One thing I notice a lot as I look up people on LinkedIn for various business development activities is that very few people stand out as remarkable. While it’s great that LinkedIn has empowered everyone to put their CV online and basically say that they are open to offers, it also makes it difficult to stand out.
LinkedIn is a templated interface which makes it easy to use but I find it interesting that it’s difficult to identify things like hobbies and interests on a LinkedIn profile. These things add colour and give some idea of the character behind the profile. In fact, I’m pretty sure I completed those things for myself at some point but when I looked today, I couldn’t find them!
Anyway, for the day that somebody is taking the time to learn about me, allow me to tell you about some of the jobs and activities that have never made it to my LinkedIn profile. Hopefully they add a bit more colour to the person behind the profile!
- The classic first teenage job – the Shop Assistant: Yes, the job where a lot of teenagers cut their teeth in the world of work. I spent 7 years working part time in a local corner store and off licence. I did all of the usual activities that you’d expect. I mopped floors. I stocked shelves. I reconciled cash. I served customers. I got stuck in to whatever needed to be done basically. But as it was a local shop, I also got to know the neighbours. I got to know who I should hold a newspaper for if they hadn’t been in yet. I got to know the shopping lists of some of the older customers so I could help them get what they needed and then pack their car. It was a lovely place to work. I’ve got a lot of great memories there about some of the different characters that used to come in.
- The coming of age in Ireland job – Bar staff: Growing up I probably spent far too much time in Dublin pubs! My Mam always worked in a pub near my school so I’d be in there to clean up in the mornings before school. Then I’d go back for my lunch. And then I’d often be back there after school. There were always little jobs to be done when I was a child. Collect classes. Clean ash trays. Clean glasses and stock shelves. If I was lucky I got a few quid and a “concoction special”. That meant I got to go behind the bar and make a cocktail of whatever soft drinks I wanted. This usually consisted of a splash of white lemonade, a drop og blackcurrant, a drop of orange, you can see where this is going….all topped with a dollop of cream….in a pint glass…..with a fancy stirrer…..and an umbrella…..accompanied by a packet of scampi fries!When I was older I got to spend time on the other side of the bar serving customers. I loved this. The time passed quickly and you kind of develop extra working memory that allows you to take and work on multiple orders from multiple people at the same time.Bar staff, possibly like hair dressers are the invisible front line in mental health work. People share things with them that they don’t even share with their friends. You also develop this sense of intuition. You get to know people, what they like, when they want to have a chat and when they don’t. And you know when to talk and when to shut up and listen. You also get to know how to talk people down, to turn a conflict situation into something that somebody should go home and reflect on, and maybe they’d be allowed back tomorrow. That’s not easy when you are dealing with an aggressive and potentially drunk person. But these are the things that good bar staff do.There’s always a couple of older men in every bar. You know what they drink and how they drink it. And you know when to get it for them based on a barely perceptible nod that other people don’t see, especially when the bar is hopping!
These behaviours are difficult to measure but are invaluable in any hospitality job. And they are things that I notice when they are lacking. One thing I can say after living in London for three years is that I’ll never again complain about bar staff in Ireland. In Ireland, a bar man (or woman) can take and work on multiple orders from multiple people at the same time. In London, you’ve barely got the name of the first drink out of your mouth and the bar staff are gone to get it. But that’s no use use you want to order 4 drinks and there’s a queue of people behind you! Placing an order can take an age! And then there’s a sense of apathy among some bar staff in London, or maybe that’s the bars I frequent. I don’t know if it’s that bar staff aren’t paid as well here as they are in Ireland but there is a certain sense of pride missing in bar work here. That’s a shame.
I worked in several pubs. I worked in bars in Dublin, in Spain (Molly Malones Irish Bar no less) and in Austria, Limerick Bills Irish pub in Innsbruck (it’s still there). Limerick Bills was basically the first port of call for Irish students looking for some work to pay for digs while studying there! One of the things you learn working in an Irish pub abroad is how much of a hub it can be for the expat community. There were regulars who’d come in from Ireland, England, the US and Australia. I guess it was the one place they could go and speak English. You get to meet a lot of characters and learn about their lives and what they do. But when people are lined up at the bar for a few sociables, it’s a great equaliser. They’re all just people.
If there’s one thing that working in the services industry gives you it is an appreciation for the customer’s experience and thus, the importance of customer service. It’s something that I still take seriously and I really notice when establishments get it wrong, which is a shame, because it doesn’t generally cost anything to be good at customer service. If and when I run my own business, I’d like to make all my staff aware of their own value proposition and their role to play in the business so that they can go beyond just being task focused.
- The seasonal job – flower delivery: Yes you read that right. From the age of 12 right up until I was about 22 I delivered flowers around Dublin City several times per year: the lead up to Valentines Day, the lead up to Mother’s Day and of course Christmas. This job was probably the most fun. I’d get collected for work at around 5am. We’d go to the depot and I’d help the florists by arranging the flowers into piles for them to turn into a piece of art. I worked for the busiest florist in Dublin. Imagine, in the run up to Valentines Day they would literally have orders for thousands of bouquets of roses. So, I’d arrange piles of a dozen roses along the floor. Then I’d add a bit of green for decoration. There’d be hundreds of these piles. And then the florists turn them into something presentable.The next task was to organise all of these arrangements based on where they were being delivered throughout the city. And finally, I’d be out in the van or on foot, delivering smiles!
- Towards something like a career – switchboard operator, postmaster (really though….postboy), administrator … general dogs body, Abbey Travel, one of Dublin’s longest established and most well-known travel agents. When I was a boy, my favourite TV show was Wish You Were Here…? Each week, the presenter generally went somewhere exotic around the world (as long as it was Spain or France), and I loved it. I decided that’s what I wanted to do. Not just the travel, the TV bit an all. So when I was 16, the guy who owned the flower shop where I worked introduced me to his pal who apparently was making a fortune advertising holidays on teletext!
So off I went to work for TravelFinders for two weeks of work experience. It wasn’t that exciting. It was just a room that received faxes from travel agents to add last minute holidays to Aertel, Ireland’s version of teletext.
From TravelFinders I got a Summer job at Abbey Travel, which turned into an after school and weekend job during the year, which turned into another Summer job! When I was there I operated the switch board, I processed all of the outgoing post, I did general administrative tasks and best of all, as the kid in the office, all of the travel agents told me all of the gossip!
- Warehouse Operative, Penny Farthing Bicycles, Longmile Road, Dublin
- Kitchen Porter: Messe Innsbruck
- Volunteer, Arch Clubs and Special Olympics
- Helper, disabled swimming
- Youth Leader, Order of Malta
- Basic First Aid Instructor
So there you have it. I enjoyed putting this list together. It was nice to reflect on some of these old jobs. What jobs did you do when you were younger and what did you learn from them? More than you initially thought I bet!