By in Personal

I started working young

I was inspired by AliCanary who wrote about her first jobs here: to tell the story of how I entered the workforce.

I always wanted to work, although like AliCanary I really wanted to work outwith the house, I was also not very good at household chores. I think I was about ten or eleven when my mum worked in a small restaurant close to our house. I would often go in there to eat as there was no one at home to cook for me and I was deemed too young to cook myself. Plus my best friend's mum ran the place so we would both go in for lunch most days.

I started doing small favours for them for a pound or two, going to the shop to get things they had ran out of or clearing tables when they were really busy. Of course they couldn't let me do any real work at that age but they were happy to let me do odd jobs.

There was another small shop attached to the restaurant which sold the weirdest combination of things. My friend's dad was in the furniture and carpet business and used the small shop to take his orders, he also sold knick knacks and tourist souvenirs. With the restaurant being so busy, they had also decided that they were going to take their take-away orders through the smaller shop and use an intercom to communicate them to the kitchen, my friend's dad seen this as an opportunity to also start selling sweets and cakes.

The problem with that was my friend's dad was not actually in any way interested in running the smaller shop, he didn't want to actually work there he was happy out fitting carpets or whatever but he didn't want to work in the shop. I think they had someone working there that left or something like that, I cant really remember but either way I was asked to watch the shop one day. I think I was maybe 12 years old and I ended up running this shop.

I took orders for food from the restaurant and used the intercom to pass them on to the kitchen, I took orders for carpets and wrote them in a book, I sold sweets and cakes and tried my best to get rid of all the other knick knacks, the boss waned them sold so they were out of the way, she did not share her husbands enthusiasm for knick knacks. I did all the maths in my head since we didn't have a cash register and the takings were never short, not even one time. I also had all the spare restaurant stock in the back room of my shop and often had to check if something was there that they had ran out of in the kitchen and take it through to them.

The next year I moved into the restaurant where I became a kitchen assistant. I did the dishes and helped with the food preparation. I did that job for the whole season and I started the next season doing the same but then something happened and I was promoted.

It was a very small restaurant, although it was always busy so there were usually only one or two waitresses on during quiet times. One waitress was supposed to be on herself one day as someone else couldn't make it or something like that and guess what, the one waitress called in sick. I was asked to take her job on for the day, it was just me and my friend's mum in on that shift now with the waitress calling in sick. We worked well together and we got through the day, I had done so well I was promoted to waitress permanently. For the record I actually didn't want to be a waitress, I was happy in the kitchen but it was a lot easier to recruit another kitchen assistant than a waitress so I became the waitress and a friend of mine became the kitchen assistant.

The next year I waitressed again, we had become a little quieter due to tourism declining so there was just me, two other waitresses and a head waitress. One of the waitresses left quite early in the season then about half way through the season the head waitress left. I was promoted to head waitress over the other girl who had been there longer and was a lot older than me.

Turns out there was a reason for that - she was a rubbish waitress and she couldn't count so she was always giving people the wrong bill or short changing the till. The boss then said enough was enough and I was the only person allowed to do bills or touch the till. The till was actually just a drawer by the way, I still had to do all the maths in my head. The bosses grandson was brought in to help us out and while he made great tips (we shared tips) he was so arrogant and argumentative that I actually fired him on his second day. He didn't think I would get away with firing him but the boss said it was my team and he had no right to talk to me the way he did and he wasn't coming back.

The next season we had just myself, the kitchen assistant another woman who no one liked and the boss. Unfortunately the boss took really ill and at 15 I was promoted to manager/cook in her absence. I had no idea how to cook but me and the kitchen assistant made it work somehow and we ran the place together. Thank goodness we lived in a small town - I am pretty sure its illegal to have a 15 year old cooking in a restaurant with all that hot fryers and stuff. Luckily the boss lived above the restaurant so if anyone came looking for her the kitchen assistant would nip up the stairs and get her and I would tell them she had just nipped out for a smoke.

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GemstonePink wrote on February 21, 2015, 3:15 PM

You really worked so many different jobs in the restaurant business. I always enjoyed being a waitress in college. Always had money on hand with those tips.

melody23 wrote on February 21, 2015, 3:24 PM

Yeah I think I have worked every job you could ever do in a restaurant, I moved on to a pub at 18 and was there for almost nine years so I spent 15 years in hospitality - that's more than half my lifetime! I enjoyed waitressing and actually if that restaurant still existed I would love to go back, don't get me wrong I love what I do now but nothing will compare to the fun I had back then.

AliCanary wrote on February 21, 2015, 3:41 PM

Wow, that is amazing--you were very capable at such a young age, although it's funny that you started a shop manager and went through a couple of "promotions" to get to waitress! Most people think of that as a menial job, but I was a waitress for several years and then was "promoted" to restaurant manager, whereupon I found out that the servers actually made more money per hour!

melody23 wrote on February 21, 2015, 5:13 PM

It was a strange career path for sure. I was actually really worried when I first became a student nurse, I had been someone's boss since I was 14 or so and I wasn't sure how I would cope being the one at the bottom of the pile. Thankfully being in charge of keeping people alive is such a scary thought when you first start that its quite easy to go to others with more knowledge for help and its definitely nice to be at the bottom of the pile as far as responsibility and knowledge comes, when a relative asks a difficult question its quite nice to not actually be expected to answer it, merely finding someone who can is enough.

Believe it or not its the same in nursing, ward sisters technically earn more as in they have a higher salary and therefore basic hourly rate. however they also usually work shorter shifts, fewer weekends and no nights which means they miss out on the extra hours and unsocial hours pay so they actually walk away with less than the nurse who has just started on the ward.

WordChazer wrote on February 21, 2015, 5:31 PM

No wonder you're so capable now. I look back on some of the jobs I did at your age and wonder what happened...I would manage if only my bosses would stop throwing one book or the other at me, I'm sure.

lookatdesktop wrote on February 21, 2015, 8:58 PM

You have been quite clever and resourceful. I am happy for your early child hood work experiences story. You are a true workaholic. Congratulations on doing more as a child than many adults do. If things kept going the way they were going it seems you would have achieved management eventually.

Kungfu123 wrote on February 21, 2015, 9:44 PM

I think it's good for a teenager to have some work experience before they get a real job.

melody23 wrote on February 22, 2015, 6:19 AM

I totally agree, its good experience and it teaches the value of money too. By the time I had my own house I was fully aware of the value of money and knew how to work hard to make sure I had what I needed. It also really helped me get jobs when I was older and it definitely had a part to play in getting me into uni - even though I was older then. I was able to show that I was a natural leader who was not afraid of hard work or being thrown in at the deep end, both excellent qualities in someone who wants to be a nurse.

Coffee wrote on February 25, 2015, 5:59 AM

Wow you certainly were a hard worker doing so many different jobs!

UK_Writer wrote on February 26, 2015, 10:53 AM

Ah, first jobs - the things we used to do before so much legislation came in and before things were automated by computers! I washed dishes at one point, by hand, in a pub/restaurant.

BrenndaMarie wrote on March 1, 2015, 5:36 AM

I worked in a bakery when I was 10 years old that was my first job. I bagged rolls.

maxeen wrote on March 4, 2015, 7:00 PM

My Mum had canteens on building sights. On a a sunday I and a friend, used to open up the hut(canteen) and make tea and toast & scones for about 50 ,mostly Irish, building workers,they were lovely to us ,we were about 11 yrs old.. imagine that today !!