Since leaving University 4 years ago I, like many recent graduates, have worked in a variety of shops, pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Whilst generally considered to be the kind of job you have during school and studying (part time and easy to fit in around classes and lectures), these jobs are also the main or only source of income for many leaving school and university. They were not the kind of job I imagined, whilst applying for universities, to have until age 25, but there can be no denying that I gained a wealth of unexpected experience from these positions.
However, low wages, zero hour contracts and a constantly changing rota were not at all uncommon, until when I started working at Newman Stewart as an Administrator. I’d never worked in an office before and the differences seemed phenomenal:
1) Flexible working:
To start with, I could sit down. Although not the key factor in why I love this job, not being on your feet for 13 hours straight does have its appeals.
Then there are the guaranteed hours: 9-5.30 Monday to Friday. No more are the 3 hour shifts, the 13 hour shifts, or the split shifts where you start in the mornings, have a quick nap on the sofa for an hour half way through and then finish at 2am.
Now I know when I’ll be working and how long for and it’s far easier, for a self-confessed planning addict, to plan my day effectively.
Then theres the style of work. Rather than standing at a till, scanning item after item whilst still managing to hold a conversation with a customer; or trying to deal with rowdy, drunk customers yelling at you to serve them their drink first from all different directions; or balancing prepping, cooking and plating up food, fast and well-presented, and to be out at the exact same time as a dish someone else is dealing with; now I have data to input, calls to make, diaries to keep up to date. They sound massively different and I am now used to the obvious How on earth does being a sales assistant/bar tender/chef lead into admin work? But every one of these jobs has added something to my skillset that I can use in an office.
3) A confidence boost:
Almost all of my previous jobs have been customer facing and whilst my new career doesn’t entirely lean that way I do get the opportunity to exercise my conversational skills when on the phone to clients/candidates or greeting people that come in for a meeting or interview. A little bit of social confidence certainly helps at those points.
4) Time management:
Having a number of tasks to do in a day and learning which to prioritise and when is made easier after spending countless nights on a bar having to remember who was there first and which drinks should be done in which order (Guinness first; it can settle whilst you make a cocktail).
Balancing and remembering orders on a ticket in the kitchen makes remembering something a consultant has asked you to do whilst youre halfway through another task much simpler.
5) Give a little respect:
Theres also something to be said for the attitude you gain having worked unsociable hours serving other people, some of whom can be a little cold towards the staff. Not only will I never shout at or under tip a waiter/waitress, but I like to think I can be a little more empathetic towards people in general now. You come to realise that everyone has a bad day sometimes. That bar tender that slammed your drink down when you came into the pub 5 minutes before closing was probably on a long shift, is exhausted and had most likely closed down the bar just before you came in. They were no doubt looking forward to getting home and into bed before having to head back to work first thing in the morning. That customer that came in 5 minutes before you closed the bar down might have had an extremely long day at work, and just needed to go somewhere to have a drink and a laugh with their friends to forget the stresses of their day. The person on the other end of the phone, frustrated because you havent been able to put them through to whomever they called to speak to is not angry at you, but perhaps had something important to discuss which is now causing them further stress.
It’s easy to look at previous experiences in life, jobs included, as singular and disjointed; but it can be so much more productive to see everything as connected and an experience to gain something from. They can be a positive influence on your work, social and day-to-day life. So, yes, the jobs I’ve had in the past seem vastly different to my new career, but each one has given me a skill which can be utilised to improve my contribution now.
Author: Jenny Lewis is the Office Administrator for Newman Stewart, an Executive Search and Management Selection company which finds excellent people for excellent businesses and can be found at www.newmanstewart.co.uk or on Twitter @newmanstewart.