Following on from Katie’s recent blog about her first job working in a florist, and how this shaped her work ethic from a young age, I began to think about my early working life, and what I learnt from it.
Never a work-shy teenager, I was always keen to add pennies to the piggy bank wherever possible. I had two or three babysitting jobs throughout the latter half of high school, did a short stint as a cheerleader for a Second Division football club, and worked in a town centre bookshop on a Saturday.
However, my first ‘major’ wage-provider – the one that would allow me to go on a shopping spree every four weeks – was a popular supermarket chain, who employed me from the age of 16, when I had just started at college. In between studying for my AS – and then A – levels at Greenhead, I spent much of my spare time on evenings and weekends down at Shorehead in Huddersfield gaining skills which, I believe, have stayed with me ever since.
The job wasn’t an easy one to acquire if I’m honest, and I was certainly put through my paces – from an in-depth series of “testing days”, to a rigorous interview process – but I was over the moon when I was finally offered a position in the ‘bread and cakes’ section of the store. I accepted the role, ordered my uniform and from then on became a self-titled ‘bread fairy’!
The job itself covered many aspects, from replenishing the shelves, assisting customers, carrying out stock checks and ensuring the area remained clean and presentable at all times. The requirement to keep the section fully stocked and tidy, is an ethic I still work to. I believe that a clutter-free and spotless working environment not only gives off a better impression to clients who may visit our office, it also makes it much more amenable to my colleagues!
In addition, the fact that I had to wear a uniform and maintain a smart appearance meant that I took pride not only in my work, but in the image which I portrayed. Both these things are still major parts of my working life today – I always take pride in everything I do for a client, or the team, and although I don’t have to wear a uniform, I also would never wish to appear scruffy. Presentation is key in every element of my role at Scriba PR.
I mostly worked on evenings towards the latter part of the week, and usually for much of the weekend. But the double-time rate for the unsociable hours suited me fine, plus I would finish on a Saturday evening at 8pm, meaning I could quickly get changed and head into the bars in town – once I was older anyway. I even returned from university in Newcastle for the first three years to work weekends (and see my boyfriend – who is now my husband!) Although this generally didn’t mean early starts, the late nights after studying all day were tiring, but I loved the financial independence that the job gave me.
I gained a sense of responsibility, and would turn up for each shift eager to please my fellow colleagues and bosses. And for the first time in the ‘real world’, I was part of a team, where my role was a small – yet important – cog in a huge business. Nowadays, I love being part of a team where my colleagues are also my friends, and I think working in the supermarket moulded me into someone who works well alongside others, and enjoys true camaraderie in the workplace.
But for me the most important skill which I nurtured in those five years amongst the bagels and battenburg, was communication. I’ve always been a chatterbox, and with my love from a young age of performing on stage, confidence isn’t something I outwardly lack. However, in my role I dealt with customers of all manners, and had to adapt to each individual one. I would, for example, react very differently to an elderly couple who were looking for something at the other end of the store (going out of my way to take them to the specific location), compared to a smart young businessman who literally would want me to shout the aisle number of a certain product so he could be out of there as soon as possible. It’s the same now in my job – some people require quick direction and they are happy, others need more hand-holding and intricate detail on every element of a job. The skill is knowing how to support each individual client.
Unfortunately, I had my fair share of rude customers, but that’s life, and says far more about them than me. I still maintain a sunny disposition and combat rudeness with a pleasant nature, something that I continue to do (although luckily for me it’s rarely necessary).
Yes, my first job taught me a huge amount, and certainly more than I ever realised at the time. It was an important chapter in my life, one which shaped me into ‘me’, and I will always look back on it fondly. And although I would never want to work there again now, I do miss all those discounted doughnuts…….