My Worst Job(s) as a Teenager

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I've always been meaning to write this post but never got around to doing it.  I'd love to hear your (traumatic) experiences as a teenager in your first or second job.  Many entry level jobs are far from glamorous and some of the ones I've done (and am not proud of doing) are pretty interesting.

I first started working before I was even legally allowed to work.  In Canada, you have to be 15 years old to be hired at a job.  I think I was 14 at the time but was turning 15 after the summer.  Boy, I was sure excited for my first job!  So excited that I had no idea what it really entailed.  I was just happy to get some work experience in order to move on to bigger and hopefully better things.

Harasser Canvasser

I was a canvasser (going door to door) for a charity (it seemed kind of dodgy because I don't think it's in existence now) that helped impoverished people and children in Canada.  I seem to recall that if we collected X number of donations (like a quota) we would get a small bonus.

I remember being rounded up in a van and being dropped off in various neighbourhoods with nothing but a donation receipt booklet and a pen.  We then met up at the end of the day and got rounded up in the van again.

I learned that some people who you would not think is generous are very giving, and some houses that look lavish and beautiful don't actually house the most generous individuals.

The great part was I got to see these huge mansions in West Vancouver (the super ritzy area of Vancouver where all the celebrities like Sarah McLachlan and the cast of the Real Housewives of Vancouver live ) that would take me 2-3 blocks to walk up to their door and ring the door bell.  The bad part of the job was that sometimes people really hate seeing canvassers.

The absolute worst thing I can remember is after having this man slam the door on me to tell me to “go away and F@(* off”, he actually turned on the garden sprinkler on me at full blast and I got completely soaked.  This is without me provoking or harassing him in anyway.

I was shocked that people could be so mean.

Another part of the job that I am not proud to admit was that I often got people at the door asking whether I was volunteering or whether I was paid.  I suppose a young 14 year old girl canvassing at their door really tugs at the heart strings (?).  I would clench my teeth and lie and say I was volunteering (yeah, I was a somewhat rebellious teenager at the time).

To this day I cringe with the memory of me lying in order to get more donations.


My dad owns a number of rental properties and out of love pity, he hired me to clean one of the office building areas he rented out.  It wasn't a bad job in terms of pay.  I didn't have to lie to anyone and I didn't get hosed on.  I worked once a week and got paid $20 for 1-2 hours of work.  It worked out to be pretty good teenager allowance at the time.

The part of the job that I didn't like so much was cleaning the bathroom.  I'm not trying to sound like a princess or anything, but cleaning *WARNING NON-G RATED MATERIAL UP AHEAD*

wiry pubic hairs off toilet bowls isn't my idea of a fun Saturday night.

Yeah, while everyone else was working at McDonalds and developing good teamwork skills, trendy restaurants with big tips, or other cool places, I was spending my Saturday nights scrubbing toilets and vacuuming.

Nevertheless, I am appreciative of these experiences I had as a teenager because I believe they help build character, especially when, at that age a teenager would normally be self-absorbed and ambivalent.

One regret I have is that I never worked in fast food or in the restaurant industry and I wish I did (I always wanted to be a server but would probably be fired for my clumsiness).

I am glad that I started working when I did though.  It gave me a chance to have my own money to be more independent, manage my time more efficiently, and learn a bit about personal finance.

Readers, did you have a job as a teenager that you still have vivid memories of?  I would love to hear it!  Did you ever have a job you always wanted to do in high school but never got to do it (e.g. server at trendy and hip restaurant).


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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.


  1. Marianne on March 19, 2012 at 9:35 am

    🙂 I worked at a family restaurant for a couple years in my late teens and cleaning the bathrooms was an eye opening event… I didn’t realize sh** could splatter halfway up the toilet bowl lid. I’m not exaggerating and the worst is that this wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. I think this was because we had a lot of older clientele that were perhaps having some digestion issues due to age. I felt badly for whomever because it could not have felt good to make that mess but boy was it disgusting.

  2. John on March 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

    ” remember being rounded up in a van and being dropped off in various neighbourhoods with nothing but a donation receipt booklet and a pen.”

    Haha, I had a job sort of like that once, and it was not fun. I would say my worst job was bus boy – it’s demoralizing.

  3. Jordann on March 19, 2012 at 10:47 am

    The best service job I ever had was working as a pretzel maker in a mall. Dealing with the customers was annoying but the staff was great, and I got to learn the pretzel twist! You can see it here at about minute 1:38…re=related

  4. Thrifty Writer on March 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I tried to sign up for one of those donation canvassing things, but my parents were worried about my safety, so I wasn’t allowed.

    The summer before my junior year of high school, I worked in my Dad’s office as a janitorial assistant, which wasn’t too bad, except that the office was an old mansion that had been converted into offices and chemistry labs, and was three stories (with grand staircases) high. There was a plastic bucket with a very heavy metal mop wringer, and every time I had to mop each floor, I had to empty out the water before carrying it to the next level, since it was just too heavy when it was full.

    The summer before going to college, I worked as a shop assistant in a consignment store, which is not the best job for a shy person who doesn’t know a lot about fashion:-)

  5. Michelle on March 19, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I worked in retail for 5 years, it was absolutely horrible mainly because of the customers.

  6. SavingfromScratch on March 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Oh man, where do I even start?? Paper route, fast food, retail and then stints in a flour mill, cookie factory and car part warehouse. It helped me figure out what I didn’t want to do for a living, I guess!

  7. Liquid Independence on March 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I’ve never worked in a restaurant either, but seeing how stressful waiting tables can be I’m not complaining. I worked at Safeway before. Minimum wage, but at least people were friendly.

  8. Pamela @ on March 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    This post brought back a lot of memories of my first “real” job (other than babysitting). I was 13 and an older teenage relative told me about a summer job raking blueberries in rural Nova Scotia. At first it seemed ideal; I would get to spend the summer outdoors while making a bit of cash, but it was not as fun as it seemed. A bus picked us up very early every morning and dropped us off at a blueberry farm where we would spend the day crouched down on the ground raking up blueberries & filling huge pails which would get very heavy. I learned very quickly that shorts we not ideal to wear, after getting my legs all scratched up by the blueberry bushes. The pay was horrible, but I think I ended up eating half the blueberries I picked. For the longest time, I couldn’t stomach eating anything blueberry-flavored!

  9. Joe @ Retire By 40 on March 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    When I was a kid, my dad was hired to put up those door hangers. He took us kids to help him on the weekend and I didn’t like that job at all. I didn’t have to talk to homeowners, but people are really mean. What’s the big deal, just throw it out if you don’t like it. Dogs are scary too.

  10. SavingMentor on March 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Hmm … for me it would probably be when I was an outbound call centre agent. Calling and interrupting people over the phone to try and sell them stuff isn’t that fun. What made it even more fun was that we had an auto-dialer that would give you the next call as soon as your last one ended and by the time I got on the line the person had already said hello and I hadn’t had the chance to hear them say it.

    One time the auto-dialer was loaded with incorrect numbers and I called someone in Hawaii at 4am. The guy answered the phone, I gave my opening line, and the guy responded “do you have any idea what time it is?” – “No sir I don’t” – “4am!!!!! *click*”.

    I also worked on a party boat as a crew member. It wasn’t that bad really, but I did have to scrub, clean up after drunk people, and try to disinfect the puny little bathrooms which were again used by mostly drunk people. LOL

  11. Frugal Fries on March 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I think my worst job ever was as a candy store clerk–I know, it starts out great, but it’s only downhill from there. The owner was a bonafide pervert and I ended up stumbling upon his “fantasy” chamber one morning while getting some candy from the back.

    Needless to say, that was my last shift.

  12. Gigi on March 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Oh man, I had some crappy jobs. Paper route at 13? Sucked. Cleaning and preparing food at a mall stand at 14 for $5/hour? Sucked. Telemarketer all summer long? Sucked. Working for university housekeeping cleaning out stinky dorms? That one sucked the worst but the pay was the best 😉

  13. My University Money on March 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I cut lawns for years – started at 12 actually. Some of my relatives from urban environments thought pushing a lawn mower around all day, or using a weed wacker was hard work. I might have thought the same, but my friends were all farmers and my dad cut wood for a living, so pushing a lawn mower seemed easy enough to me! Plus I got a great tan (amazing what benefits you concentrate on as a kid eh?).

  14. Joe on March 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    I focussed 100% on school. Earned well over $35k in scholarships. Beat $8 an hour at McDs or scrubbing toilets for $20.

  15. eemusings on March 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I started with a paper run at age 13, then progressed to cafe work, hospitality work at events, call centres and tutoring. I’m much better in an office environment 🙂 And I’ve worked multiple jobs most of my life. The call centre wasn’t too bad as I mostly did market research/surveys, not selling, but that was probably the worst. I also once went out on a morning trial run with a salesman (the kind who stands on the street) and knew right away that wasn’t for me.

  16. mycanuckbuck on March 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    My husband had a job similar to yours – selling carnations to raise money for “charity”. He’d wear a trenchcoat, had long hair and was often unshaven. I don’t think he made a lot of sales. 🙂 But no one ever turned a sprinkler on him either!

  17. Daisy @ Add Vodka on March 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    That’s one thing that I’ve never, ever wanted to do – be a canvasser. I loved all my teenage jobs; even the fast food jobs. I met so many fun people! I lucked out, I guess.

  18. Simple Rich Living on March 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I am a bad seller. I don’t like the idea of imposing on people. I got hired as a door to door canvasser during one of my summers in high school…I changed my mind quickly and didn’t even show up for the first day of work. I think if you had done of fundraisers when you were, it would be easier to talk to people and sell/convince them.

  19. Money Infant on March 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I had a summer job in college working for a regional airport and one of the responsibilities was cleaning out the sludge pit at their on site sewage treatment plant. One full week of shoveling dried sewage. Yeah, that was the worst, but it did pay really well for a summer job.

  20. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:10 am

    @MI- OKAY YOU WIN!!! hahahahah OMG I don’t know how you did that job. At least it was for only a week. Did you get to wear a mask?

  21. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:11 am

    @SRL- I know, me too. It makes it awkward especially when the person you’re selling to knows that you’re not comfortable.. I’m not a schmoozer.

  22. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

    @Daisy- I think Telephone marketers have it worse than canvassers- because people can get really nasty on the phone (lol I know I have!) and it’s easier to do so because people can’t see your face. Lucky that you liked all your jobs! Great experiences 🙂

  23. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

    @FF- OH MY GOD>>>> hahahahaha.. EW Fantasy chamber? That is so disturbing! Candy store owners have no rights being perverts!! That candy shop needs to go down. lol.

  24. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

    @MCB- lol… trenchcoat, long hair and unshaven lol. awe your comment made me chuckle- your husband sounds adorable! Well at least he had something to offer, like carnations, right? I would donate for carnations 🙂

  25. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:14 am

    @eemusings- Cool- sounds like you’ve worked in all different areas! Tutoring is pretty good I’d say- one-on-one and highly paid! Did the salesperson stand on the street and talk to strangers on the street?

  26. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

    @Joe- Dang Joe! That’s awesome! Scholarships are the way to go- seriously. So much free money floating around.

  27. Marianne on March 20, 2012 at 11:16 am

    🙂 No not a buffet. Just a family restaurant with an older clientele. very gross. lol

  28. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:17 am

    @MUM- LOL You didn’t get a farmers tan, did you!? Is that how you create all these great blog posts- you thought about these ideas when you were mowing the lawn? 😉

  29. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

    @Gigi- Ughhh cleaning out dorms.. that’s awful. University students are kind of gross. Paper route sounds like grueling, difficult work- just because of the heaviness of the newspapers.

  30. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:20 am

    @SavingMentor- You mean interrupting them over dinner? 🙂 LOL I had no idea there was such thing as an auto-dialer- how awful. You don’t even get a chance to take a break and recoup yourself from the awful previous call you just had.
    Sometimes when I feel really nasty, I tell the telemarketer to please stop calling and to take me off the list. They’re usually pretty nice after that.
    My friend told me she used to pretend not to hear the telemarketer that called her home, and would say “hello? hello? hello? helllllooooo?” and then hang up the phone.
    Party boat! That sounds kind of awesome- were there any man-overboards? The cleaning bathroom part doesn’t sound so hot though. Not at all. Cleaning up vomitus is exponentially worse than cleaning toilets.

  31. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:21 am

    @SavingsfromScratch- lol! COOKIE FACTORY!?! You didn’t want to do that for a living?

  32. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:22 am

    @Joe- Do you mean those adverts that you hang on the door? I wouldn’t mind someone putting that on my door 🙂 Selling me something on the other hand.. or trying to convert me is an annoyance to me. Yeah, I remember not bothering to go into the homes with scary dogs.

  33. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

    @Pamela- YUM!!! You must have had enough antioxidants to last you a lifetime 😉 Did they pay you by the basket of blueberries you picked or by hour?

  34. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:24 am

    @LI- I always wanted to work at Safeway- don’t they have a union? The friends I knew who worked at safeway were making over $2.50 an hour more than me in retail I think.

  35. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

    @Michelle- I worked in retail for a long time too. The worst was for a company that asked for Quotas. I found the fellow staff worse than customers because girls can be so catty!

  36. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:26 am

    @TW- Cool! An old mansion! I wold have been kind of scared though, being in an old mansion by myself in the evenings. 🙂

  37. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    @Jordann- Cool video 🙂 That looks difficult to do! I can’t even tie a bow tie.

  38. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    @John- Don’t bus boys get tips too? I know, I never liked the restaurant industry hierarchy. I don’t understand why servers got paid more and they got the tip when they don’ t have to do to the dirty work.

  39. young on March 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    @Marianne- LOL!! hahaha digestion issues awe 🙂 Was it a buffet? That’s hilarious. Yeah, restaurant washrooms aren’t the most sanitary 🙁

  40. Invest It Wisely on March 20, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Hi Y&T,

    So sorry to hear that you got soaked! One of my fondest memories was having a mud fight with a friend and getting in trouble, or getting chased by a bunch of angry bees! I was working as an outdoor landscaper at 16.

    P.S. “In Canada, you have to be 15 years old to be hired at a job.” I don’t believe that this is true. I was working, legally, at 10 or something around there. The child labour laws don’t apply to all occupations, and I’m glad that they don’t cause being a paper boy at a young age was pretty cool, too.

  41. Money Infant on March 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Yes they did give us masks haha. At $12 an hour in 1987 it was a damn good summer job. It was cool getting to chill on the runways watching the planes take off and land too 🙂

  42. femmefrugality on March 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    This wasn’t in high school…but one of the times I moved one of my transition jobs was to be one of those people that call you and are legitimately not trying to sell anything…just gather info for surveys. It’s amazing how few people believe you. And one time I ended up on a radio show as the computer randomly generates numbers. He let me go through this whole speil and then cussed me out ON AIR! Thank god I didn’t use my real name. I think I cried a little bit.

  43. Joe on March 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Well, I’d qualify that it’s not “free” money, in that it took a lot of hard work. It’s really not any more “free” than the money earned from a job. You just have to commit more time and effort to school rather than flipping burgers. I’d also say that the average scholarship student is more strategic than the average burger-flipper student. In the end I was able to commit a ton of time to school and STILL had lots of leisure time. It made university at least twice as awesome as it would have been anyway and allowed me to actively take part in many parts of student life. Those “other” components are a key part of the university experience. If you attend a satellite campus, drive in/out for most lectures, and skip seminars, you’re really getting a very sad manufactured degree rather than the full experience. In short, I think I got a lot more value from my money (besides getting that money for being good at school itself).

  44. Andrew @ 101 Centavos on March 21, 2012 at 4:52 am

    Heh!,I had a job as a canvasser in college, and while not the worst job, it was right on up there. I once had a big mean dog try to get at me thought the screen door. I almost did the cartoon thing and left my shoes behind I got out of there so fast!

  45. Liquid Independence on March 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

    That’s good to know. I was working part-time at one in North Vancouver, maybe there are different standards. I didn’t find the union to be very useful for me, but my biggest perk was the discounted goodies from the seafood and meat dept.

  46. young on March 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    @LI- Or many the union thing started recently? Not sure. Discount goods from the seafood and meat dept sound fantastic- I used to be addicted to their potato wedges and fried chicken 😉

  47. Shovellicious on March 22, 2012 at 2:03 am

    I saw that question about the worst job as a teenager on Twitter first and it reminds me about my babysitting experience. Encouraged by you and the lack of space there I decided to share my story here 🙂 But, to make things clear, it’ll be a little off-topic because I wasn’t teenager 😀

    Everything happened two years ago, in Switzerland. I came there with the beginning of November but before that I had spent some time there during summer holiday and had met some people. In this time, a friend of mine told me about her friend who was looking for a babysitter for a girl at the age of four. Her friend was going to start a new job in November so she started interviewing girls for this position. We met together, I met her daughter, we had a great time together and after all she asked me if I wanted to do babysitting for her. I knew it was not going to be easy to find regular job there so I decided on that. She was going to work there only for three months so I knew it wouldn’t last too long and I would have enough time to look for another, regular job opportunity in my field but for that moment it was good to earn some “pocket money” and not stay at home. She told me that she had paid her previous babysitter 20chf per hour, it was job for three hours every day from Monday to Friday with legal contract (what was the most important for me because of regulations in Switzerland and I really didn’t want to have any problems with authorities-it could ruin my chance to get my working permit and get normal job) and payment in the end of the month.

    And then November came. She started her job, I started babysitting and I really enjoyed that time with this little angel. But her mother was calling me each day in the morning to tell me everything: what her daughter was going to eat, what we should do, what we should play, if she was moody or not and so on. We spent around 30-45min each morning to talk about the details, about previous day and about coming day. And all that time I thought it’s ok. She is her mother, she knows what’s the best for her child. After one week she told me: “I’ll give you money today”. I was surprised and told her I was sure I was going to be given money once a month. She told me she decided to pay me in the end of the week. I said ok. And then she gave me… 215chf for all week days (so it’s 15chf/h)… “Because she was talking with her friends and nobody pays the babysitter 20chf per hour”. I said ok. Next week I asked her if we can sign the contract. Because few days before she was always too busy for that. But in the second week she was too busy again. I said ok.

    in the second week she had one day for working at home so I wasn’t needed and she paid me 180chf. I said ok.
    In the third week her mother came for three days so I was working only two days. She paid me 90chf. I said ok.
    She was too busy also to give me that contract. I said ok.
    In the last week of November she was pissed off with her new job and she decided to leave it. She paid me for four working days. And I said ok.
    All the time I said “ok”. I really liked her, her husband, her kid and I thought: “maybe they are not the best employers ever but they are good friends (yes, I know how does it sound…)”.
    She left it so I wasn’t needed any more (we even didn’t talk about occasionally babysitting or something like that) BUT one day she called me asking if I could do babysitting one day because she was going to have a new job interview. And then I said no, I couldn’t do babysitting that day because I was going to have my job interview too and I didn’t have any idea how long it could take. And then she wasn’t ok with that. She asked me if it was possible to reschedule my interview (wtf??!!). I said, I even wouldn’t try to do that. Then she told me I was her babysitter and she needed me THAT day. And then I didn’t know what to say. I was angry but I replied her kindly with gentel voice that I used to be a babysitter for one month. And I even wonder if I was that babysitter because I hadn’t seen any contract for four weeks. And all things she told me after that are not good enough to write about them here…

    What have I learnt? I’m not teenager any more. But I was naive and not assertive enough. I still believe in people the same way like I did when I was teenager.
    Does my story counts as a “worst teenager’s job”? 😀

  48. Shovellicious on March 22, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Ups, I’m sorry for this comment-post. I didn’t expect it was going to be so long :/

  49. young on March 23, 2012 at 9:46 am

    @S- It’s alright- I love long comments!!

  50. young on March 23, 2012 at 9:49 am

    @S- Oh my goodness- that sounds awful. Your employer sounds really controlling and insecure. She was also unfair by taking advantage of you. That’s a pretty terrible story but it really sounds like you learned a lot from it, and became assertive and yet gentle. Thank you so much for sharing Shovelicious!

  51. young on March 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    @Invest it Wisely- Working at 10! That’s awesome! Okay I’m most likely wrong lol. (Not very good at checking and referencing what I say lol)

  52. young on March 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    @Andrew- lol I was picturing it in my mind! Ugh college canvassing? What did you have to canvass for?

  53. young on March 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    @FF- Awe sweety! Thank goodness you didn’t use your real name! Well, the radio show guy probably looked bad himself for losing his temper on you ON AIR!

  54. Girly Girl on July 5, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    You worked @ a cookie factory? Cool

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