After making the decision to travel before going to university, I threw myself into as much work as possible to save money. 

I already had two part-time jobs, which I juggled with school. My first was as a polo groom. If you don’t know what that is (editor’s note: I didn’t!), check out this first-hand account. I worked every Saturday and Sunday morning to exercise the string of 16 horses my boss owned. It was a job I absolutely loved–at least when the mornings were warm and dry. Since the yard was just down the hill from my parents’, I would drag myself out of bed, point my bike down the hill, and roll into work. I made the deal with my parents that I would do this so they didn’t have to wake up early to take me down, as long as they’d bring me and my bike back up the hill after my shift. Win-win!

My second job was at Zara, a clothing store, as a shop floor sales assistant in the menswear department. Once I finished my A-Levels, I ramped up my hours here, and this turned into the place where I spent most of my time. It was also where I learned to appreciate anyone who had to deal with impolite customers.

With the only free time I had available (the evenings), I got a third job as a waitress in a nearby hotel restaurant. It was a relatively easy job as people tended to be pretty content when they were fed and watered.

My role at Zara was the one that enabled me to develop the most, however. Over my years there I went from being a shop floor executive to merchandiser to cashier to running the menswear department. This meant I was responsible for training new staff, organising rotas, ordering new stock, cashing up, and replenishing the shop floor.

While each of these jobs left me with a lot of (mostly) good memories, they all taught me core skills that would help me through university and my first ‘real’ jobs after graduating. Key takeaways I have from this time in my life include:

  • Sharing goals and becoming invested in what other people in the business are doing is a powerful motivator
  • Working with a good, positive group of people is invaluable
  • Take every opportunity you can to learn new things
  • Early mornings get easier

Another major learning from this experience was that with such an intense and packed schedule, juggling my time and availability was always a challenge. If there was a polo match at the weekend, I had to change my regular Zara shifts. When boxing day sales started and clothes had to be repriced first thing in the morning, I had to make sure I served my last Christmas dinner at the restaurant with enough time to get home and catch some sleep before I was due back to work.

Meticulous organisation and planning is one of my key skills, and to this day I’m not sure if I was forced to be good at it juggling three jobs, or if it was a skill I already possessed. Looking back and thinking about all the shift days/times I had to scribble on the back of my hand, it makes me appreciate today the role of technology in helping workers to manage their time and availability. And as someone who’s experienced the stress of filling shifts, how simple processes like this can be transformed.