You’re going about your daily business and suddenly your memory whisks you back decades to a time when you were just starting out in the working world and the concept of financial freedom was almost entirely centred on your H&M/HMV-based spending power.
It was a simpler time, but also a far worse time, given weekend and summer working conditions in the types of businesses where first jobs are prevalent were a lot less enjoyable than your typical marketing agency in 2019. Looking wistfully into the past, here are some of our staff’s worst first jobs, and some lessons learned.
I had a job as a teenager washing up in a little local restaurant in Hunstanton. With pay starting at £1 per hour, I slowly progressed to cooking and then waiting, 12-hours a day, six days a week during the school holidays.
However, the education in music culture I received for free (Dr Hook during the week and classical on Sundays to accompany the roast) wasn’t enough to make me want to continue working there on the heady, £2 per-hour wage I had progressed to. When I asked for a pay rise, I was told I was taking the piss!
I worked as a customer service assistant at a service station Burger King on the M40. The only thing it taught me was that I never wanted to do a job like that again – quitting was one of the highlights of my adolescence.
Other candidates include:
- Mailroom assistant at the National Grid (I once fell asleep for an hour and nobody noticed).
- ‘Lawn technician’.
- Dish washer at The Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise in Canada during my student placement year. I did one shift that was easily the worst I’ve ever experienced – I would rather do a year’s work in any of the above roles. I still have a cheque for the $6 I earned after accommodation expenses were taken off.
I once worked at a café and had to clean up after a rather poorly old lady during an extremely busy 1940s weekend. She felt dizzy and someone sat her down right in front of the counter. When she stood up and we saw what had happened, everyone looked at me because apparently, I have ‘I’ll gladly clean up human waste’ written across my forehead.
My worst job was doing night shifts in a milk testing laboratory, where I had to spend all evening in a facility loading up racks of test tubes onto a testing machine which looked like something out of a nuclear bunker, all while wearing a ridiculously oversized lab coat and hair net.
It taught me that I look terrible in a hair net, and that if you hold a test tube cap between your thumb and middle finger and flick in a certain way, the cap flies like a missile across the laboratory and can really annoy the lab supervisor. The thing I remember the most was the smell of decomposing milk, that would really get to the back of your throat. Thanks to this great chapter of my life, I occasionally have nightmares of waking up in a bath of milk!
Working at a telesales insurance business on the phones, I tried to sell Suzi Quattro identity theft insurance. She said that she didn’t need it, as it would be extremely difficult to steal her identity. Lesson learned.
During college, I worked at a garden centre café on the outskirts of my village. It was an unrelenting hell dealing with uppity boomers and strange garden centre folk, and I’d love to see a percentage stat of how often I turned up hungover.
It taught me the life lessons that anyone can become a manager irrespective of skill, and that terrible businesses can survive in a strange, zombified state as a result of a lack of local competition. Safe to say, I’m glad things worked out.
Back in the day, I worked for a company that built and refurbished electricity pylons. My job was to deliver supplies to the sites and help with winching equipment up the pylons. On one occasion, after the men working at the top of the pylon had lowered something down, I grabbed the rope and had a swing around. The team at the top saw this and thought it would be a laugh to start pulling up the rope. I laughed too at first, thinking they’d quickly lower me back down. They didn’t.
They kept pulling, and I kept rising. I looked down thinking I’d better let go and jump but quickly realised it was far too late for that. Hanging on for dear life, I shouted a string of expletives demanding they lower me back down; but by that point, they were wetting themselves laughing and merrily continued winching me up the tower. Letting go would have caused either broken legs or death, and that thought kind of stopped me from enjoying the view whilst I continued rising.
I was over half-way up the tower before they (still laughing like hyenas), stopped and slowly lowered me back down to earth. To this day, I’ve no idea how my arms held out, but the experience did teach me a valuable life lesson: Don’t let yourself be pulled up a pylon by bastards.
At Fox Agency, it gets better. Want to make happy memories working in the den? Check out our blog page for new job listings or contact our team with a CV and cover letter.