The Elgin Avenue is coming up to its fifth year anniversary in January 2016. The blog has become a huge part of my life, and believe me it’s feels like a gift that a hobby I enjoyed so much has evolved to become my occupation.
A lot of The Elgin Avenue’s readers are women, much like myself, in their twenties, late teens, or even further. During these years you may be studying, or entering your first job positions, and perhaps it’s tricky to see how the position you are in now, will lead to where you want to be.
Prior to starting The Elgin Avenue, and during its earlier years, I held down a number of job roles; each of these contributed to where I am today, and the person I have become. I thought it might be fun to share five of the jobs I’ve had, especially the ones which you may not necessarily attribute to what I do now!
All experience is good experience.
. 5 Jobs I Had Pre-Blogging .
Job #1 | Wig and hair extension sales assistant, concession in Debenhams.
Age | 16
The Experience | I started this role on my 16th Birthday – the legal age you can work in a store in the UK. I was so keen to earn a little money, and work in a shop . . . the gateway I thought to working in fashion.
Wigs and hair extensions nine years ago, were not what they are today. We barely sold any, (thank the Kardashians et al for modern demand) which meant that the ones we did have on display, I brushed so often that the hair actually began to fall out.
The stall was pretty tiny, and I used to hide behind it and try to revise for my GCSEs. Eventually the company went bust and I moved on.
What I learnt | From this very first job role I got accustomed to working weekends, turning up on time, having some responsibility, interacting with customers, and earning my own money. I learnt compassion for people that were self conscious about their looks (some of the women we had visit the stall had lost their hair through illness) and how to make people feel comfortable in a situation which may not feel natural to them. I also learnt exactly how long cheques took to cash as I was always paid in cheque. And how to operate a fax machine. Like I said, this was nine years ago . . . !
Job #2 | Miss Selfridge sales assistant.
Age | 17 – 20
The Experience | During my interview for Miss Selfridge, my soon-to-be boss asked me to style three outfits for different occasions. I couldn’t believe this was a job interview, all I could think was “this is the most fun ever!”.
I stayed at Miss Selfridge until I left my hometown of Southampton for University, it was the most amazing job to have found as a teenager and I would recommend anyone who is looking to explore fashion as an industry, to seek out a retail role.
What I learnt | That fashion is a commodity, and that all sorts of people buy in to it. Every week we would witness which products sold, and which trends worked well.
Part of our job was keeping on top of trends, and so we all actively sought out interesting articles, people-watched like mad and got to know our stock, and the stock of our competitors. Although this was a part-time role, it formed so much of the knowledge I have now, about retail and the fashion industry.
I also met some incredible friends, and really learnt what it is like to be a part of a team that look out for one another and have fun! I had my first drunken night out with the Miss Selfridge team. The funny thing is, when you work part-time in retail, often the other sales assistants are students too, you never know when you paths may cross later in life, and in fact some of the brands I work with now are led by friends I met at Miss Selfridge!
Job #3 | Waitress, La Cantina Mexican Restaurant, Southampton & subsequently Le Cochonnet Pizzeria, London.
Age | 18 – 20 & 20 – 24
The Experience | I L-O-V-E waitressing! If you’re somebody that likes people, like me, then waiting in a restaurant, or bar tending, is the most fun. My time as a waitress in Southampton, was spent in one of the busiest restaurants in the centre of town. The customers were great, the food was so scrummy, and I learnt how to graft like a mad thing. Waitressing will keep you fit.
In London, waitressing led me to meeting some of the best girlfriends I have – my fellow waitresses. Again much like retail, we were all teenagers, or in our early twenties, subsidising the career paths we were following with waiting tables. I met The Elgin Avenue’s London-based photographer Lea, through waitressing, my best friend and now top makeup artist Charlotte, and so many more interesting people I have since crossed paths with again.
What I Learnt | That waiting on tables is seriously hard work, and that it is also awesomely fun. You are part of people’s social plans, therefore they’re already in a good mood (hopefully!) when they get to you.
Chose your restaurant or bar wisely – try to find a location where it is likely that you will meet interesting people, and people in a similar field of work to that which you would like to work in.
Also – be nice to the chef, the kitchen rules.
Job #4 | Housekeeping, my parents’ B&B.
Age | 19
The Experience | Within a few months of knowing one another, Oli and I decided to head to New York. I was so excited to explore this incredible city, and knew that I would need extra money to spend in Abercrombie.
For a few months in the lead up to New York I was a cleaner at the B&B which my parents own. The building is three floors, and has a dozen rooms. If I thought waitressing gets you fit, cleaning for hours a day seriously works you out!
What I Learnt | Tenacity, and the need to graft for something that you really want. I was working at Miss Selfridge as a sales assistant, as a part time waitress and as a cleaner at the B&B all at the same time to earn some money for that trip to New York.
I also learnt in this role, that every faction of a business leads to its success. You may be working in the most-grafting, least glamorous position in a company, but people will notice your hard work. It pays to learn the ins and out of a business from the bottom up; it is one of the reasons that interning is still so important for gaining experience.
Job #5 | Office Temping.
Age | 18 – 20
The Experience | By the time I left college, I was none the wiser about what I wanted to study, and so I took two years to figure out life. A bit.
I needed to earn money, and didn’t fancy waitressing full time (too tough!) and so I applied for a temp agency. I worked for a whole host of companies – a football club, a marine engineering office and more that I can’t remember right now.
What I Learnt | When temping, you can find yourself anywhere, and you may just fall in to a position you really love. Having good administration skills – typing, being able to use spreadsheets and answer a phone politely – can get you further than you’d think.
My sister actually ended up working for two of the companies she has temped for over the years. I even landed in a marketing role for a short period of time which gave me an insight in to the industry I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Temping is a great way to support yourself financially, develop your office skills and potentially meet a new employer.
Over all, I want you guys to know that everything you are doing now will contribute to where you are going. Even if it happens to be that you don’t enjoy the particular role you are in, you know that it isn’t for you – figuring out what you don’t like is as important as figuring out what you do.
If you’re working your tush off in a part time occupation, whilst studying, or interning, here’s a last little story which may help you dig your heels in and keep going . . .
I once interviewed for a role, which turned out to be one of the best internship positions I have ever had, and which was the turning point for me working in TV. I was put forward for an internship by my course tutor at University, I had exactly zero TV experience.
As I was interviewing, and my CV consisted of waitressing, retail work and a young The Elgin Avenue, I was told that having worked part-time showed tenacity and graft which would serve me well for the internship position!
I was taken on by the TV show. And it turned out that my role would be accessories co-ordinator for Rihanna’s first UK TV gig. My face when I was told this was pretty much > ????
Do you guys have any stories of having worked part-time, and the opportunities you’ve had since then? Or perhaps you’re working in a role right now, which you’re not sure where it’s taking you to?
I would love to hear from you!
Love, Monica x