My first job was a volunteer job when I was about 12 or 13. I had big ambitions of becoming a vet, so I helped out at the local vet surgery a couple of evenings a week.
Looking back, I cannot believe the amount of responsibility handed to me and the other girls who were all around the same age as me. The vet lived in a different town, and had a surgery there before the one we helped at, so we had keys and we would open the surgery, get things ready and be on hand to sell pet food etc before the vet arrived.
These days, we’d most likely be robbed for the drugs and money but just 20 years ago, cliched as it sounds, it just didn’t happen and no one batted an eyelid at us being there alone. Once surgery started, we’d help hold animals down, help take pulses, make up prescriptions and sometimes comfort owners when their pet had reached the end of the road.
Writing this now, I can see that I was a pretty well-adjusted teenager to be able to do this and not to freak out at things like helping put dogs down and then sitting in the car with their dead bodies in bing bags, waiting for the vet to take us home. I really loved animals though and wanted to learn as much as possible. I’ve probably got my years there to thank for being level-headed and calm in a crisis now!
One of my tasks was to visit an elderly lady on my way to work a couple of times a week and administer injections to her diabetic dog for her, as she had arthritis in her hands and couldn’t manage it herself. Another big ask for a 13 year old, but one I took in my stride. I’m impressed with myself now, thinking back!
A boy in my year at school came to help out for a bit on work experience, and didn’t show up one evening. When he still wasn’t back the following week, the vet made some calls and discovered that his little brother had been run over by a steamroller – always sticks in my head!
After a few years, I went off the idea of being a vet and decided that I needed a job that paid actual cash, so I stopped going to the vets and started working in the gift shop at the Magnum Leisure Centre in Irvine for the princely sum of £1.50 an hour. There was no stock control whatsoever and I was always there by myself so I am pretty sure I made up the prices and pocketed the difference – I had to keep myself in cider and CDs somehow!
I’ve had a very varied work career ever since, including loads of bars and restaurants, a vintage clothing store (where the discount was ace but the owner was a total dickbag and told us off for not dancing whilst we worked), a Christmas at the Warner Bros Store greeting customers whilst I wore a series of wacky hats, the MoD, Strathclyde Police, stock-taking at HMV, a restaurant in Guernsey (where I made up a death in the family to escape the island), a web hosting company in Bangkok… I’ve seen a lot in my time!
I think this experience though has equipped me with a sense of humour, a really good and broad general knowledge of business and a great eye for detail. I can placate a customer before they know they’re even upset and I can do it all with a cheery smile, even if I am swearing under my breath. But if it wasn’t for that first job, I am not sure I’d have developed those skills. Maybe I should have stuck in at school and became a vet after all.
I’m blogging every day in May as part of BEDM. Find out more here.