So many people disagree on this topic, but I feel like it’s one that needs to be brought up – then again, the best conversations to have are often the ones that many people disagree about.
I got my first job at the age of seventeen by applying online, working as a hostess at Wembley stadium. My second came in the same year during dinner out with my parents and overhearing the landlady of a pub complain about how they needed extra help, so I offered to work for a couple of days a week. I stopped working at the pub after school finished and I stopped working at Wembley last year after becoming a bookseller at my third, and current, job.
There are a few things I want to say about the topic of teenagers having jobs, and by teenagers I mean from the age of sixteen up. It’s at this time where you actually learn about the ‘real world’ and the true meaning for working for something. I mean, sure, you can argue that working for grades at school is the same thing, but let’s be honest – nothing quite hits home like getting your first paycheck after working your arse off at a job you may or may not like. You learn about people from all walks of life, far more than at school (at least, that’s how it was for me), and, maybe more importantly, you learn how to tolerate these people. There’s nothing worse than having to serve or work with an utter arsehole, but you have to learn to keep you calm and just get on with it. You learn to appreciate people more – no longer are you going to be that awful person strutting into a store only to bark out orders to employees there like you own them, because you know from experience of being that employee that those people are the worst people.
Maybe I just want everyone to work in retail for a week so I won’t have to deal with those people. Oh well, a girl can dream.
The main argument I hear is about how teenagers in school need to focus on their studies, not worry about having a job and earning money. In many cases, some teenagers are lucky enough – and I was one of them – to have parents who are able to support you. Having a job was not a necessity for me, but for some it was an absolute necessity. There are so many children and teenagers and, hell, anyone, who studies for school or a degree or any kind of exam, and does bloody fantastically, as well as having a job. It can be done. In fact, having a job on top of everything else means that you’re forced to sort your life out and prioritise getting work done. Last year, before I started working every weekend all weekend, I did absolutely nothing with my weekends unless I had a shift at Wembley. Saturdays I would sleep as long as possible, shuffle to the kitchen to rummage around for food and a cuppa, go back to bed and read, maybe take a nap, then repeat. This year, however, I’m having to sort out my schedule to make sure I have time to get all of my university and journalism work done in time. No more kicking back after uni if I finish late, I need to read all of these articles and take notes and read these books (not for pleasure) and get these essays planned and written and god knows what else.
It’s interesting, really, talking to teenagers in school who have jobs and who don’t have jobs. It’s all well and good if your child is poet laureate or if they’re the star of their school play, but after applying for university that normally means absolutely nothing to everyone else. So what? You don’t really know about proper work. Great if your parents can buy you cars for your 17th and flats for your 21st, but do you know what it’s like to work a nine-hour shift pulling pints for rowdy blokes making crass innuendoes about how to ‘give a good beer head’? (Spoiler: it’s crap) But that’s the sort of thing you have to learn to deal with. You need to work and bust a gut doing work for awful money. You need to see that nobody cares what your mummy or daddy earns or who they are. You need to try and do something for yourself and earn your own money for yourself.
One comment I get is how I’ve been ‘so lucky’ with my jobs, as if I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, standing around with my arms wide open ready to catch something falling from the sky. Many people get jobs, again, because of their parents, and they’re not jobs involving pulling pints in a grotty pub I’ll tell you that. I worked hard to get my jobs. For the hostessing, I researched online and applied for loads of different jobs. When my profile was given the thumbs up, I kept my details updated, emailed incessantly about when I was free until they gave me some work. With the pub, I put myself out there and offered to help. The temptation to just not say anything was right there, but instead I marched up, unapologetic for eavesdropping, and offered myself up like a lamb for slaughter. (Honestly, it felt like that after working there a while). I left my details, took their number, called when I didn’t hear anything. Finally, with my current job, I applied online as well as going in store to hand in my application, managed to do well in my interview and get the job. It’s going the extra mile, not sitting back like the world owes you something, waiting for that job to fall out of the sky straight into your lap.
It’s obvious that I wasn’t too fond of my first two jobs – honestly, there aren’t many people who were fond of their first few jobs. I dealt with having my bum pinched, having crude comments flung my way, smelling like grease after work, having to massage my feet after wearing heels for nine hours, learning to not burst into tears when someone insulted me.
When you’re a teenager, you need these things – you may think you don’t need them, nor do you want them, but you do. You learn to tolerate people and, more than that, understand them. You learn what working for yourself is really like. You learn to follow rules not set by your parents and putting in the extra effort in the hopes of getting some praise and maybe a promotion.
(I’m not even joking, this gif is from a site called ‘I hate working in retail’ – COME ON NOW)
Hell, I’ve perfected my fake smile and laugh, which have come in handy many times. My favourite thing about my jobs though? The people I’ve met. The same people who will listen when you tell them about this customer who told you ‘stop being silly’ or that one customer who said ‘I bet daddy pays for everything, doesn’t he?’ (Yes, because that’s why I’m here, working, serving your pretentious arse), only for them to reply with awful customer stories of their own, of how someone snapped their fingers at them or those blokes who took a selfie with their bums.
Those people? Yeah, they’re the ones worth knowing.