Wednesday, 8 May 2013

My first job - BEDM Day 8

I got my first job when I was 16. That's probably old by some people's standards.

Dad had left in the summer and as we came up to Christmas Mum explained that things weren't going to be easy money-wise - it was time for me to go out and earn some cash of my own for presents and going out and for all the other things which are essential to being a teenager.

I don't even remember how I applied for the job - a shame because what exactly do you put on a CV when you've never had any work experience before? Either way I obviously passed whatever test they had and I found myself in House of Fraser in the men's department ready to start work.

It was work as a Christmas temp - so Thursday evenings and Saturdays and Sundays were my working days.

I remember feeling incredibly intimidated by those that worked there full time. Imagine working all the days in the week and getting paid for it? It was the first time that had never really crossed my mind - "work" was still a vague concept to me up until that point but here it was in reality.

I mostly remember feeling bored. Feeling really incredibly bored. If I learned one skill it was that of being able to be completely lost in my own thoughts whilst retaining an outer appearance of looking interested and not as if I wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. God knows how many miles I would walk each shift as I paced around whichever clothing brand's section I was on that day - straightening jumpers and putting clothes back in size order. I'm not sure why I was bothering, everyone else was engaged in idle chit chat - but I was 17 and not with the confidence to barrel up to people and start talking to them straight away.

Being a Christmas temp meant Christmas working and one of my shifts was Boxing Day for the sales. I will never forget the total chaos that faced me as I stood, bewildered in the middle of the department, as clothes went flying past my head as bargain hunters rummaged. It was the one day that I was definitely not bored, my shift never passed as quickly as it did on that day as I was employed in the neverending task of trying to keep the displays tidy as the sale-goers tornado raged through the store.

My best day was January 1st 2000. That's right. The very first day of this Millennium saw me at work. And no, nobody came in. I think I served about 5 people that day. It was also the day I finally found a friend. A guy who had been working upstairs in womenswear who was brought down to the Ground Floor for that day. We spent the whole day talking about nonsense and rolling up carrier bags to store under the tills. It was brilliant.

That day I was called upstairs and told that they wouldn't be keeping me on after Temporary Christmas contract expired. I had had no plans to stay anyway so that probably makes it the only time in my life when I was relieved to find out that my job would be ending.

I look back on my few months there and scour my brain for the life lesson that I must have learned. There has to be something surely? It was my first experience of the working world.

But all I can come up with is that it is incredibly important to double check that you've taken the security tag off people's clothes when you run it through the till. They get really mad when you don't do that.


  1. ha! I know exactly the Christmas rush you speak of! I used to work in a department store when I was at college. People are vicious! And mean. And vicious! And rude.
    I honestly think that everyone should be made to work in retail at a young age - it teaches you how not to treat sales assistants.

  2. I worked in H Samuel and Debenhams womenswear as a Christmas temp but they then took me on. Definitely with the latter came a great deal of boredom. Although, folding was very therapeutic. I must not have put me off though as I then worked at John Lewis menswear as an undergraduate but they are an awesome company to work for! I am in complete agreement with Hazel above; working in retail as a youth as good practice for how to be nice to them! Maybe then some of them won't be so frickin' rude back.

  3. I worked in the M&S homeware department during my first year at uni, including the Christmas holidays. Uck! I still have a massive aversion to pot pourri now. And you're totally right - it was unbelievably dull. Perfecting the art of looking busy whilst daydreaming is definitely a life skill though!

  4. While we are sharing...

    I worked on the Christmas department in Allders. We were once so busy I took a phone call from a customer, went to find out the answer then completely forgot to go back! Oops!!

    When they took me on, I worked in the luggage/menswear dept. the most fun I had was sorting out the size cubes into the correct tub. I have never been so bored in my life.

  5. I loved this post. It brought back memories of my first Saturday job. Now when I moan about having to work at home during the evenings and weekends, I'm amazed to think that I did work on Saturdays and was at school/uni all the week. I'm not sure how I managed to ever get any homework done and have a life.

    But I did meet my husband there so I suppose some good things have come out of it! x

  6. Personally I found one of the most important lessons to come from basically all of my jobs pre-university was that most jobs are utterly dull and it's super important to find something in life that is not dull that you can do as a job. (The one part-time job exception was gymnastics coaching; that was great fun.)

  7. Had a little chuckle at this as I remember some of my first jobs, things I learned- life lessons if you will. Always wear comfortable shoes when walking upwards of 10 miles per day, never argue with a scouser who is adamant they ordered sausage when you KNOW they ordered bacon, and always, ALWAYS check the jam isn't mouldy before you dish out enough for 300 people having breakfast.


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