08 May 2013

First jobs #BEDM

What was my first job? Well, excluding professional tea and coffee maker for parents and guests a like and being one quarter of a chore-machine - one of my designated roles, without fail, was the putter-awayererrr... yeah, well you make a word out of that then! 

Back to the first job. It was still in that realm in that I worked for my parents in their sub post office and shop. One particularly frequency asked question (FAQ, which I discovered you can, and people do, pronounce 'FAK'. To those people: Stop.) of my school peers was 'Oh, your dad delivers post then?' Ah, you see what you're referring to and the word you're looking for is 'postman'. You're welcome. No, neither of my parents are a postman or woman. They do have pretty cool sounding job titles, though; postmaster and postmistress. 

All four of us worked in the family business at some point and my youngest brother actually still does. My stint started at the age of 14 when my sister went to university and there was a Saturday 'vacancy'. I say that like there was some application, selection procedure or interview. None of these occurred. I was merely informed of my new Saturday plans. My working hours were 9am - 12:30pm, with the exception of summer holidays when it was whatever hours my parents allocated as my torture. I jest. It was a mild adjustment needing to get up 6 days a week instead of the normal 5 school days but then, my place of work was only downstairs so I could often roll out of bed. I worked there for 4 years until I went to university myself. I would also often work during the university holidays, although the eldest of my younger brothers, James was undertaking his sentence by then.

I would actually say that I really quite liked my job. I enjoyed working with numbers and having a great deal of product and systems knowledge under my belt. The customers were, and still are, an interesting breed; expecting you to be open day and night, there to be no queue and you to provide them with every single service they require (reasonable or otherwise). I would have more than the odd customer who would choose to wait for my mom, offering me an 'It's OK, I'll wait for your mom, girl', with a wrinkle of their nose almost like an 'Awww'. Not patronising or condescending at all. Believe me, I won't make a mistake with your money. A large portion of our money for the week would be delivered on a Saturday, ten's of thousands of pounds in £5, £10 and £20 notes which would need to be counted. As a result, I'm pretty good, and fast, at counting money as well as working out change. It's also where I learnt exactly what customer service is; when the new shoes you want depend on returning custom, you get pretty good at endeavouring to make them return.

The downsides of owning/running a post office? One main one really. Robberies. Our post office has been robbed twice. The first time was a Saturday morning, one I was actually supposed to work but being tired, asked for a lie-in. I felt a huge amount of guilt about that but my parents later said they were very glad I hadn't been there. The bottom-feeders got away with a fair bit of money but my parents got away without being hurt; the brick they launched through the glass at my mom's face just missed her. And my dad was hit over the head with a monkey wrench but it was mainly a surface wound (and he's had much more serious injuries). Although, thanks to the blood that had dripped down his shirt, the newspapers reported that his throat had been cut! wtf? My youngest brother, maybe about 11 years old at the time, spotted the getaway car from an upstairs window and quickly wrote down a description of the car and the registration. Sadly, the car was later found burnt out so we didn't catch them but my brother got an award for his quick thinking. The second time I was at university. And I've just realised how many of the other details I have blocked out.

I still regularly use the knowledge I learnt in that job. For a long time, for my friends I was the go-to person for all things post-office related. For the UK readers, some free tips: first class post is not a guaranteed service. Yes, it might get there in ~2 days but it is not guaranteed to do that. Recorded Delivery will give you a signature at the end but if the items get lost, you will only receive £50 compensation, even if your item is £500! If your item is >£50, definitely pay for Special Delivery. OK, end of boring information. Oh, another FAQ; do I get free stamps? No.

I've had a number of other jobs; a nursery assistant, an admin assistant at the Department for Work and Pensions, sales assistant at a few retail stores including H Samuel the jewellers, Debenhams womenswear and John Lewis, menswear. There was the year I was a telephone fundraiser for the alumni charity department of The University of Manchester (despite not being a big phone-chat person) and a Girl Guide Leader (well, I was a volunteer really). 

It does seem the first job a university graduate gets is often referred to or considered as their first 'proper' job. The above are of course all 'proper' jobs, just on a part-time basis. But if you're of that school of thought, my first, real grown-up job is the one I have now; a publishing editor of an applied physics journal.

This month, I'm taking part in Blog Every Day in May (BEDM) and this is day 8.

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