First jobs: Alana

To continue our first jobs series, Alana tells us all about the joys of working at a specialty ski and outdoor apparel shop.

Other than babysitting for my neighbours, my first “real” job was in the retail industry when I was 15. I worked at The Sign of the Skier for three years, selling ski jackets, hats, gloves and accessories in the clothing department.

Every three weeks we were required to attend product knowledge meetings about the mechanics of how each jacket was made. I knew coats inside and out – literally. 

I could tell customers how waterproof, windproof, breathable and durable each coat was, and why. I was also taught the importance of layering, and which fabrics should be layered where. Not to mention advising on which gloves, hats, snow pants and long underwear were the best bang for your buck. 

I knew this Helly Hansen performance jacket intimately. 
It was always pretty fun to see the look of disbelief on customer’s faces after explaining the inner workings of a coat they were interested in. They couldn’t believe a kid could know that much information about one product.

The best part about working at The Sign was the fact that I worked with my mom, twin sister and two best friends. That’s not to say that we loved working after school, but it definitely made it much sweeter that we could work together. One of my all-time favourite memories was in the spring when we had no customers and things at the store slowed right down. My friends and I would play practical jokes on each other… until one went terribly wrong. 

It was kind of like this, only not as composed.  

We’d hide behind the racks of clothes and jump out to scare each other. One time, a friend and I were hiding in the pant rack when a customer came and started flipping through the pants. We froze and stayed silent, hoping he would go back downstairs. But he didn’t. 

He saw us hiding in the pants, looked at us weirdly, and walked away. I was too embarrassed to talk to him, so my friend dealt with the aftermath. My boss was not impressed. 


My first job was a good experience. It taught me the importance of happy customers, a good attitude, team work and many other qualities that have been paramount in my growing career. 

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First jobs: Abby

Ah, first jobs. You might have babysat three screaming children, steamed designer clothing or blended McFlurries for $6 an hour. First jobs are far from glamourous for most people, but they offer more money than the tooth fairy ever gave you (usually). They also make up who we are today and are part of our journey to where we are now.

Abby spills about her first job flipping hamburgers and scooping ice cream.

I loved my first job. I had moved to a small town (Blenheim, Ontario) at the beginning of Grade 9, which is the worst time to move. I didn’t know many people at first, and one day, decided to apply for a job at the local burger joint. 
 The Blenheim Bobcats were serious.
It’s called Homerun Hamburgers and everyone worked there. It was small, but had the best burgers in town, along with breakfast, milkshakes made from real ice cream, flurries and soft serve dipped in chocolate. 
 A common sight at my first gig.

It was right across from the town high school, which meant that it was constantly filled with students, even on the weekend. My coworkers were all my age, and we spent our days trying to look cute in our maroon T-shirts and visors (ew!) in case our crushes came in. 

Summer was the best and the worst time to be there. It was always slammed, with line-ups out the door and I’d end my shifts with ice cream literally up to my elbows. And, smelling like smoke, since restaurants weren’t smoke-free yet. But that’s when our friends could come visit us and we’d slip them burgers and fries for free. 
 This could have been yours FREE… if you lived in Blenheim.

Best moment: I remember my first huge crush came in unexpectedly one day, someone I hadn’t seen for months because he lived out of town. I saw him, my heart started pounding through my chest, and I am sure that I turned bright red. I ran to the back room to whip off my ugly visor and check to make sure my hair wasn’t a total disaster. I think I might have talked to him for about three minutes, but it seemed like an eternity since I was in a total daze. 

I left Homerun after a year or two for the grease-free, 9-to-5 hours of IDA Pharmacy, but I will always remember that job as one of the most fun gigs I’ve ever had.

First jobs: Michelle the perfume spritzer

Ah, first jobs. You might have babysat three screaming children, steamed designer clothing or blended McFlurries for $6 an hour. First jobs are far from glamourous for most people, but they offer more money than the tooth fairy ever gave you (usually). They also make up who we are today and are part of our journey to where we are now.

This time, Michelle shares about her first gig as a professional perfume spritzer, and all the amazing perks that came with the job.

After the typical baby-sitting gigs when I was 12 and 13 years old, my aunt got me THE BEST first real job – being a fragrance sales associate for L’Oréal! I had this job from ages 16 to 18, and worked anywhere from 10 to 30 hours a week at the counter at The Bay in the lovely Yorkdale Mall.  I represented and sold Ralph Lauren, Armani, Lanvin and Cacharel perfumes and colognes.

My favourite part of selling fragrance was that I always went home smelling wonderful. Actually, it was probably a bit overwhelming, smelling like a mix of 10 different scents, but I thought it was amazing. I am not sure everyone felt that way.

Another part of that job I loved was getting to know the other sales associates in the beauty department – everyone was so friendly, girly and beautiful. It really was its own little community. I had so much fun there.

Part of this job also involved working a ton of in-store promotional events (which I obviously adored doing). One event that stands out for me was for Ralph by Ralph Lauren. I had to get on stage and do a choreographed dance to the Britney Spears rendition of I Love Rock’n’Roll (about a million times in a row) and speak on a microphone to get people to come up for a free sample of the new perfume. Oh, and I distinctly remember wearing a fake clip-on pony tail. (Eeekkk!)


This was a dream job for me in high school. I got paid $16 an hour to dress up nicely, work fun events, talk to tons of interesting people, sell beautiful fragrances and hang out in a mall.
As with any job, there were some negatives. A big drawback was standing all day long. My feet would ache by the end of a six-hour shift. And of course, the chaos of the holiday season – finding parking in December at Yorkdale was an absolute nightmare. I was often late because I was circling the parking lot, looking for a spot.
To this day, I still love walking through a fragrance department and experiencing all the glorious scents. Honestly, I don’t think people wear enough fragrance. Or maybe my nose has just been desensitized.
P.S. The best perk was selling men’s cologne. A perfect excuse to talk to all the cute guys that walked by.
P.P.S. I never spritzed anyone who didn’t want it. 🙂  (Remember this episode of Friends?)

First Jobs: Christina the professional present wrapper

Ah, first jobs. You might have babysat three screaming children, steamed designer clothing or blended McFlurries for $6 an hour. First jobs are far from glamourous for most people, but they offer more money than the tooth fairy ever gave you (usually). They also make up who we are today and are part of our journey to where we are now. Today brings us to a new series where all of us from the Fourth Floor, as well as some of our visitors, will tell you about their fun (and not so fun) – First Jobs.

Check out how our own Christina went wild with financial independence with her first job as a “professional present wrapper”.
My first job was at Mastermind Toys in Mississauga, a really cool toy company. I worked during the Christmas holidays as a “professional present wrapper.” 
I was the first of my friends to get a part-time job, which meant while everyone else was hanging out, I was getting paper cuts, trying to wrap soccer balls, and listening to Raffi’s Christmas music. How do you even wrap a round object properly? I still don’t know. 
 Tools of the trade. Image source.
Despite the dorky “present wrapper” title, the job was awesome because it was so close to home that I was able to walk to and from my shifts. The only uniform piece was a red apron, which I could quickly take off the second friends walked through the door. 
Best of all, the boy I had a crush on at the time worked at the grocery store in the same plaza, where I mildly stalked him. The $6.85 per hour I made was also much more than the $5 per week allowance my parents gave me (Five bucks a week, Mom? Really?! I know you’re reading this.).  
I worked long hours, or hours I thought were long at the time, for an entire two-week period to be able to afford – *drum roll* – floor seats for the Backstreet Boys concert. Since a concert at 14 without supervision in Toronto was altogether out of the question for my suburban parents, my best friend and I rocked out to I Want It That Way, our favourite song, alongside her dad.
Not only was Mastermind Toys my first job, it allowed me to buy tickets to my first concert. Helloooooo freedom!