I was thinking back the other day about all the different jobs I’ve had since I started working. And then FB and Rainy Saturday posted about their first fast food jobs and their worst experiences…and I decided I definitely had to write a post about this!
I got my first job at 16, as I remember, at a café in town. I had been looking FOREVER! I applied at supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, retailers, anything and everything. As we all know, it’s so hard to get your foot in the door. But once you get that crucial first job, it’s that little bit easier. I had no experience, bar a local paper run and helping my mum with some mystery shops. But that actually really helped me get the job, because I could talk about the importance of customer service, giving your best all the time and treating every customer well.
I worked on the weekends, bussing into town and spending my day washing dishes, clearing tables, serving food and coffees and helping to close the store. I eventually progressed to working the till and doing food service, heating up and preparing food, and helping to open the store. I actually really enjoyed it! I got paid well – 8.50, vs all my friends on minimum at 7.60 – and I liked the work; even dishwashing, because the kitchen facilities were brand new and super clean. Although I was by far the youngest, and a bit of an outsider being that I was still in school and only worked one or two days a week, the staff were all really friendly. It was hard work at times, but generally weekends were quiet and we got to relax and chat and read bits of the paper throughout the day. I could happily have stayed there forever, conceivably, but business slowed and eventually they stopped rostering me on. It just kinda faded away. Nothing I could do about it.
Then I started tutoring. I also got casual work as a food attendant at Eden Park, mainly working rugby games and other events. I managed to move up at one point and they rostered me on as a supervisor, looking after my own little section in the servery. Not long after that though, I got sick of the work and stopped taking their calls. It also involved lots of really late nights, and I didn’t want to be catching the bus or train at midnight anymore and then walking in the dark. My job basically involved serving people fish, chips and calamari rings. We also did filter teas, coffees, and chocolate bars. It was hard work – we were on our feet constantly, it was hot, cramped and neverending, right from first opening of the gates to half an hour after match end. But we got fed (often we got the gourmet leftovers from the rich people’s boxes…platters, desserts, etc) and got occasional glimpses of the action, for those of us who were into that sorta thing.
I had a stint at a call centre, mainly doing market research with the odd night of telemarketing thrown in. I didn’t find it that bad at all while I was there, but something in me shudders at the thought of doing something like that again. I think I might prefer to do inbound work – but like someone once said, with outbound calls, YOU’RE in control. With inbound calls, you never know what you’re going to get.
What else? I also worked at another local café – this time run by a couple, who mistreated their staff and had insane turnover. I was there for a summer. At the end of it, apart from one other person I was the only waitstaff who hadn’t yet quit. The owners were there every single day, and weren’t afraid to shout at us, try and get us to work 12 hour days, and frequently made our waitresses cry. The one good thing I can say is that I got my first ever pay rise there – from 10.50 to 11.00!
And of course, I worked at the movies one semester break. There were perks. We got two free tickets every payday. And we got to see bits of movies while doing cinema checks. And a free drink on each shift, I guess. But the uniforms were heinous, the supervisors were MEAN and the computer systems were totally shitty. I dreaded working downstairs on the counters because of that. I much preferred checking tickets, cleaning out cinemas and doing rounds. It also meant I didn’t have to deal with popcorn, fizzy drink, ice creams and dealing with different pricing (student IDs, special passes, blockbusters) and R-rated movies (determining whether someone needed to be IDed, working out whether they were old enough to be admitted, etc). The onus was all on us for that – it was one thing we couldn’t get wrong, because the ticket checkers upstairs wouldn’t hesitate to send people back down, and we didn’t get refunds for underagers refused entry to restricted films.
The one thing I’ve learned is how much I appreciate autonomy and being left to work on my own. I hated the rigid structure of some of those jobs. I mean, until I was offered an admin position, every single job I’d ever had forbade us from using our cellphones or carrying them around. Fair enough. I understand that. But I resented it, and like most everyone else, I started keeping mine in my bra or in a pocket if I had one. And I HATED being held to the minute on breaks. When you only have ten minutes for a break, and five of those are spent getting up to the staffroom to get your bag and food and then back down, and supervisors yell at you for taking too long, you’re not going to take too kindly to them.
So although I’ve never worked in fast food (I don’t think I ever applied at any outlets; I was about to apply to Burger King when I landed my first job just in time) I know what it’s like to be under pressure, dealing with grumpy customers and working in a hot, greasy environment. And I know from experience that I vastly prefer being rushed off my feet to being bored out of my skull…cause one of those two makes the time pass much quicker, and it’s not the second one!