knowing that in order for me to be a proficient drummer in the band, I sure had to practice over years, which demonstrated my commitment to self-improvement. Following that, my participation in the band involved another commitment, one of being responsible to show up on time for rehearsal as well as for Saturday and Sunday morning church services.
Ward: What did you do at the store?
Ciccareli: My store manager created daily to-do lists which always had more items than could reasonably be completed, but that taught me that there is always work to be done for those willing to do the hard work. If all the grocery stock was put on the shelves during the day, I could collect the shopping carts from the outside parking lot and bring them into the store or sweep the back room creating an impressive scene for the boss the next morning. I took pride in my work and it didn’t go overlooked. I was given raises, extra hours and became the go-to guy who could get the job done - no matter what it was.
Ward: Did you have a “mentor”? If so, how did that help you?
Ciccareli: Throughout my career my Dad has been my best mentor. From choosing a school for post-secondary education to pursuing a career path upon graduation, the journey has been anything but ordinary. At each step, my Dad provided business advice and an equal balance of big picture thinking and everyday reality.
Ward: Did anything go wrong on the job? If so, how did you overcome the challenges?
Ciccareli: While the job was fairly routine, there was once a period of increased shoplifting. Thieves were stealing steaks and hiding them in their jackets as they walked out the store. One of my fellow associates was instructed that he could only confront the patrons once they left the store without paying. A fellow was caught and the police came to the grocery store. I recall thinking how unfortunate it was that this young man needed to resort to stealing.
Ward: What did you learn from this job that has prepared you for what you are doing now?
Ciccareli: That incident, and many others over the years, showed me that people make choices every day that set them on a course to either improve or hinder their future prospects. It’s a matter of integrity. Having an innate sense of right and wrong and the difference between good and evil has been instilled in me since my childhood.
Over a lifetime, I’ve found that integrity is of greater importance, especially when other people look up to you and trust you to make good decisions.Being part of a band is like playing on a team. Each person plays a unique role and contributes in a complementary manner. Those are principles that I have held onto my entire life.
It’s also likely the reason why I value teamwork and collaboration in our current work environment at Voices.com.
Ward: What advice do you have for teens and young adults today seeking their first jobs?
Ciccareli: My best advice is to first get involved in activities where there are other working professionals such as sports teams, bands and music ensembles which bring together groups of like-minded people.
Often people involved in such groups are willing to and often go out their way to help out a fellow group member. Strike up a conversation and let others know that you’re actively seeking employment and ask if they know of any organizations with entry-level positions.
Stay optimistic and be active.
Landing your first job is a personal test of persistence and one that is complete only once you’ve received your first paycheck.
Not sure what you want to do or what kind of job to pursue? Take a look at the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) career clusters and take a Career Clusters Interest Survey. This may help give you focus and direction in your job hunting. The Career Clusters Interest Survey
For more resources for teens visit Teens4Hire.org