This is the forth of our My First Job blog series, where we ask Sirenumates, partners, and customers to reminisce about their first paying job. For more information, see our introduction to the series here.

My first job was as a newspaper delivery boy at the tender age of 14, working for the corner shop at the end of the road in my North London neighborhood.

Along with my brother and little sister, we thought it would be a great way for us to earn some money. By chance, the owner of the corner shop had three routes that needed covering. The interview consisted of three questions, all of which we asked:

1. Can we have the job? – Yes
2. What time do we need to be at the shop to start? 5AM
3. How much will we get paid? £14 a week

Yes, the questions were asked in that order. All the excitement I had at getting my first paying job was drained when the owner’s answer for question two was 5AM. Still, I figured I’d give it a go.

The first shift was grueling. I hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be to get up on time and what actually needed to be done. In addition to actually delivering the newspapers, I first had to fill the order of which houses needed which newspapers and then arrange the newspapers for the most efficient route. At this point, I realised that I hadn’t asked what the routes were and I didn’t actually know the route as well as I thought I did. I didn’t get any help from the owner. He shrugged it off and told me to get on with it. As you can imagine, that first shift took me a lot longer than it should have. And it wasn’t just the first shift but the whole first week. I was late for school almost every day of that week as I tested different routes.

As the days went on, the early starts got easier and I had figured out the best route. I’d started taking my bike so I was getting the job done a lot faster, meaning I could still get to school on time. Sometimes, I was able to finish so quickly that I could catch up with my brother or sister on their routes and help them. Weekends were always a pain, largely because Sunday newspapers were so heavy! I still didn’t get much help from the owner, and really only interacted with him when it was pay day.

I still remember my last day as a newspaper delivery boy. I’d taken my bike like I normally did, but I’d gotten lazy and had stopped locking the bike every time I got off to post the newspaper through letterbox. On one delivery, someone had stolen my bike within the 90 seconds it took me to post the newspaper and walk out of the front courtyard, but they were kind enough to leave the lock that I didn’t use! I completed the shift, walked back to the corner shop and told the owner what happened. He asked me one question: “Did you finish delivering all the papers?” Frankly, I was a bit upset he didn’t show any sympathy. I decided I couldn’t go back to walking the route and risking being late for school again.

Unfortunately, that was the end of my budding news career!

It was a very valuable experience for me. It really did teach me about the value of earning money. On reflection now, there are still many key takeaways that can be applied today:

  • Make sure your workers know what the job entails
  • Make sure they know where they need to go
  • Find a way to engage your workers – it goes a long way
  • Always lock your bike