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First Person Stories: Things I Wish I Knew Before my First Job

Reading Length: Short read – 5 mins

When I look at my younger self, aged 16, I was so keen to have independence and get a part time job. I had no clue what I would have myself in for when I got my first ever job as a retail assistant.

When you get your first job, you are so desperate to prove yourself and you feel as if the employer has almost done you a favour by hiring you! The problem with this mentality is, it usually leaves you feeling like you can’t address any problems you have with co-workers because you don’t want to cause any annoyance. Additionally, when it’s your first job, it’s difficult to know what’s ‘normal’ in a job setting, therefore, it’s hard to know what to speak up about.

Here’s just a few of the things that I wish I knew before my first job…

It’s okay to not know everything

When starting out at a new job, there will most likely be tasks you don’t know how to complete or sometimes even start… Honesty is the best policy in these circumstances (especially if you are new to this realm of work). By asking for advice or assistance, you are showing your enthusiasm to learn, which employers will take positively. And frankly, no one knows everything, so don’t be afraid to ask for help now and again.

Unpaid trial shifts

It still shocks me this is still even a thing?! Although it’s not technically illegal for employers to not pay someone for doing a trial shift, this doesn’t mean it’s right... If you are doing work unsupervised for over an hour, that is work, and you deserve pay.

I would advise clarifying before your shift that you are happy to come in for a paid trial shift in order to clarify any miscommunications or misunderstandings.

Being underpaid

Due to my first workplace being a small independent shop, it was up to us to double check our pay was right. Naturally, there were times my manager forgot to log days I had done overtime. Being my first job, I was nervous and unexperienced asking for my correct wage. Therefore, I quickly learnt keeping a diary of the hours I worked came in handy during those times when I needed to stick up for myself.

Learning your limits

A lot of zero hour contracts, especially in hospitality, mean you end up doing different hours each week. Therefore, one week you may do less than 10 hours, another week they may book you in for 20+. Learning your limits with your work hours can take a while to learn and can adjust over time. However, setting boundaries with your employers and letting them know how many hours a week you can do, is VITAL for having a healthy relationship with your work-life.

Learning what’s above your pay grade

This can be extremely tricky, especially when starting out at a new job. For example, when I was only 17, my manager asked me to fire someone on his behalf. Luckily, I had older employees around to reassure me this was a manager’s job, not a retail assistant on minimum wage. This is an extreme example, however, the point still stands- anything you don’t feel comfortable doing or don’t feel qualified to do, most likely isn’t your job (especially if you are on minimum wage)!!

If you are unhappy, you can quit

This might sound like an obvious one, but I wish I heard this when I was younger! Because this was my first ever job, I wanted to try and keep it for as long as possible to prove to myself and others I was a hard worker. The fact of the matter was, I was extremely unhappy there at times. Once I had the courage to quit and find a new job, I realised not all jobs were as bad as my first. I realised you can have a healthy relationship with your boss where you’re not scared off them, you’re allowed 5-minute breaks if you’re feeling exhausted and you’re allowed sick days…

Where to go for more support

If you feel as though your work or employers are making you unhappy and affecting your mental health, it is best to communicate with a trusted fellow employee to take next steps. Feel free to visit our post about ‘telling your boss about your mental health’. We spend multiple hours a week at work, therefore you deserve to feel comfortable and happy in that environment.

If you feel you need further support, you can chat to someone online via text, you can register for ongoing online support via our online support portal. We also hold weekly drop-in sessions so that you can speak with a worker without an appointment. We provide a number of face-to-face services too, all of which offer something slightly different depending on what’s best for you. Overall, though, every service provides you with someone who will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and work with you to explore where your panic attacks might come from. You can read about our services here.

By: Daisy Wakefield

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