My first job

…was as a 16 year old Saturday girl at Woolworth’s, where, for some strange reason, I usually managed to get what was regarded as the plum role of serving behind the cosmetics counter (this was in the days before self-service and paying at a check out). I’d work with full-time sales assistants who, for the most part, chatted to each other, took payment from the customers, put in their time and collected their pay at the end of each week.

I’ve always hated being bored and figured that if I was going to spend eight hours (give or take) every Saturday behind that counter, I might as well learn as much as possible about the stock carried and the store’s customers.

I discovered that many of the women who stopped by didn’t wear much make up or generally spend money on what they considered to be frivolities, and were often wanting to buy a little something to give themselves extra confidence for some upcoming special event. Therefore to spend even four shillings (twenty pence) on a small lipstick and matching nail varnish (if they could find one) was a Big Thing. So we’d spend ages selecting the right colour lipstick first (nothing too bold or “brassy”), testing it out on the inside of the customer’s wrist, and then try and match it up with a discreet pearl effect nail varnish.

Sometimes they’d be particularly daring and succumb to some mascara (always brown rather than the harsher black, unless their colouring and skin tone dictated otherwise), and, on rare occasions, a gentle powder eye shadow.

I’m not making fun of these women; that’s the way it was then. And it taught me my first-ever working tip:

  • Put your soul into your job, even if it’s just a temporary one
  • Try to learn as much as possible about it that will help you to do it to the best of your ability
  • Genuinely “give a toss” about the customer
  • Listen to their comments (good and bad) and pass them up the line to your supervisor

– if you do, you’ll get more out of it and enjoy yourself much more. And if the management do their bit, the customers will come back. Again and again. And again.

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