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Whether delivery copies of The Southern Illinoisan, working in a fast-food restaurant or an entry-level position in retail, all of us who work had to start somewhere. At some point – maybe as a teenager or perhaps when we were in college – all of us had a first job.

“First jobs are really important,” explains Stephanie Bishop, owner-operator of more than a dozen McDonald’s restaurants in Southern Illinois. “It’s with these jobs where we first begin to develop some skills and routines and get experience. It’s really important to develop those skills.”

Bishop says McDonald’s calls itself “America’s Best First Job,” and understands that its restaurants are frequent first employers.

“We know that we are first for many of our employees, so we’re focused on that and strive to give skill sets they will need to be successful,” she says. “It’s great to see them turn the corner and become stars in their roles. Then they get the chance to teach the next new person.”

Southern Business Journal asked area business leaders about their own first jobs – including one who got his start at a McDonald’s restaurant – and what they learned that still serves them today.

Keven Beckemeyer, Marion

President and CEO, Legence Bank

First job: Loan Officer, Farm Credit Services

“I gained skills in multiple areas of lending as well as leadership and negotiation skills and was taught how to be a good trainer and mentor,” Beckemeyer says.

Sara Church, Herrin

Network Producer, TCT Ministries, Marion

First Job: Cashier at Thorton’s Market in Herrin for minimum wage in 1995.

“The most important thing I learned from my first role was that communication and customer service go hand-in-hand,” she explains. “I quickly discovered my tone of voice and attitude toward a customer would dictate their reaction to me. My goal was to smile and interact on a positive note with every single customer, and to a 16-year-old, I was shocked at how easy it was to connect with people.”

Rocky Hull, Eldorado

Business Development, Clearwave Communications, Harrisburg

First job: Folding and boxing American flags at U.S. Flag Distributors in Eldorado in 1974 for $2.25 per hour.

“I came away from that job with a real understanding that you have to work for what you want,” Hull says.

Brian McHugh, Marion

Financial Adviser, Edward Jones

First Job: “Drive-Through Guy at McDonald’s in Vienna for $5.15 an hour – minimum wage.

“I learned a lot, mostly that you need to do the best job you can no matter where you are,” he says.

Jim Morgan, Murphysboro

Self-employed in several companies

First job: Commercial construction with Morgan Commercial Construction in Murphysboro in 1984

“I learned how to work hard for your employer and be thankful for the job. Developing that type of work ethic was the foundation for any success I have had in owning and operating my own businesses,” he says. “Secondly, if you are an owner or superior, treat your employees and those under you with the ultimate respect. Give them the tools they need to succeed and treat them like you would like to be treated. Try to serve your employees in every way possible so that they respect you and have no excuse not to give you their best. And NEVER ask an employee to do something that you are not willing to do yourself.”

John Nimmo, Jonesboro

Owner and Manager, REMAX Southern Real Estate, Anna

First Job: “My first real employer was SOHN’s Menswear on South Illinois Ave. in Carbondale,” Nimmo recalls. “I began there in the fall of 1977 and I believe I was paid $3.30 an hour plus an additional 2 percent of personal sales.”

“I still practice the professionalism, the customer relationship skills and communications skills that I learned there. Paying attention to the details, showing up early and preparedness were all things that were stressed and are still part of my professional career even to this day.

John Otey, Makanda

Business Service Manager, Illinois Dept. of Employment Security

First Job: “I started mowing grass and clearing brush for my Grandpa, but my first ‘official’ job was as a sports/feature writer and photographer for Tazewell Publishing in East Peoria,” he says. “I made 20 cents per inch of copy and $3 for every published photograph.”

“It was at that job where I started to understand the concepts and beginnings of effective written and visual communications, fulfilling management requirements and the value of earning a paycheck, even as a high school student.”

Jerry Parker, Marion

Owner, Parker Heating and Cooling

First job: Working at Craftsman Printing, Marion in 1985 for $3.50 per hour

“I learned the extreme importance of great quality, prompt, professional service with extremely close attention to detail. That was always required in the printing profession.”

Angela Povolish, Murphysboro

Partner, Feirich/Mager/Green/Ryan, Carbondale

First job: Cashier at Kroger in Carbondale for $4.25/hour in 1993

“I learned that a friendly attitude can completely change another’s perception of you, no matter how brief the encounter,” she recalls. “And no matter how menial a particular task may seem at the time, I learned to take pride in doing it with efficiency and purpose.

Steve Quinn, Carterville

Manager, Northbridge Professional Technologies

First job: Apprentice Carpenter, Royal Dockyard in Rosyth, Scotland in 1984

“I learned a lot about personal responsibility and adaptability from that job,” he recalls. “There was a wide range of tasks and skills to learn, but some great craftsmen to learn from. I also learned to enjoy hard work and the satisfaction that comes from it.”

Jeremy Pinkston, Marion

Marketing Director, Black Diamond Harley-Davidson

First Job: “My parents owned two VHS rental video stores – “Video Rentals and More” in Harrisburg and Eldorado. I started working there when I was 15,” he says.

“I guess I learned responsibility. It was a one-person operation, so I opened the store, closed the store and did everything in between. It was great to work in a family business as a first job.”

Robert Rea, Benton

Partner, S.C.D. Rea & Sons Insurance

First Job: Musician and Music Store Delivery Assistant for Beatty’s Hammond Organ Studio in Benton. “As a musician, I made $15 nightly,” he recalls. “Deliveries were $1.05 per hour.

“While traveling throughout Southern Illinois making deliveries to customers, I was allowed by my employer to book my band using musician union contracts. I learned the skill and value of post-purchase reinforcement with clients and the obligations of contract fulfillment.”


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