I’m following the Twitter meme #firstsevenjobs. I started working at 12 years old, so I thought it might be fun to share mine with you … and the sales lessons I learnt from each.
1. Car valet. Ok it’s a very grand title for cleaning cars when you’re 12 years old.
Where my enterprise differed from the ‘knock on doors’ kids was that I won a contract with the local garage. I went there after school each night for a year and cleaned a couple of used-cars ready for sale.
Lesson: One big contract can be a lot easier, and more profitable than trying to win lots of smaller ones.
2. Tea boy. I worked on a construction site making the brew for a dozen ‘navvies’ who told long, wild, entertaining stories every beak time. I was transfixed, even if every sentence contained several ‘F’ words.
Lesson: Storytelling is the greatest way to engage people.
3. Vending maid. (Before PC job titles I guess.) Working weekends at the world famous ’Watford Gap’ service station. This is still my second favourite job ever. Filling and servicing a vast assortment of vending machines. Bliss.
Lesson: Direct referrals are the easiest way to get great work. (I inherited this job from my brother who suggested they give it to me when he departed for University.)
4. Factory worker. I worked for three Summer holidays at the Maclaran baby buggy factory. Most of the other students felt this type of work was beneath them. But, I learnt a huge amount about manufacturing systems on the job. Later I could tell stories (see job 2) about what I’d seen and done, which helped me sell millions of pounds worth of manufacturing systems technology. Seriously.
Lesson: Whatever the situation be curious and learn, it may be useful.
5. Bus Conductor. Back in the day we were taken to school in double
decker buses. There were all sorts of safety problems because the drivers were in a separate cab.
An entrepreneurial thinker came up with the novel idea of paying sixth-formers to ‘police’ the buses. I was one of those ‘bus conductors’. The bus company was off the hook, the school board were happy, and I was happy.
Lesson: Entrepreneurs find hidden problems and match them with under-utilised resources.
6. Research and development chemist. This was another Summer job.
Working in a laboratory and pilot plant for Courtaulds. I was researching methods to move Teklan (a thermal protective fabric) from batch to process production. I failed every day for three months, but discovered lots about the research process.
Lesson: Failure is a great way to learn and improve.
7. Meat Packer. This was my last job before starting my ‘serious career’ in the IT sector. I worked behind the scenes at a large retailer packaging meat. Suffice it to say I learnt some things about the tricks used in meat processing – most of which I’d prefer not to know.
Lesson: Customers are heavily influenced by their preconceptions and the packaging used to present products. Sell the sizzle, not the steak.
I’m curious. What were your first seven jobs? And what did you learn?