The Best Career Lessons I've Taken From All My Jobs
It dawned on me a few days ago that I've always been in some sort of job for over 10 years. I've never really discussed things like careers on my blog as I tend to content on this subject a little jarring as how people make their income is an incredibly personal matter. However, when said fact dawned on me it made me realise how important each job I've had has been and all the lessons I've taken from them. So from retail to education, here are the best lessons I've learnt in the past 10 years.
I've worked in many forms of retail from clothing stores to the cinema, it was my first job field I went into when I turned 16. In total, I've worked in retail for 5 years and I'm so glad I've experienced what it's like to be behind the counter.
THE CUSTOMER ISN'T ALWAYS RIGHT AND BEING GRACIOUS ABOUT IT
People who work in retail and make your shopping experience awesome are some of the people that I admire the most in this world. Because customers can be pretty cruel and sneer at the people working behind the counter. I'm sure many of who have worked in retail remember dealing with difficult customers and had to find a gracious way to dealing with being screamed at on Boxing Day when you'd much rather be at home with a tub of quality streets. If there is anything that dealing with tricky customers teaches you it's that having patience and greeting negativity with a smile is one of the most difficult things to do but it's one of the only ways to deal with a tense situation.
NICE CUSTOMERS MAKE YOUR DAY
Something I'm incredibly conscious of is being really kind to the people who are working in retail, especially when it's really busy. I've been in that position and I remember that one nice customer can turn a terrible day around. And being nice to someone isn't difficult, it's always shocking to me that staff are taken aback if you ask them how their day is. The most simple of actions and questions can completely make someone else's day. I will never understand the snobbery about working in retail, making your own money and providing yourself in whatever way is an incredible thing.
MANAGEMENT & STAFF CLIQUES
I've been super fortunate for the most part as I've mostly had awesome managers but there were a couple that made going to work pretty terrifying and speaking to them filled me with fear. Dealing with management staff who aren't nice isn't easy and there isn't much you can do. And I've always found the same goes for staff cliques and general workplace bitchiness. Going into work when you know someone has been gossiping about you isn't a nice thing to deal with. I always thought behaviour like that was left in school but it comes into every single aspect of life, especially work.
Because I'd always worked in retail and knew that world so well I always thought I'd struggle with working in a bar and if I'm in 100% honest it used to scare me. Dealing with intoxicated people terrified me and it still does but working in a bar/being a waitress is a job that I absolutely adored.
HAVING A GOOD TEAM MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
Like I said, I never thought bar work would be for me but when you need a job and that's all that is out there it's what you do. The biggest reason that I liked my bar job so much is because the people I worked with made it so awesome. Working till 6pm-5am is gruelling but when you're in a team who make it fun and make cleaning out gross ash trays somewhat enjoyable you know you've got it good. I never realised the importance of working with awesome people until this point in my life.
YOU HAVE TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
Whilst working in a bar was something that I found pretty fun there were a lot of drawbacks. Having my head yanked over the bar, being grabbed and groped, people trying to pay for drinks with condoms and many more things are all things I dealt with and if there is ever a time where you have to stand up for yourself it's in a bar job. And the security guards aren't just there to protect customers but they're there to protect the staff too and there is nothing wrong with having someone removed.
I interned as a photographer's assistant and at a magazine during at university and it was the first taste I had of the creative working world and it was really eye-opening.
SOMETIMES IT SUCKS BUT DON'T COMPLAIN AND ALWAYS GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
Here's the thing about being an intern, you are at the bottom and in a busy industry you have to be able to get on with things without complaint. No matter how tired you are or rubbish you feel you have to grin and bear it. There are a lot of issues about being an intern but sadly I do think it's one of the only ways to make connections in the industry. And even though it might sound blunt when you've been given the chance to work into a creative job that so many people want you to be super grateful and overly enthusiastic all day. Making the jobs easier for everyone around you is one of the best things to do when you're an intern, you want the team to miss you. And if there is ever a time to go above and beyond it's when you're an intern. Making sure people remember you in a positive way is something that's incredibly important to work more within the industry and get good recommendations. Things like staying late, always being busy, being self-sufficient are all things that can go a long way and make a good impression.
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW IT'S WHO YOU KNOW
The majority of the working world works mostly on connections, not knowledge. It doesn't matter how many incredible skills you have if no-one knows about them then they're pretty much useless. As a classic introvert, I find networking incredibly difficult but it's something that's incredibly important to do. Of course, the likes of Twitter has made it much easier than it used to be but it's also made it harder in a lot of aspects as there is such a huge amount of competition out there.
CLASSROOM ASSISTANT/PHOTOGRAPHY TEACHER
My elder sister is a primary school teacher and I worked with her for half a year after I graduated and I'm so glad I had some experience in the education field.
IT'S INCREDIBLY REWARDING
You know those smug adverts you see on tv about teaching being super rewarding? It really is. But it's also one of the most difficult fields to work in, the hours are incredibly long and teachers aren't paid anywhere near as much as they deserve. However, when you've spent all day with a child trying to explain how to do long multiplication and it finally clicks in their brain it's one of the best feelings in the world.
TEACHING REQUIRES A CERTAIN TYPE OF PERSON
I put together an after school photography club when I was working with my sister and it made me realise that teaching just isn't for me. It's always something that I've had in the back of my mind that maybe that I'd go into later in life but teaching isn't something that's for me. It takes a certain type of person to teach and I have a huge respect for anyone that does but it's not something I can see in my future.
So now we're up to present day where I'm a blogger and a freelance photographer. In December I'll have been self-employed for three years which seems a little crazy and the amount of lessons I've learnt from this stage of my life could probably warrant their own post but here are my best.
THE TRUE VALUE OF MONEY
My parents always brought me up to understand the true value of money and how hard you had to work just to earn £1. But working for myself has made me realise this even more. When you're working for yourself you don't work for minimum wage or an hourly rate and sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you work you might not earn anything. When I started working for myself and was completely in charge of my income it made me realise that saying oh it's only £1 or it's only £3 doesn't fly. Because all those little spends mount up to quite a lot and sometimes earning £3 is incredibly hard.
PASSION DOESN'T ALWAYS PUT FOOD ON THE TABLE
Whilst I'm a big believer that everyone should have one thing they really enjoy doing in life that doesn't mean that one thing should be your career. For example, I absolutely adore knitting but I can't pay the bills doing that. There is a big trend going online about doing what you love and how it will always work out if you're passionate but it's complete nonsense. Even when you're super passionate about something and put your all into it that sadly doesn't mean it will always work out. Passion never always means a paycheque. When you're a freelancer it's never just down to your hard work, a large part of it can often be 'right place, right time'.
YOU ARE EVERYTHING
One of the most difficult things I've found about working for yourself, no matter how incredibly rewarding it is. Is that you are your entire business and you're responsible for everything. There is rarely a team to share the load with and if you're lucky you might have a supportive partner but mostly it's just that one person doing it all. So it's not easy to just switch off and things like taking a weekend off or a sick day are incredibly difficult when there is always a million things to do.
What are the best lessons you've taken away from your jobs?
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