We believe in the Power of a Paycheck™ and that it is more than just money — it empowers individuals to express themselves and become the person they want to be. For many individuals, nothing represents the growth and dignity that comes with earning a paycheck as much as the memory of earning a paycheck for the first time in one’s life.

We asked local Orange County corporate leaders to tell us their first paycheck stories, and how those stories shaped the person they are today.

Bart Asner, M.D., former President of OptumCare Southern California

I made my first paycheck as a teenager delivering groceries to seniors in my community; I didn’t get paid much. I worked for tips, but I learned the importance of customer service. If you’re going to receive a tip, it’s because you did a good job.

My first true paycheck, I made in college. I worked for a cardiologist whose office was near my school. I learned a lot in that role because I did whatever was required of me: picking up lunch for him, driving him to the hospital, doing his cardiograms, or doing his X-rays. The more I did, the more he was willing to teach me, and the more he was willing to give me the opportunity to grow. It was wonderful; in fact, it was one of the reasons that I decided I wanted to go into medicine. I got a firsthand look at what it was like to take care of patients.

Rockette Ewell, Community Affairs Manager, U.S. Bank Southern California

I grew up in Texas. My first job was working at Whataburger. I got the job because one of my cousins worked at the restaurant, and they were hiring. Up to the point of my interview, I had never had a paying job other than some babysitting. It wasn’t a great interview, but they were desperate to hire.

I ended up working behind the line, assembling hamburgers for a summer. It was the first time I’d gotten a paycheck. The biggest thing I remember is how much got taken out for taxes, and then having to decide what to do with what was left. Do I open a savings account? Do I go buy something? I was into fish and aquariums at the time. Do I blow it all restocking supplies?

I had to learn how to work with people. For me, this was just a summer gig. This was not my career. For others, this was their career job. They were going to work up to the manager position, or they were supporting a family. This was the first time I remember being consciously aware of my position in the universe. I thought about the privilege, opportunity and education that I had been afforded. For me, that was the most important takeaway because I knew, at the end of the summer, I would be going back to school. I was on the college track. But for other people, this was real life for them.

What is Your First Paycheck Story?

How did your first paycheck shape your life? We’d love to hear from you. Read more first paycheck stories, and tell us yours.

About Working Wardrobes

Working Wardrobes is Orange County’s foremost workforce readiness nonprofit, providing the tools to at-risk men, women, young adults, and Veterans so they can achieve the dignity of work. Founded in 1990 by Jerri Rosen, Working Wardrobes has been serving Southern California for over 30 years by providing assessments, job training, career placement, and wardrobe services to almost 115,000 clients to overcome barriers to employment and achieve the Power of a Paycheck™. For more information, please visit www.workingwardrobes.org.