Drowning under a mountain of paper – Photo Courtesy: Christian Guthier
When you enter the world of work, thereâ€™s a good chance you wonâ€™t immediately land one of those cushy graduate jobs. Most of us, once we finish university, have to spend at least a couple of years working some of the worst jobs imaginable. Poor pay, terrible conditions and thereâ€™s a good chance that somewhere along the way, somebody will squeeze your bum without your consent.
To prevent this period of your life from being a total waste, it is important to look around you, take in your surroundings, and see what important life lessons you can learn from the experience.
Of course, learning from your experiences is hard, especially if itâ€™s experience had doing really tiring minimum wage work. So to save you the trouble, hereâ€™s what you can learn from some of the most horrible jobs available.
The Service Industry: The Customer Is Never Right
Whether itâ€™s a bar job or waiting tables, if you have ever been involved in giving food and drink to people – especially drink – you will have learned this important lesson. Customers can come in various shapes and sizes and most of them are terrible. There are the drunks who are so in love with what a great time they are having, they figure everyone in a three mile radius wants to hear them shouting about it. There are the people who will walk in and demand the strongest booze you have, as if you should be impressed. There are the people who think that because youâ€™re paid to work in a pub or eatery, and they are paying to have food or drink there, this somehow makes you their servants.
Regardless of exactly how they are the worst person in the world, these people will try and negotiate with you on anything and everything; the closing time you are legally obliged to shut by, the cigarettes they arenâ€™t allowed to smoke indoors, the 17th pint that they arenâ€™t allowed to drink because theyâ€™re having trouble staying on their stool.
The lesson you should take from this is that from now on, whenever you are in a pub, bar or restaurant, the staff are always right. Every time. No matter how unreasonable or arbitrary their rules seem, no matter how sober youâ€™re absolutely certain you are, itâ€™s safe to assume the staff know what theyâ€™re talking about because they have drunk far less than you and also, they prepare your food and drink. You donâ€™t want to annoy anyone who does that.
A Call Center: Everyone in Call Centers Is Terrible
This job teaches you almost the reverse of working in the service industry. If you work in a call centre, whether youâ€™re making cold calls or fielding customer service complaints, you quickly learn that every paranoid fantasy you ever had about the people on the other end of the phone is true. There are rude hand gestures, funny faces, making fun of the customers between calls. Itâ€™s true of pretty much every call centre there is, apart from maybe the Samaritans.
Of course, bar staff are exactly the same when youâ€™re not looking, but while bar staff deal with you when youâ€™re at your most annoying, and only really have power over your access to booze, call centre staff are often in positions to make a very real difference to your finances, holiday plans or worse.
Fortunately, call centre work also teaches you how to navigate the minefield of whims and rules that can turn call centre staff into someone who might actually help you.
Data Entry: Nobody Can Make You Care About Work
Possibly the most mind-numbingly dull job on this list, and the job that sooner or later everyone will have to take to cover a particularly skint period. Data entry just involves typing figures into spreadsheets or data bases. Itâ€™s typing, pure and simple. Now boredom isnâ€™t much of a problem. Most jobs that are this dull are also jobs you can zone out of pretty quickly to start thinking about more interesting things.
However, if you do enough of those jobs, youâ€™ll eventually come across the manager who wants you to care about your work; your work being typing things into boxes. They may describe themselves as a â€œTeam Leaderâ€ and start giving you â€œTargetsâ€ and maybe offering an employee of the month position. It may even translate into real prizes (although thatâ€™s unlikely, considering what theyâ€™re paying you).
What you can learn from this is that you simply donâ€™t have to care, even if your employer wants you to. Oh, you have to look like you care in job interviews, and hopefully one day youâ€™ll find a job you can genuinely care about, but if the activity in front of you is boredom incarnate, nobody can force you to find it exciting and fulfilling.
Factory Work: Daylight and People Are Important, Beware the Force of Habit
Factory and warehouse work can take on a variety of forms. Sometimes itâ€™s carrying things from one place to another. Sometimes itâ€™s hammering things together. Sometimes itâ€™s just looking at things to make sure theyâ€™ve not come out the wrong shape or color. Itâ€™s a great place to learn the same lessons you learned in data entry, but this type of work can be an education in a number of other ways.
Firstly, most of the factories and warehouses youâ€™ll find yourself working in will not have windows. The lighting will be from fluorescents, and if you find yourself working day or night shift wonâ€™t really matter because inside the building youâ€™ll lose all sense of time. Secondly, youâ€™ll spend most of your time in these places working on your own. If you spend a long time working on your own, without even a window to look out of, youâ€™ll find out very quickly how much that screws with your head.
Finally, thereâ€™s one last lesson you can learn from factory work. While youâ€™re there, youâ€™ll meet three people: The person whoâ€™s just started there after finishing school whoâ€™s just doing this to hold them over until they find something better, the person who started there a few years ago after finishing school, and meant to find something better, but is still there, and the little old lady whoâ€™s been there since she was a nipper.
Force of habit is a really powerful force, and itâ€™s all too easy to convince yourself youâ€™re only in a place for a short amount of time, and then discover youâ€™ve been there for years. Decide what you want now and work out what you have to do to get it because the alternative is staying where you are – forever.