Career Services has partnered with impactful faculty and staff at ECU for many years and we always wonder where these professionals got their start. So we started asking the question…What was your first job? Now we would like to share these #MyFirstJob stories with the students and ECU community:
From Folding Jeans to College Dean
Name: Dr. William M. Downs
Title: Dean, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
Years in Position: 3
Describe your first
Nothing like humble beginnings. My first job was in sales in Crabtree Valley
Mall at a store called "County Seat." County Seat specialized in blue jeans, sports clothing, and some attire
that might now only be recognizable in some early 1980s MTV videos. I think I took on every task there was at
that store...helping customers, taking inventory, manning the cash register,
fielding complaints/returns, unloading merchandise from the delivery truck,
finding just the right radio station to attract the 16-24 year old demographic,
and then the endless precision straightening of stack after stack of
Levi's. As I recall, the highlight of my
first job was providing expert sales assistance to that year's Homecoming Queen
at NC State. I suspect I bragged about
that one for weeks...
What did you learn in
that job that you still use today?
Surprisingly, I learned a lot. You have to serve before you can lead, and
retail sales is all about providing good service. Providing good service requires high energy
and a cordial demeanor...and it also requires having tolerance for others who
display neither. I learned a good bit
about maintaining composure at times of high volume (think holiday shopping
season), and I learned some tricks about assertiveness and marketing to
generate interest when there were lulls. I learned to say Yes--yes to every work hour I was offered, yes to every
task I was assigned, and yes to every person who asked if I could help them. "Yes" is never a bad default. I was a pretty shy kid, and that first little
job in sales may have done more to develop some essential communication and
people skills than I would have ever guessed.
What advice do you have for students entering their first
Bring the positive energy and
recognize your role on the team. Attitude and effort--no matter what the job and no matter what level you
find yourself at in the organization--will get noticed. Your first job won't be your last job, but
outwardly treat it like the best opportunity you've ever had...everyone you
work with and everyone you work for will appreciate that. Exude quiet confidence...it will be
From Reception Desk to Leader of Student Success
Virginia D. Hardy
Vice Chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs at ECU
Years in Position:
7 years as Vice Chancellor and 23 total years at ECU
Describe your first job.
I worked as a “receptionist” at the National Guard Armory in Greenville (near PGV). I answered phones, typed, filed and greeted visitors. I became good friends with the guardsman.
What did you learn in that job that you still use today?
Here are some quick lessons: (1) It is important to be nice to everyone (and the right thing to do) regardless of the role in the organization. (2) First impressions and presentation matters. (3) Regardless of the task or work, do the very best that you can in every role you are responsible.
What advice do you have for students entering their first job?
You definitely need to be nice to people and treat them with respect, remember that presentation matters and always do your best, but also to take advantage of all the opportunities that are available, this allows for meeting new people, cultivating strong relationships and networking. Try to learn as much as you and always ask questions!
The Competition Will Now Be Seated!
Head Coach, ECU Women's Basketball
7 years at ECU, 12 years as a head coach
Describe your first job:
Waitress & Hostess at Theo's Italian & Family Restaurant
What did you learn in your first job that you still use today as an ECU Basketball Coach?
I quickly learned the importance of building positive relationships & how that is a key to future success. As a result of positive relationship building, the owners of the restaurant and I still stay in touch today. As a head coach, I have coached multiple sets of sisters and I can tell you that it's all about the relationships that are built with their families. That's a huge part of building a winning program. Relationships are EVERYTHING.
I would tell everyone to treat every job like they are the homeowner and not renting the place! Approach every day with a since of pride and ownership and you’ll have a tremendous experience.
Special Thanks to Nino's Cucina Italiana
Serving Up New Leadership!
Dr. Cecil Staton
Less than one year
My first job was working behind
the counter at what would be considered an old fashioned drug store. I was
probably no more than 13. Essentially, I was a soda jerk. I sold ice cream,
sundaes, toasted sandwiches, and kept the fountain drinks flowing. And I sold
cigarettes. That would probably be illegal today. This was before fancy cash
registers, so I had to be able to do the math and make change for transactions.
What did you
learn in that job that you still use today as ECU Chancellor?
I learned that customers are
important, no matter what business you’re in. It takes someone spending money
to create a job. I also learned early that people have expectations and are
different. Kindness and patience are always virtues. I learned that you had
better show up on time, pay attention, and that details matter.
What advice do
you have for students entering their first job?
Most employers say that there are
some things that are just as important as your major; things like being
punctual, having critical thinking skills, being able to read, write, and
follow instructions, being able to work in groups or on teams, and just being
pleasant. Those are skills that you should gain throughout your experience at
ECU. There may not be courses in those subjects, but all of your work here
should prepare you to be a life-long learner. Things change quickly, and you
must be prepared to adapt and grow. Internships matter. And a study abroad
experience is great training for that global knowledge based economy you’ll be
to The Scullery and ECU alum Matthew
This game is in the bag!
Head Coach, East Carolina University Football
I bagged groceries.
What did you learn then that you still use today?
What advice do you have for students entering their first job?
For students entering their first job, I advise them to use positive and negative criticism to learn and grow within their profession.
Thanks Coach Mo!
From Harris Teeter to Orientation Leader
Associate Director, First Year Programs
Office of Student Transitions
Cashier at Harris Teeter.
What advice do you have for students enter their first job?
Take advantage of every opportunity to gain more experience. Do your job!