My worst job ever was definitely my first proper job after leaving university. I studied English Literature and was really looking forward to a career in journalism, publishing, writing or media; anything creative where I got to write. Unfortunately, I’d made the massive mistake of meandering through university from one bar to the next, completely oblivious to one of the most important things on your resume: Work experience. Although I had 5 years experience at a mainstream supermarket under my belt, this was a part-time, customer service role that did not translate to the corporate world at all.
I didn’t really have a clue about the real working world, so when I started as a cashier at a leading British bank I quickly crashed and burned. I started off full of enthusiasm but then the sales targets came into force and I could never, ever reach them. I tried and tried and tried, but I was just not pushy enough to ram loans and credit cards down people’s throats. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was the dreaded end of day till balance which of course I failed every single day. I tried everything: Serving customers more slowly, double checking everything and writing down every single transaction. Despite all of my efforts, those tills hated me! I would be there at half past 5 every day, close to tears, scared to death that I’d given someone too much money or not taken enough in. This was never the case; it was usually a digit or two that had been recorded incorrectly or back to front on the system. I usually figured it out within an hour or so, while my manager glared at me, throwing daggers at me because they had to stay late until I sorted out my mess. It was awful every single day.
There are 2 incidents that stand out as being the worst of my working life to date. The first being when the police turned up to interview me about some missing money that a customer insisted he had paid into my till. At the time, my till had balanced so we told him he must have been mistaken and off he went. It would have been nice for my boss to let me know that the customer was taking the matter further, instead of announcing one day that the police were in branch waiting for me in the staff room. If that doesn’t wake you up on a Monday morning, I don’t know what will! It turned out to be just general procedure, and the police agreed that as the till balanced the man must have lost the money elsewhere or made a mistake. I still felt terrible for a long time afterward.
The second was when the regional manager paid me a surprise visit regarding an error that I’d inadvertently made during an international bank transfer for a customer. I had no idea I’d made this error, as again my boss did not make me aware of the situation. The first I knew of it was in a very embarrassing meeting with my boss’s boss, whom I obviously really wanted to impress. I’ve never felt more patronization and embarrassment in my whole life. I felt worthless, stupid and like a complete idiot. I gave myself the rest of the day to wallow in self pity and then I dusted myself off, picked myself up, remembered that my job doesn’t define me and went off in search of a worthwhile career instead.
I had some really low points working at that bank. Eventually I left and found another job just to pay the bills while I worked on my writing career. I’m still not doing what I thought I would be doing post university, but I’ve come a long way. I’ve learnt so much during the last few years in the working world and even managed to get a few articles published. Things are definitely starting to look up career-wise. It hasn’t been easy, but it just goes to show that if you are tenacious enough you’ll get to where you want to be eventually.
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