Get a job young
I have worked none stop since I was 15 years old. At 31 I’ve now had over 20 jobs. I’ve worked full and part time, in England, abroad, in many different industry’s and positions. Therefore I have more than a little knowledge regarding the workplace environment and jobs in general. With this in mind I would like to share my experiences and hopefully gleam some useful pieces of advice from it all.
I got my first job at 15, working at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. My job was a “Turn Down Girl”, two evenings a week for 3 hours. At 7’o clock I’d report to the Evening Cleaning Manager who would give me a list of rooms that I had to go into, tidy up, close curtains, turn lamps on, turn down the bed cover and place a mint on the pillow. The point of the job was to make the guests feel pampered and that their money was being well spent by returning to a relaxed atmospheric room. I earned £20 a week and that money was spent on clothes, music, make-up and going out.
By getting a job from a young age I found it gave me a sense of freedom and independence. Before my job my parents and grandparents had to give me “spends” from completing chores for them, such as hovering or taking care of my sisters. This was usually a couple of pounds a week. So to jump from that to £20 felt like an enormous sum!
But the financial reward was not the only benefit I received from getting a job young.
In college I noticed the difference between myself and other girls who had never worked. Once I was out shopping with a friend of mine who needed new jeans, when she found a pair she liked she had to call her mother to put some money in her account. I thought this was embarrassing! The poor girl could not even buy her own jeans without talking to her mum. Her life was not her own. It also showed she could not take care of herself and was having to rely on other people to manage her life. Despite the fact she was an intelligent, able bodied girl. This girl later got married young and had children young, she’s had her ups and down in life and I always wondered if she had felt more independent and able to do things by herself would she have partnered up so quickly or would she been just as happy without another body to care of her…at least for a little longer.
In having my own money I also quickly learnt its value and how to budget it. How I could buy one good top for £20, an ok one for £15 and a cheap one for £7 that would last a while but that I could quickly replace and buy other things. This held me in good sted when I eventually moved out of home and had to manage a slightly larger budget with bills and rent money added to the mix.
Having a job at a young age will also teach you a lot about yourself. The good and the bad. In my first job I came across a problem I would face for years. I found it difficult to work with other people that were not like me. At the Midland the girl who trained me was 17, from a rough side of Manchester, had a much older boyfriend and loved to party. In comparison I was very innocent, which came across as naïve and snobby. She wasn’t cruel to me but she made me very uncomfortable and we had little to say to each other-which made me feel very inadequate-something that would take years to overcome!
However I also found out I was a hard worker and well respected by Management for my good timekeeping and polite attitude. Through this I was offered extra work and extra pay. Something that with nice bosses has continued through the years.
Getting a job young will also help you figure out what you want out of your career. For instance I learnt I didn’t want a career where I worked evenings, as I would sit around all day waiting for my job to start. I also found out I liked working alone, that I found it hard pretending to get on with people I had noting in common with and that I liked not being watched by my boss all the time. I could wander around the hotel at my own pace, and they were fine with me as long as all the work was done by the end. That I enjoyed working in a relaxed environment and that I could manage myself and my time easily. All these things helped me chose jobs in the future and made me happy in my work.
Its OK to not know what you want to be at 15
In the last year of my high school the question of what do you want to be when you grow up was everywhere. We took tests, spoke to career advisers and everyone was expected to know what they wanted to be. I always found this very unfair. How can a 15 year old, who has so little knowledge of the world, themselves and jobs know what they want to be! I certainly didn’t and the majority of the people I know didn’t either!
And looking back, I think I tackled my lack of insight quite well.
I decided that no test could force me into any career (one school test I took said I should be a professional leather cleaner!) Instead I decided as I didn’t know what I wanted to be I would try as many jobs and pathways as I could in order to see what I liked.
Being happy in a job is very important to me. This was mainly because my father had always said to me -“to do a job you love is the best job you can have”. But where to start on finding a job I loved. I knew what subjects I liked at school so I decided to studied them in college and then later in university, taking my time to gain more knowledge to enable me to find out what I loved and to make the big decision of what I would DO with my life.
I remember another piece of advice my father gave me on work. We were strolling along a beach and I was trying to decide what I wanted to study at University. I had read a lot of prospectus and two subjects jumped out at me. Law and English. I told my dad I was having difficulty choosing between the two. On the one hand studying Law would mean a more definite career path. There was lots of different types of law, from environmental to criminal, and I could find something I liked to do and hopefully be passionate about and feel I was making a difference. It would be hard but I was very good at learning and remembering facts. I wasn’t very good at arguing so I probably wouldn’t be a Lawyer but maybe a Researcher. Then there was English. I’d always done well in this, especially reading and I loved it. I could read all day. There was no definite path but it would give me a degree that I could use in lots of different fields. I might want to be a Writer, a Critic, a Professor, a Librarian or Teacher, I might want to stay on in university and get a doctrine or leave and travel. I laid this all out for my dad, telling him I didn’t want to be seen like a student slacker who was putting off the working world, I really was trying to figure out the question of what did I want to be when I grew up. At the end he looked at me and said “Do what makes you happy”. At that moment I knew I would choose English Literature.
I have often wondered about this moment in my life. What if he had advised law. What if he had seen being a lawyer as giving stability and financial security to his daughter. Maybe he might of liked the statues of saying his daughter was a lawyer. Choosing to study law at university would also have made more sense to other people who believed you went to university to become something-a lawyer, doctor, teacher etc. Not some vague subject with no definite path. But instead my dad knew that to explore that world and find what you love is better than following a direct path you don’t really want to walk down.
So although education was a part of the way I learnt more about what I wanted to do, it wasn’t the only way. I also had jobs at the same time; for finical reasons as well as to explore the world of work. I worked in several different industries Hotels was the first – where I learnt that although the money was good the people could be very superficial and backstabbing. Then I tried the food industry where the money was not great, the hours long, the work hard, the chef’s crazy, the cooks motherly and the waitress/bar staff a lot of fun! The health industry which was made up of intelligent people (some nice/some not) and some very rude customers. One my favourite jobs were working in holiday/sporting resorts. This was intense work, where you worked, ate and slept on the job, 24/7. But it was fun, it kept you on your toes, I worked with like-minded fun people who were going through the same stuff as me and it bonded us. I really considered working on cruise ships or working abroad because of those jobs.
However education and part time work is not your only path to enlightenment (in the job world). Your Auntie A didn’t know what she wanted to be (still doesn’t) but she knew she didn’t like school and wanted to earn money. She got an apprenticeship at a law firm as an Administrator. They gave her a lot of training and she picked up a lot of skills that could be used in a lot of different jobs. So she took these skills and worked in many places until she found the job and position that was right for her. She learnt what she wanted to learn and took the skills she had to the places she wanted to go.
The cautionary tale to all this advice is my friend P. He didn’t know what he wanted to be. But he knew he liked maths. So he went to university and studied it. However he also liked money so he took the first job he could at 15-working in retail. After university he wasn’t sure what he would do with his maths degree and his job wanted to promote him. So while he thought about his career he took the promotions offered and carried on working there. The years passed and P was trained, promoted and had good money, but he hated working there! Although he was unhappy, he wasn’t willing to leave for the unknown, to take a risk on something new. Now all he has known is retail and he feels its too late to re-train.
I hope one day he gets out and does something he loves but it will be harder for him now then it would have been 10 years ago in his 20’s when he would have been able to jump from job to job and try anything and everything.
If you know what you want – go for it
If you know what you want to be just go for it. There are so few people who know what they really want to be in life that to actually have any kind of clue is a real blessing.
It’s so rare in fact that I only know of one person who had a calling and accomplished it. Your Auntie F. From 5 years old she wanted to be a hairdresser. She played with every doll and human head she could get her hands on. At 16 she left school and walked round every local hairdressers un-till she found a place that would take her on. Now at 30 years old she works at a local hairdressers and does weddings and other events as well as getting further qualification so she can teach hairdressing to young apprenterships! I’m very proud of her as she knew what she wanted and went for it.
However she is a rarity. Not only in knowing what she wanted, but also in achieving it. There have been many others I have known who dreamt a dream but found the reality very different. But I have found it is how these people have handled there disappointment that mark them as people to be admired or pitied.
One person who failed but I vastly admire is my friend C. From primary school he wanted to be an actor. He was in every school play. He joined the local theatre and acted his little heart out. And he was very good. He went to acting school and got a few little jobs. But his big break never came.
However I still have massive respect for him, for he had been realistic about his dream. After college he set him himself 10 years to break it. If in 10 years the big break didn’t come then he would do something else. Well 10 years came and went and C tried as much as he could. But the world of acting is so cut throat that unless you are a mega talent, incredibility good looking or unbelievably lucky it just does not happen. So after 10 years he got a job working in an office that would allow him the time to still pursue his love of acting but this time as a hobby.
I’ve seen the same happen to others. Failed singers, who get after work jobs singing in pubs, failed writers who write daily on their blog, failed musicians who teach lessons and get the band together once a week. Although their big dream never happened, they didn’t let it embitter them, they had given their dream their best shot, knew they had done everything they could, then took the reality of life on the chin and kept their passion, even in some small way.
For the worse you can ever do honey, is have a dream and never even try!
This story is far too common then it should be and is one of the reasons I believe many people lead such bitter lives. One woman I know wanted to be a window dresser in her youth but never even looked into it, instead she consider herself “too dumb to succeed, so why even try”. It took her nearly 20 years to try for anything and that was only because of the encouragement of her family and friends. She got further qualifications in her career, opened her own business and got interested into subjects. Although some of the things she failed to completely fulfil, she bloomed, her confidence rose and she was happier at having tried then she ever was at hiding in the background.
I can understand it for previous generations, whose experiences of life where limited and they did not have the knowledge to even know where to start. For instance my granddad was an amazing artist. He wrote funny poems, loved to paint, he would make paintings for the home that people would come in and gaze at. But he was of a low class background, where being an artist was never an option for him, he had too many brothers and sisters to help support. Also it was worlds away from his own. He didn’t know who to talk to or what options to explore. But know with the internet all this information is at the touch of your fingertips, you can find out about any jobs, progression routes, qualifications. I have always thought that if he had got himself into a job that ignited his imagination more than roofing or factory work ever did he might have been a happier man.
So honey if you have even the smallest idea of what you want to be, don’t let anything get in your way of at least trying for it.
One massive thing I have seen stand in people’s way of reaching for a dream is fear of failure. This is something I will desperately try not to instil in you, as I have learnt from it. One night, as a teenager my parents came back from a parent’s night with high praise’s from all my teachers, especially my Art’s teacher. I was 15 and was in the mist of deciding what to study at college. My arts teacher was pushing my parents to let me study art. She knew I would do well in my GCSE’s (I got an A*) and she knew college art would suit my free thinking style. My parents discussed this with me and asked what I thought! Well I loved art, always had! My family were very good artists (as a hobby) and I found all the artist and different art forms very interesting. I stayed late most night at school to work on my art I loved it so much. I was thinking of taking it along with history and English at college (my other good subjects). The next day my parents came to talk to me and in a very serious voice told me how difficult it was to break into the art world. How millions of people studied it but how there was only a hand full of jobs, so unless I was very talented the reality was I would probably not get a job in it.
Now I love my parents very much and I respect their views on the world. What they said made sense and at 15 it convinced me to drop art. Looking back I wish I hadn’t. Even if I had studied it for another two years at college and then decided to have kept it as a hobby, at least it would have been my decision. Instead my parent’s fear of my not finding a stable job and being disappointed by life stopped me from pursuing something I loved.
There are other walls that people build to use as reasons for not pursuing their dreams. For instance some people need a push (and I will always give that to you). While other people feel held back by other responsibilities, such as family (but I will try to remove these from you). And other’s will forever see the limitations of money and statues as their biggest issue. But if all you need is “a room of ones one” to be a writer like Virginia Woolf, or a car boot and a boom box to become a rapper like Jay-Z then money is only a helping hand and not the be all and end all.
I’m a cling-on.
Not the Star Trek kind. But the kind who battles it out to the bitter end.
Phrases such as ” I can get through this”, “This is just a rough patch”, “If there is a problem I can fix it”, “Don’t let the bastards win”, have always ruled my actions when times got tough. And, while sometimes this has helped me cope with the difficulties of life. I can also see, in hindsight, when acting on these thoughts I have stupidly stayed in relationships and jobs that I should of left months ago.
So why didn’t I leave?
Well for a lot of good and not so good reason.
When bullied at school I was told to just ignore it and carry on. When I was ill, it was seen as being weak and womanly (Northern Woman carry on no matter what) to not go into school/work. I felt shamed by my family when I quit hobbies or lesson “Do you know how much that cost, or time that took etc. etc.?” They being worried I had put no thought into my request or I was becoming a spoiled brat. I also grew up in the age of “You can do anything”. It didn’t matter on your gender or your background. If you worked hard enough you could do anything. So to fail at anything was huge and obviously your own fault. Lastly I was a geeky, awkward kid, praised by my parents and teachers for being so very intelligent. But not knowing how to behave around people. When I was told off I took it to heart and believed there was something very wrong with me -that I needed to fix.
The power my family had over me though was properly the biggest issue to over come.
I remember when I was in my early 20’s and living at home for a while as I saved up some money. The little reception job I had got to make some “easy money”, was becoming very hostile. Everything I did was wrong, everything about me was wrong. I was ignored by my colleagues and my boss (a kindly lady) kept gently trying to push me out the door-I was a wrong fit all round. And I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong or how to fix it. It was making me sick and depressed. So I went to my parents for advice. I wish they had said “well you have been with the company for 6 months, you have worked hard and you obviously have tried to give them what they want-but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Why don’t you start looking for other work, something, anything, to get you out of there and let you still have cash. Its only a little admin job. You aren’t trying to rise through the ranks. We won’t support you financially, as we don’t want you to think you can just quit and we will pay for you. You are after all an adult. However we do support your decision to leave”. That would have been great. To have their blessings as they were letting me quit, but with some dignity. Instead I was told “The earth does not revolve around you. You just need to work harder. Put your head down. Ignore those women. Get in earlier. Ask if there is any other work that you can do. Make yourself indispensable to the boss. You haven’t been there a year yet (The magic time period my parents saw as being able to leave a job). It will look bad on your CV, on your references. People don’t employ job hoppers. Its hard out there to get work.” This advice would of been good-if I hadn’t already been doing it for the past 6 months. Instead I felt shame for even going to them and like a quitter if I had left. So instead, day by day I miserably went into work, taking more sick days as the months went on until finally I was asked to leave.
Nearly 10 years later a more extreme version of the same event was happening. But by that time I had been in positions of power, a had taught 40 plus classrooms full of Pakistani man, I had resolved heated conflicts, I knew that people could dislike you for all sorts of their own bull shit reasons that had more to do with them then you. My confidence and sense of self was a lot higher. But I also now had a home and a partner I was helping to support and I still couldn’t shake my parents sage advice. I had been miserable in my career in education for nearly two years. Breaking down in tears a few times a month and getting sick with depression alot. In the past few years I had change jobs three times. All in the hope of finding a place I could be happy.
But now I had a new boss and he did not like me. He had loved me on the interview, and the first few weeks were good. But as time went on it became obvious we were very different. He liked to work hard and party even harder. He was friends with everyone at work, colleagues and students, he had affairs with some of the male students (while being married to a woman), he would go out all night on long binges, sleep two hours then come into work. He was gossipy, had a lot of energy and was good at his job. But my little home buddy, professional self was just not interested in his social life or his bitching. We both quickly saw he had made the wrong decision in hiring me. He wanted a fabulous girly girl to bounce off – I was not that. So he did the only thing he could think of, he decided to make my working life as difficult as possible, in the hopes of pushing me out. Little did he know I was a cling-on. I was asked to come in early, work late, work over time, work weekends. He kept our joint office freezing cold, I was typing in gloves, scarf and a coat. He sprayed horrid aftershave all over himself and the room that made me gag. He had gossips and chats with all the students that walked through the door. When I asked for a quite room, some warmth, some peace, he told me no and carried on. But through it all I kept smiling. I knew the game he was playing and I hoped I could wear him down by ignoring this new bully, even if it was just for a year. Suddenly it all came to a head. He called me in for a meeting. He told me I was a bad worker and it wasn’t working out. At first I tried to find out what his problems were with me and how I could resolve them. But the more he talked the more confused I became as to what his objections were. (Really he just didn’t like me or my working style and was trying to find a professional way of saying this). He was unimpressed with my solutions. I asked what he wanted. He wanted what I couldn’t give-he wanted someone else. That night I went home and cried. It wasn’t the first time my partner had seen the brunt of my job and I was tired of all this weeping. I shouldn’t be coming home and crying. I shouldn’t be beating myself up. I was fed up of all these men putting me down and telling me I was no good. Work wasn’t suppose to be this.
After our meeting I knew that there was nothing I could do or change to resolve these problems. I knew it wasn’t a rough patch and I knew he was coming to the end of his tether. Being fired was only around the corner. Should I hang on for dear life as I had in the past, or do what I had never dare do before…..Leave? Part of me wanted to stay just to piss him off. If he wanted me gone he’d have to sack me. But even my mum had to admit I was making myself ill. Then I heard the words from her I thought I would never hear “Maybe you should just leave.” I was in shock. My mum thought I should quit. What a relief. I was allowed to quit. She had given her permission, her blessings, I was free. For you see, despite all of my growth over the past 10 years, I was still tied to my parents approval. I took the next day off work to sign up to some agencies and look for work. That night I came home and found a letter from my boss telling me my day off was a step to far, (it was the first I had took) and he wanted to have a meeting with me to discuss my employment.
I went outside into the night air, my partner came with me. I looked at him and asked for the final permission I needed. Could I quit? I would get work as quick as I could (and I did four days later) but he might have to take care of finances for a while (he didn’t). He looked unsure, it was a big change. But he looked into my sad, tired pleading eyes and said yes. The weight literally lifted from my shoulders. I felt giddy. This was going to be the first time I was quitting without another job lined up. I was excited by the prospects.
I wrote a resignation letter your dad collect my things from the office and that was that.
I couldn’t believe how good it felt to throw in the towel. The realisation that there is a actually a lot of power in letting go and giving up was amazing. Pushing yourself to overcome your problems is beneficial-if you find the answer. If not, then YOU CANT DO IT. It can be hard to admit, but when you do its very liberating. Its lazy to never try. And its silly to think you are going to be able to overcome every problem-you are not. Sometimes the best you can do is think “ok I did that, I tried, I fought, but it isn’t working and I need to stop so I can find something that does work”.
Now to find a job I could tell you all the tricks of how to pass an interview (dress smartly, a firm handshake, research) but all these things are universally known, instead the point of this blog is to give you a more personal insight, so instead I will advise you on something it took me nearly 30 years to learn-how to get a job you like.
Now to get a job you like you must do 5 things:
- Be honest about who you are and what you can do (this is hard)
- Have a goal
- Aim for your goal
- Keep an eye on your future
- Have a fall back plan
Unfortuantly point number one takes some people longer than others. Espcially people like me who are very good at lying to themselves but unable to keep up the charade.
Let me explain.
From aged 15 to my mid 20s I got every job I ever interviewed for. Yep that’s right. If I had interviewed for more than one job at the same time I often had to turn down work. Sounds impressive right. Well I was very pleased with myself. Although looking back I don’t think I should of been. For you see one of the reasons I always got jobs I interviewed for was because I knew how to shape myself to suit the interviewers questions. For instance the question “Do you work well with others?” At 15 I knew the answer to this was no. I prefer working on my own. I work harder and better and am more focused. Also when a person irritates me I find it hard to disguise it and I feel fake if I try to hide it, or it can make work uncomfortable. Instead my perfect job would be to manage my own work, talking to people I like, when I like, talking about things I like and being quiet when I wanted to. However I knew if I wanted any chance of getting the job I was applying for I could not say this in an interview, so instead I said yes and pointed out I was on the school netball team to show my team playing abilities (which is true). However when this meant I then landed a job where I had to deal with customers or work daily with people I didn’t get along with I would find myself hating the job. And it wasn’t the fault of the person who had hired me. How were they to know I had reshaped the truth. But I would not see this. Instead I would chastise myself for not being able to reshape myself to fit the job as I had reshaped my answers to fit the interviewers questions. And unfortunately it took a long time and a lot of going through the wrong jobs for me to know what I like and what I most defiantly do not like.
So now, nearly 15 years on from that question being first asked to me, I know try to answer it more honestly and hope the interviewer will appreciate the flip side of my preferred isolation – I can very happily work by myself all day, organise myself, priotise work, manage my work. Furthermore when I see jobs advertising for “strong social skills, dealing with customers” or “in public sector” I know myself well enough to pass it over and know it will suit someone else much better. However it took a long time for me to come to peace with my true self. When I look back over the angst and pain I felt over jobs and job interviews I wonder why I kept banging my head against the wall? Why could I not see the wood through the trees.
One of these difficult times was when I first got turned down for a job. When I got to my mid 20’s I started to realise I could aim a little higher, but in my naivety I thought I would find work in these more demanding jobs as easily as I had in the manuel world. Silly girl. The first job I interviewed for turned me down before I had even left the building!
I had decided my interest in learning and abilities to run a small team meant I could go into teaching. So I left the hotel business to gain some teaching qualifications and some experience of working in the educational world. I applied for an administrative job at RNCM and it was horrid! It was a panel interview which intimidated the shit out of me and they asked me questions I just couldn’t answer. At one point one of the interviewers started to antagonise me (hopefully to see how I managed stress and not just because he was a dick) and I wanted to hit him. I came out of there crying, I was devastated.
However what I now realise is that I wasn’t right for that job and that’s why they didn’t give it to me. They had been too intelligent for me to manipulate by giving them the answers I thought they wanted. They had seen through me and saw I wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t. Not only that but I never would have been right for the job. I would ultimately not have wanted to work for a company that was soo business like. A company conducting a panel interview for a little admin girl job to me is too extreme and a waste of peoples time and money. I ultimately would not have respected them or their business ethic and would have left.
Its a harsh lesson to learn and one that is still difficult to remember and swallow to this day-especially when I really really want the job. But ultimately the interviewer (if they do their job right) knows what the businesses and the job is really like and not just what the job advertisement says it is and will know if you are right for it or not.
This is not a cases of saying “fuck you” to everyone that turns you down. But learning from each experience. Reading the job advertisement is only part of the processes of deciding if you want the job. The interview is also there to let YOU decide if you want it. Remember you don’t have to want every job you interview for. You might change your mind when you walk into the building and know its not right for you. Also you don’t have to take every job that’s offered to you. Just because they think your right for the job doesn’t mean you are. However if after the interview you still think you would really have liked the job but didn’t get it, then ask yourself why you didn’t get it. Was it through lack of experience, qualifications, had you not planned enough, in which case don’t give up and do better next time. But if it was a case that your personality just didn’t suit then don’t ever repremand yourself for that and find somewhere where it will fit.
There are times in your life you will look back on and cringe. Ex boyfriends, the cloths you wore, the music you liked. One of mine, however, is how I behaved in my first job in education. God I was awful. Not at my job. I was just an awful person and in the ignorance of my youth I thought I had just found myself in an awful job.
I worked in an office with 7 middle aged woman. All married, all with grown children. They had all worked at the school for over 10 years and were happy. They liked gossiping about their families, chatting to their husbands on the work phone, taking as many tea and fag breaks as they could get away with and loved Eastenders. At 23 I had a string of boyfriends, no interest in family, had never stayed in a job for more than 3 years, liked dancing, drinking, reading classical novels, watching the latest crime drama on BBC and talking to my friends on messenger. I also didn’t smoke and was up on all the current trends in fashion, hair, jewelry, music, health and hot topics.We were two alien worlds thrown together in one small office space. On top of all this it didn’t help that neither one of was kind or welcoming.
On my first day I was approached by a small burley woman and curtly told I HAD TO JOIN the tea and coffee club. This was an informal club where I was to bring in £2 each week to put into the kitty and once every few weeks I would use this money to buy drinks and biscuits . All of the women would sit around in a large circle drinking tea, eating, talking and and show pictures of their children. All this would have been very nice accept I didn’t drink caffeine or eat carbs. I was young and taking care of my figure. When I explained this to them they thought me strange, but quickly decided this was still no excuse for me not to join. So I was forced to pay £2 a week for something I never used. Needles to say this did not step us up on the right footing.
Then there was Christmas. A time of year when everyone runs around giving each other Christmas cards. As I had been working at the school for only a few months and had still not made any friends I decided I would not waste my small wages and instead take part in the current eco trend of sending e-cards instead. The look of disgust and distain in my fellow colleague faces when I told them this news. Anyone would think I had done a number 2 on their work desk.
Then their was my dress sense. The trend at the time was for short woollen dresses, worn with thick coloured tights and high leather boots. I loved this look and it suited my body well. But when I was pulled into my kindly managers office and told my dress was not appropriate for an all boys grammar school I knew my colleagues had been gossiping about me, and their complaints had reach her ears.
Through all of this hardship did I walk around thumbing my nose at the system and feeding off my rebellion and trueness of self? No! In fact I was miserable. I would walk home from work every night wondering what I had to do to make them like me.
Throughout all my struggles at the school I continued to take refuse in the same mantra. “At the end of the day I am just going to be me. I’m not going to change myself for anybody, and if they don’t like me for who I am then there friendship isn’t worth it. I am not at fault, its them who has the problem!”
At least this is what my generation had been taught by every TV show and children’s book I had seen or read regarding peer pressure. Slogans such as “If we were all the same wouldn’t it be boring” and “the world would never advance if we all stayed the same”. By sticking to my true self I had been told my reward was to be to surrounded only by people who loved and understood me, who would allow me to flourish and never judge or squander my talents-at least that’s what I had been told. However what these books and shows didn’t tell you, is that these rules don’t apply at work-or at least not all work places. (But we will come to that later)
Looking back at my 23 year old self my work colleagues had every reason to dislike and gossip about me. I gave off a very grand and snobby air. I was too good for their tea and chat, for Eastenders and family affairs. I had rejected them and any possible friendship.
I was only planning of staying in the job for a year. It would not have killed me to join in with their coffee breaks, to have had the odd cake. Yes I might have had little to say in their conversations but I could of listened and asked questions. Buying a cheap box of Christmas cards would not have broken the bank. And I was at work, not out for lunch, a pair of nice pants and a shirt would not have disfigured me. All in all I could of been more friendly, welcoming and agreeable
Instead I put up walls so as to create my own little zone. Which I imagined was safe and in which I could get on with work by my self.
I was wrong.
The repercussions of not adapting to my environment hit me several months in. I was given all the hard jobs, if I was extremely busy I was offered no help, when I was having a slow day and went on MSN, they gossiped about me, until finally they reported me to my manager…again.
She was less then impressed, this being the second time she had to speak to me. When I explained I only did it during times the other ladies were on their breaks (teas, fags and phone chats) she dismissed my justification and never question the women on their break time activities. She also sacked me. It was completely unfair. But work is unfair. Work colleagues who are also friends will get away with more than others. People who have worked in the same place for a long time get away with more then newbies. Work is a gossipy land, where any little mistakes can be blown up into a huge drama. People who sit and stand around all day board and unmotivated love to find something to bitch about, and that something can easily be you.
So my advice to you, is if you find yourself in the same situation, from minute one of day one seek friendship from your fellow colleagues and in return they will offer their protection and help. In all my jobs now I offer to make people tea and coffee (even though I don’t like it), I join in on the work nights out and activities (even if I’m tired and want to be home), I send out Christmas cards and bake cakes for my colleagues, (even though it takes time and money) and I fain interest in their lives and ooo and rrrr over their holiday snaps from wales, (even though I have no interest). All this is the bullshit attitude we adopt when at work. They are only small sacrifices and they allow us to have a much more friendly environment, which makes people work better together and cover for each other as well.
I don’t believe by adapting to our surroundings you become any less of a person. In fact I think it has made me more polite, friendly and kinder to my fellow man. It has also made me realise that I have friends who know me for who I am and I also have work mates who have no interest in knowing the real me, but will love me if I make a cup of tea.