Guest commentary: My first job was at Burger King
June 3, 2018 The First Job series is an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. Many variables have made it more difficult than ever for a young person to capture a first job and the NWIWB ...   Read More »
The First Job series is an initiative of the Youth Employment Council of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board. Many variables have made it more difficult than ever for a young person to capture a first job and the NWIWB believes employers can have an impact on our future workforce by hiring a young person.
Curtis Whittaker is a certified public accountant and managing partner of Whittaker and Company, PLLC, with offices in Chicago and Gary. He is a graduate of Indiana University. His original career goal was to become a doctor.
What was your first job for pay?
I worked at the Burger King located at 35th and Grant Street in Gary. This was in the late 80s/early 90s. I cooked burgers and fries, worked the counter and cash register. I did it all for minimum wage.
Did you like the job?
I loved the money and enjoyed my co-workers.
What parts of the job did you not enjoy?
Working late on school nights and on weekends. I missed out on athletic events and other school activities.
Do you encourage young people to work in a fast food restaurant?
I do. When you are assigned the counter, you are there to serve the customer. We learned that the customer is always right. When I was assigned to work the grill, it sharpened my teamwork skills as we filled out food orders. Fast food restaurants are a great place to improve your basic skills that will help you in any career path.
Were you a good student?
I was a lazy student. I could have done much better; I had the ability to be a straight A student but I just coasted.
When did you wake up and become serious about your education?
My dad had a recycling business and I began helping him when I was 6 or 7. I loved being with my father but I did not want to do this forever. My grades improved in high school as I began to think about my future.
You were accepted to attend the Indiana University main campus in Bloomington. You wanted to be a doctor. What happened?
In one of my first medical classes, I saw blood and passed out. That ended my career as a doctor. As I always had a love for numbers, I went over to the business school to check out my options. Somebody told me to look into accounting, for which I knew nothing. I thought the courses were pretty neat. So, I became a business accounting major.
Do you speak to young people about your profession, and the various career tracks for those who have strong math skills?
I do. I discuss the opportunities in the accounting profession; but I also talk about skills and other professions. You must have integrity if you want to be a CPA. You must have strong writing and speaking skills. You must understand technology that drives computers and software applications. In my profession, of course, it begins with the basic skills of division, multiplication, adding and subtracting.
Who were the positive influences in your life?
There were several people that had a positive impact in my life. Mrs. Gates, a math teacher at Horace Mann; Reverend Be Douglas, my church pastor; and Mr. Bodnar, a kindly neighbor who gave us money for every “A” on our report card.
But above all others, my parents helped me more than others. They were very supportive of having their children go to college. Even more important was their example of running their own business. Because of their example, I knew one day I wanted to have my own business. They drove home to my siblings and me the importance of having a strong work ethic and positive attitude.
We traveled all around Northwest Indiana — from Gary to Dyer to Valparaiso— and even into Chicago as we collected recyclable material. They taught us how to build relationships with all sorts of people. I continue to use the skills in my business today.
View article in The Northwest Indiana Times.
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