• My first job

    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!

  • Not looking hopeful….

    Trying to avoid sinking into a pit of total despair.

    Here’s how it’s been. Search through job sites everyday, monitoring anything new advertised. Figure out if it’s remotely plausible to apply for any of the new positions. Spend an age pulling together a CV/letter trying to highlight any relevant skills/experience, then hit send. Or, call the number, only to be toldthe job is ALREADY gone. Or, get no answer, but keep trying. Once you eventually DO get through, are told they stopped taking calls and answering the phone because they were so swamped!

    You can’t win. You can call the same day a role is put up. It’s still not fast enough! What to do, short of sitting at the PC 24/7??

  • Things you know but just don’t do.

    You know what I mean. Things you know you should do, but don’t. Like recycling everything that’s recyclable, composting food scraps, using your bank’s ATMs only and turning things off at the wall.

    I’m terrible at all those kinds of things (although I am fanatic about never using other bank machines or taking cash advances; the fees are just outrageous!). I’m also thinking specifically about two big things: job hunting and budgeting.

    Job hunting

    It’s one of those mantras you hear over and over. Tailor your resume. Tailor your resume. Tailor your resume. And for God’s sake, tailor your cover letter.

    I haven’t had to jobhunt for myself for a VERY long time. But I sure do remember those days. Mass CV drops and more or less stock covering letter with each. I read all the relevant advice. I saw it, and registered it in my brain, and thought “yeah, sure that’s what I’m already doing”. But I wasn’t! I was maybe changing a verb or two here, a couple of words there, maybe adding an extra line – something generic like “happy to work weekends and evenings”. KWIM? Somehow, I thought that was being clever and tailoring a cover letter.

    When lo and behold, one day it really sunk into me that each letter really had to be THOUGHT about and made really individual, I totally reaped the benefits. I was getting replies from most jobs. I was maybe applying to slightly fewer as applications took longer, but I was getting interview offers. I never used to get responses before that – it was really amazing.

    Instead of taking my generic cover letter template, I was starting afresh every time. This made sure no two were the same and I really had to think about every single sentence. I really read job descriptions and looked out for key words, and tried to address every single skill and quality mentioned in my letters.

    I’ve been doing the same with BF. That’s why each application takes so long. I’m starting with more or less a blank sheet every time. And with him, I’m also tailoring CVs according the jobs. He’s applying for ALL KINDS of jobs, so it’s vital. Jobs in which he has experience in, I’m playing up every single relevant skill he’s got. Entry level job? Reduce his work experience and only briefly mention his duties. Add in his education details. Random jobs, well we take those one at a time and bring any relevant experience or strengths to the front. Me, I’d only ever applied for retail/customer service/hospo type jobs so my resumes were pretty much all the same. My first admin job I emailed in and don’t believe I even sent a resume, nor was one even asked for. That was a lucky break indeed.

    Budgeting

    I was thinking of a budget as a set thing. Heaps of people and books reinforce this mindset with big huge spreadsheets, with monthly or even ANNUAL budgets. That’s too big for me. We’re just beginners. I need to look at the smaller picture – get the day to day stuff under control before worrying about irregulars like insurance or car crap. Our payments are weekly and we get paid weekly, so that’s how I now do it.

    I used to think, but our income varies CONSTANTLY! This is impossible! I tried to make it work. I went off of what  a normal 40 hour week would bring in. I drew up a beautiful plan with amounts for groceries and bills and whatnot. But it just never worked out. I gave up.

    One day it sort of came to me. Budgets need to be flexible. Why hadn’t it worked for me? Why the hell didn’t I just tweak the budget EVERY TIME we got paid, to the exact amount that we had in our account? Instead of moaning about the fact that BF had had one half day and we were short by however much and this screwed up everything?

    Earth shattering stuff I know. But it’s what made all the difference. One of those things I just don’t know why I didn’t figure out/ do before.