What I Learned From Working Lots Of Crap Jobs

It’s almost unheard of that you simply land in your dream job straight away. Most of us will have worked through a number of awful part-time jobs, internships, call-centres and customer service roles before landing a foot on the career ladder of your choice.

Even if you are able to get a job in your chosen field, chances are it will be right at the bottom of the ladder where you have to carry out menial tasks, or get bossed around by an awful manager. We’ve all been there and, quite frankly, it sucks.

Going through most of my teens and twenties not having a clue what I wanted to do with my life didn’t help. I seem to have gone through more crap jobs than most, trying to figure out what I really wanted. That old adage about it being character building rings true. Even if there is nothing you like about doing a particular job, at least it shows you that working in that field isn’t for you, so you can cross it off your list. Every grey cloud has a silver lining.

Here’s a run-down of all the awful jobs I’ve done over the years, and how they helped me reach where I am now.

Cosmetics representative

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

image: Pixabay

When? 1999 (for 3 months)

What did I do?

This was my first ever job at the age of 13, and it was for a well-known cosmetics brand, going round the doors of my neighbours and friends.

Why was it crap?

I had to pay for all my own brochures, I had to pay for a branded bag to carry them in, a badge, and any sample products that I wanted to give to customers. Right away I was losing money before I’d even begun. Sometimes in business you make very little return for putting in a ton of effort. I quickly saw that there was no real opportunity here, and that the company was looking to make money from its representatives, as well as its customers.

What I learned:

This was my first real experience of hard work. Up until that point I thought I had it bad going to school for 6 hours and dealing with homework. But with this job I had to work evenings and weekends, so I really learned to appreciate my free time more.

 

Confectionery market stall

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

Image: Smabs Sputzer, Flickr

When? 2001 – again I only lasted around 3 months.

What did I do?

Travelled round to markets and fairs with a confectionary company, and sold sweets and fudge on the stall

Why was it crap?

Seriously long hours – sometimes 6am to 9pm, which I’m pretty sure is illegal for workers under the age of 16. Not to mention low pay (£2.30 an hour) and only two half-hour breaks throughout the day. It was really tough. Also, my friends all thought it was hilarious when they asked what I do – “You sell fudge?! Hahaha!”

The manager asked me to go up north for an overnight stay in a hotel, and this is the point where I left. My mum was worried about a grown man taking a 15 year old girl to a hotel, and reported him to the job agency where I applied.

What I learned:

How to get up really early in the morning. I can’t say I liked it much at the time, but now 6am is my usual get up time in the morning.

 

Department store restaurant

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

Image: Pixabay

When?  2002. I only lasted a month this time, as I received another job offer elsewhere

What did I do?

I worked in the restaurant of a well-known UK department store, where I made sandwiches, washed dishes, and cleared tables.

Why was it crap?

There were loads of pointless rules which still don’t make any sense to me, even now. We started at 8:30, and had to take our morning break between 9:00 and 9:30. The manager refused us drinks from the restaurant, and instead we had to buy cans of soda from a vending machine in the staff room. Then at the end of each shift any leftover food had to be placed into the waste disposal – nobody was allowed to take anything home with them. It seemed crazy to throw away pizzas, pies, cakes.

What I learned:

This was my first experience of someone I consider to be a terrible manager. She had no consideration for the staff, and I ended up leaving for a new job after just one month. Nobody was motivated, and nobody stuck around in the job for very long. In most cases I find the larger the company, the worse treatment of staff.

 

Advertising sales

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

Image: Corey Doctorow, Flickr

When? December 2010. Again I only lasted a month and walked out on Christmas Eve, never to return.

What did I do?

I worked in the advertising department for a local newspaper, where I had to phone local businesses and persuade them to buy advertising space

Why was it crap?

We didn’t any sort of database or phone log , so would phone the same people multiple times each day and piss them off. Also, this was around the time that voucher websites and social media really took off as ways for businesses to advertise. The customers told us repeatedly that they were looking at new avenues. Nobody wanted to pay the crazy prices for print advertising anymore when you could get the same online for free. Our manager refused to hear any feedback or suggestions, she instead blamed us for being terrible salespeople. She was totally unwilling to embrace new technology and what it could do for us. She also used to name me after the Reverend IM Jolly, because she thought my voice was really depressing.

What I learned:

Even if you have been in a job for decades, you still have to listen to what your customers want. Something that worked yesterday might not work tomorrow.

 

Digital Marketing & analytics – Fashion ecommerce

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

image: Pixabay

When? 2013-2014 One whole year, although I’m surprised I even lasted that long

What did I do?

Analysis of website data and email database, as well as digital marketing and email marketing.

Why was it crap?

Firstly my job was a bit pointless, as I produced lots of complex reports which nobody ever read. However that wasn’t really the issue. The main problem was the office politics– lots of different gangs of people who were involved in social activities together who excluded everyone else. Bitching and backstabbing galore. I wasn’t in a group, and didn’t really speak to anybody in the office at all. As a result I was made to feel like a social outcast.

What I learned:

I learned that working in an office environment is definitely not for me. And I also learned a few useful digital marketing and SEO skills which have been helpful with my writing career so far.

 

Coffee shop waitress

Ailie Wallace writer freelance career life

Image:pixabay

When? in 2014-2015 I waitressed for a few months, just to help with some regular income as my writing career took off

What did I do?

Waitressed in a coffee shop, and sometimes helped in the kitchen.

Why was it crap?

I was told from the beginning they were looking for someone who would spend time with the customers and chat to them. However there were never enough staff to cover busy services, and with everyone standing chatting, no work was getting done. I took it upon myself to run around with plates, clear tables, wash dishes, and try and keep the service together. After about six months they decided I wasn’t what they were looking for, and fired me on the spot.

What I learned:

You can’t please everyone all the time; no matter how hard you try. Some people just won’t like you, and that’s their problem.

 

Were these jobs really crap?

Some were, some weren’t. But even with the really crap jobs I’ve done, I’ve always learned a lesson at the end of it, so it wasn’t a total waste of time. Some of the lessons I learned here were hard. Some of these jobs knocked my confidence, and made me feel like I’d never become successful. The only piece of advice I can give here is to persevere, figure out what it is you want, set goals, and eventually you can achieve anything.

Many thanks for reading, and please let me know if you’ve had to do a job that was even worse!

-Ailie x

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10 thoughts on “What I Learned From Working Lots Of Crap Jobs

  1. I love your article as I had some really crappy jobs as well! As student I worked in a company putting Apple computers together. So repetitive… was so happy to be back at school. I also cleaned toilets at the zoo! Not after animals! After kids that usually made a lot of mess. Grrrrr. All these jobs are great experience for life in a way. 🙂

    1. Yes, even though they seem awful at the time, there is always something you can take away from doing awful jobs. It’s just part of growing up. I think the jobs I had while I was still a student motivated me to stick in and work hard, so I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life doing something I hated!

  2. This article is so relatable. I have also done some crappy jobs after completing graduation. Now when we look back I believe that all these odd jobs have helped me in some way or the other. It helped me to figure out my passion and made me a stronger person.

    1. Definitely. Even though it sucks at the time, doing all sorts of different jobs gives you much more life experience and gives you a better idea of which career path you want (or don’t want) to go down. 🙂

  3. Love this! I so can relate to this…the amount of dead end jobs i had to go through before deciding to work for myself! Lol feel your pain, thanks for sharing

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