5 Life Lessons I Learned from Working in a Bakery

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

When I was 15 I got my very first job, working in a bakery. I spent my time after school and weekend mornings selling fresh bread, beautiful pastries and cakes, and warm doughnuts.

Sure, I learned the difference between Italian and semolina bread, how doughnuts are made, and the beauty of fresh pastries. But the best things I took away from that job, though I was too young to realize it at the time, were lessons I’ve carried with me every day since.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

1. I stopped relying on a calculator, and it changed my life.

The first time I found myself without access to the register during the Saturday morning rush, and had to figure out change in my head, I was at a complete loss. I’d spent so much time relying on a calculator, I couldn’t figure out simple math. It was disappointing, and I felt so embarrassed.

But it made me learn, and learn fast. I put away the calculator, stopped using the register to figure out change, and it changed my life.

2. Not all bread is created equal.

One of the greatest perks of my bakery job was taking home a fresh baguette or hearty country loaf every night. I was spoiled with good bread on a regular basis. Though, I didn’t really become aware of this until quite some time after leaving my job, and coming face to face with a cheap, low-quality baguette. Good bread makes a big difference and goes a long way!

3. The importance of time management.

Now, the thought of going to school and having a part-time job sounds like a total breeze, but for my teenage self, it was a big lesson in time management. I’m certain I didn’t catch on right away. It probably took a late homework assignment or two, or a test where I was ill-prepared, but I learned how to plan and manage my time. And eventually, the more I had on my plate, the more efficient I was at managing my time.

4. Everything is good, in moderation.

Having a sweet tooth and working in a bakery where you’re encouraged to sample everything has the potential to be a recipe for disaster. I quickly learned (the hard way!) that like many things in life, dessert is fantastic, when eaten in moderation.

5. Ask for what you want.

While my job was in the front of the shop, I was constantly drawn to the kitchen. I was always curious about what was being baked, how it was being done, and more than anything I wanted learn the ways of the cake decorator. I eventually worked up my nerve (which took a while!) and asked if he would teach me. Guess what? He was more than happy to let me spend an afternoon in the kitchen, and let me try my hand at cake decorating.

I still can’t decorate a cake to save my life, but from that point on, I knew that when I wanted something, I had to let it be known and ask for it.

What’s the best life lesson you learned from your first job?