I got my first job just after I turned 16. After a month or so of applying at sporting goods stores with no luck, my dad brought home a McDonald's application. I had wanted to avoid fast food, but with no prior work experience, the retail stores wouldn't touch me.
Happily–yes, happily–the store manager hired me at the end of my interview and I started working part-time after school and on weekends. Why happily? Well, because it turned out to be an unexpectedly good experience for a couple of reasons. Other than the joy of making buttermilk biscuits at 0530, taking drive-thru orders, and stuffing Happy Meal boxes with the latest toy. 😉
To start, the restaurant where I worked was about 10 miles from home. I didn't know anyone. I made friends (and actually dated) without the stigma of my mediocre high school social status. (This was back when high school kids were still the main workforce for fast food restaurants.) I could just be me without any baggage or history. For this alone, that job was worth it. My confidence and social life were better for it.
McDonald's may be the butt of many jokes, but they excel at standardization and they hold their employees to a high standard. I actually missed out on a portion of my three-month raise because I had forgotten to wear black shoes twice! When I moved to California after six months of hawking burgers (which are not flipped, by the way, we used a clamshell grill), I finally landed a job at a sporting goods store, largely on the basis of a recommendation letter from my former McDonald's manager.
I've had several experiences where I didn't get what I thought I wanted, but it turned out being great anyway. I guess that's one reason why life rarely gets me down.
What about you? Any unexpectedly good first jobs? Or just unexpected results from something you thought would be bad? I'd love to hear.