Jobs I've had (and what they've taught me)


Some people have had loads of jobs – others have had very few. I fall into the former category, flitting from job to job since I was about 14, working (part-time, obviously) my way through school, and then college, before finally discovering that, er, I hate jobs and want to work for myself. And here we are.

But I like to look for the silver lining in every jobs-related cloud, which is why I've compiled this handy list of things I now know from all of those times I worked at jobs I (mostly) hated. You're welcome!

Don't shop where you work

Do you remember Tattoo, in the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre? It sat where Soho Market sits now, and sold these amazing jeans – I will send you a gift if you can remember the brand of jeans, highly coveted and incredibly expensive, that it sold. I worked there for two summers, and they operated this genius method of essentially ensuring you never took home any money; you could purchase things "on account", and then just pay for them when you got paid, each Friday (ah, weekly paydays, I remember you fondly). The result? I essentially came home with about €30 a week – just enough to pay my train fare in and out from Kildare.

Golfers are dicks (#notallgolfers)

When I was a very young 'un, I worked at a local golf course, serving lunches and the occasional drink, despite being vastly underage. (For a time there, it felt like everyone I knew worked at one golf club or another.) I was not yet #angryfeminist enough to get truly riled up about the vast amount of bum-groping (there was lots), but I do remember, distinctly, a time when I was serving dinner to the Captain and a load of his cronies (that's the technical golfing term), and dropped a plate of food. Not a single man – and there were about 12 – at the table got up to help me. I was 13. And that, your Honour, is why I hate golf.


Don't be mean to the person with the coleslaw spoon

After my foray into upper-class pastimes, I worked part-time in the local Spar, where I was a whizz on the deli counter – and I really liked it. What can I say? Making people's sandwiches gave a certain modicum of power, which I enjoyed, and you also got to know everyone in the village, and me being nosy, that was a big plus. But know this: if you are rude to the person on the deli counter, and you ask for coleslaw, mayonnaise or egg salad, that person will overload your crispy white roll with those noxious substances to the point that your sambo is rendered inedible. Don't fuck with the person who doles out the coleslaw.

Don't ask Pat Kenny about sodomy

I did a part of my Transition Year work experience in RTÉ radio. I can't remember much actual work done, or experience gained, but I did rearrange their filing cabinets and, on one glorious day, I got to open Pat's post. Which is where sodomy came up; one reader was telling Pat that they had been sexually abused. I, being 15 and clearly idiotic, had never heard this word before – so I asked Pat. "Pat, what does 'sodomy' mean?" Well, as it happens, Pat didn't know either – he told me to ask his secretary.

If you think he's flirting with you, he probably is

(This is not, for the record, in any way linked to or associated with the above Pat Kenny story.)

When I left secondary school, I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to do, so I took a year off to weigh up my options. During that year, I worked in Urban Outfitters, Zara and, for a six-month period that delighted my mother, as clerical officer in the Department of Justice. It was during my time as a civil servant (it still sounds weird) that I got to fly business class for the first – and only – time in my short life. Did you know that when you fly business class to Brussels with Aer Lingus they give you mini packets of Dubliner cheese? It was amazing.

I digress: while at a conference in Brussels, I met a man, let's call him Eamon (because, er, that was his name). He was very attractive, and I totally fancied him, but I was an idiot, so when he followed me out of the bar on our last night there, I thought he was offering to show me where the bathrooms were. I found out, weeks later, that he was totally trying to come on to me. Moral of the story? Men are really straightforward – and if you think they're going to an extraordinary effort to be nice, they fancy you.

If you have to cry, go outside

I spent a couple of months working part-time in Boots on Grafton St, while I was at school. I still remember the smell of the boxes the shampoos would come in – Aussie were the worst offenders in terms of aroma. While there, I made the acquaintance of two men – who, in hindsight, were probably about 19 – who would introduce me to Sigúr Rós and teach me how to be rude to annoying customers. On my very last day in Boots, something happened – and I wish I could remember what that something was – but it basically ended with them slagging the shit out of me, and me storming out the door, bawling my teenage head off. It was lucky it was my last day, because there's no way I would've gone back into that shop again; as it was, it took me about three years to summon up the courage to go in for tampons.

If you don't have kids, just don't talk

During another exciting period in my life, I worked in BT Kids, which was – at that time – upstairs in BT2. We sold teeny, tiny puffa jackets by Ralph Lauren that were prohibitively expensive, and every week, some poor, hassled artist would come in to do these little pictures that you could have framed, with the name of your precious offspring engraved in the cement beneath their grubby little pawprint. It was there that I learned this: people with children do not want to know what you think, especially if you don't have children of your own. They especially do not want to know whether you think that €450 Ralph Lauren jacket is a bit of a wasteful thing to buy for a two-year old with "a lot of growing to do." Just shut up and take their money.

Don't make jokes about people being in prison

Okay, okay, so this – looking at it now – might seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment, sometimes things just slip out. This gem popped out while I worked at Meteor, and was in the midst of selling a bill phone – which was a fairly big deal, given that we worked on commission and had to sell a certain number of bill phones per month otherwise we ended up poor – to a man who was buying it for a girl. "I haven't seen her in a few years," said he – prompting me to go (ever the gossip-hound): "Ooh! Were you in the army? OR WERE YOU IN PRISON?!" (In my defence, this was a sexy scenario in my head – he had that sexy prisoner vibe.) Anyway, he wasn't all that pleased and complained to my manager. Morto for me.


Italians don't tip

This took me a very long, sweaty fortnight working in Milan, in a bar named Cape Town, to figure out. It's that simple; Italians do not tip. On a good night – of serving hundreds of drinks to hundreds of people – we might walk away with €1 each, and that was only if enough people had left their change behind. But still, the apperitivi were worth it.