I am loving the current ‘Summer Job’ series in the New Zealand Herald where well-known New Zealanders including Dai Henwood, Andrew Little, Polly Gillespie, Metiria Turei and Owen Franks share what they did for their summer job.
More often than not, these jobs during their high-school and University days are far from glamorous, sometimes interesting, often menial, but are a starting point at the beginning of their careers.
At first I cringed, then looked back fondly on all the different jobs I had during my summer breaks. I was totally motivated by the need to earn cash to fund outings with my mates, and to buy drinks, CDs, clothing and the like!
So here is my experience of my first memorable summer job…
What was your summer job when you were at school, and what did it entail?
I remember getting to the end of high school and thinking I badly needed a summer job, so I worked as a Retail Sales Assistant at Whitcoulls at Auckland International Airport. The job entailed shift work hours (3.45am or 3pm starts usually) and selling a variety of items to customers including books, magazines, travel accessories and food items. If I wasn’t serving on the counter, I’d be tidying displays, cleaning shelves or stocking items.
How/why did you end up working there?
I’d had small part-time jobs before, but the attraction of working of the airport sounded exciting! It was also relatively close to home. I saw the ad in the Manukau Courier (yup this was before the days of SEEK and TradeMe) and posted in my application.
How did you feel about it?
I had no qualms about dealing with people, so in that respect I enjoyed interacting with travellers from all walks of life. The hard parts were having to wake up really for the morning shift (3am is not easy at all…), dealing with travellers who left their purchases to the last minute, coping with boredom when it was quiet, and having to get all the boxes checked by security when having to work airside.
- On the odd occasion I would serve celebrities and this presented a great opportunity on the day after the Big Day Out. A very chilled-out, leather clad and jovial guy with a gorgeous woman on his arm, approached the counter and said he had less than one NZ dollar left to spend. After going through our selection of inexpensive lollies, he excitedly bought two Chupa Chups. Who knew Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was so endearing!
- Dealing with diverse customers was a fantastic learning curve. For example, I remember older male customers who would stand uncomfortably close to me when asking questions, not realising this was normal form of communication in Southern European countries. I also become proficient in using hand gestures with people who had limited spoken English.
- Proudly being able to sell Kiwi books to overseas travellers, including titles from Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Michael King… oh, and the “Edmonds Cookbook” too.
- My dinner ritual was to eat California Roll Sushi with a side of McDonalds French Fries. Come on, I was only 18!
What was your dream job at that age?
At 18 I had aspirations to become a Management Accountant. In the words of the famous Tui ads: YEAH RIGHT.