The Yorker Archives… (World of Work)

Gained a job or managed to scramble up some work experience rather than scavenging off parents over summer? Part-time jobs may be a blessing in the bank, but don’t count your lucky stars just yet…
You will get the awful tasks.
“Junior sales advisor” or “clerical assistant” may as well be renamed “Official tea bitch”. Worst thing is, you don’t even gain Brownie points for it. Running in and out of the office while trying to remember how many sugars Brian in Marketing takes and to only use the cup with the “special handle” for Lynn in Management might seem like a mammoth task to you on your first day, but chances are, you’ll only get a nod of appreciation. Take pleasure from the meaningless tasks to avoid death by boredom- create yourself a little world of The Filing Olympics, hiding out in the stockrooms to lengthen the walks to and from the office, and pretending the mannequins you’re dressing turn into real people when the shop’s empty…
Your boss will be terrifying.
No matter how nice they seemed in the interview; you take the wrong drinks to the wrong table, or forget to ask the customer if they want their purchase gift-wrapped, and they behave as though you’ve simultaneously committed all seven deadly sins. There aren’t any shortcuts to this one, I’m afraid. Whatever the problem, even if it’s entirely and clearly not your fault, suck it up. You’re late because the bus broke down? You should have flown to work, dammit.
You will have to suck up to everyone.
Even if you’re 100% sure that everyone in the office doesn’t know your name, never mind what you’re doing there, everyone has to be your best friend. It’s called networking, apparently. If you’re not smiling manically as you “offer” to clean the staffroom loo, you will never become genuinely liked by these people you resent…
Consider the worst shifts yours.
Working the night shift in what must be a haunted warehouse? Serving angry and vomiting drunks their fill of post-night out pizza and chips at 3am? Got to be at work by four in the morning, despite there being no known forms of public transport even stirring before 6am? I think it’s supposed to be character building, but in reality, it just makes you hate everything.
The people you work with will be the only people you ever see.
Whether you’re in a dated office with everyone at least forty years your senior, or working on a kids camp surrounded by giddy four year olds hyped up on fizzy drinks and Lazy Town; you’d better get used to it. Work tends to take up a whole bunch of time, meaning your plans of spending the entire summer lazing around in beer gardens drinking fruit cider with mates are restricted to weekends only. Make up for this by going to the “work do”. Helping carry your inebriated manager into a taxi will ease the pain of your next telling off, and hearing the guy from behind the bar attempt to rap along to Eminem during karaoke will make his awful jokes that bit more bearable.
There is, however, the major perk of pay days. Though it might seem a lifetime away when you’re wearily counting stock at 8am on a Monday morning, and even if you’re not sure it even reaches National Minimum Wage, there are people paying you to spend time here. Plus, seeing as you don’t have the time to spend any of it because you’re working all the time, it builds up into a nice little lump sum, ripe for freshers week. And who knows, you may find your dream job this way! You’re more likely to find a job that spurs you on to NEVER have to work in this field again, but you never know…

(Originally published 26th August 2011 http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/theknow/7521)

Farrah Kelly

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