I got my first “real” job on the Summer of 2005.
I worked in the reception of a 2 Stars Hotel in a small seaside town, near where I lived with my parents. It is owned by a couple and is fairly small – having only 20 rooms.
I was 17 years old and I started working at 7:30am until 7:30pm, with a lunch break of 3h. I got all of the meals, breakfast and lunch, from them and I felt really grown-up and responsible.
But it wasn’t all sunshine!
I had to serve breakfasts, clean the rooms, make the beds, do the normal check-in and check-out situations for the customers, set the dining area and much much more. It was 10x more than what a receptionist is supposed to do. I was paid “under the table”, because that’s the way most of the businesses in Portugal pay their workers and I was constantly told to do things I shouldn’t be doing.
But I did them anyways.
I was terrified of getting fired because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. Looking back, it was such a stupid reason and I should have talked to them about everything going on at the work place. Once my boss told me to go do laundry and I tried to respond that it wasn’t my job to do that and he just replied with a simple harsh “you know where the door is, there’s 20 girls lined up to take your place”. So I endured everything.
Truth is, I liked having money. It was, in a way, one of the most memorable Summers of my life and that job was just a tiny part of it. I have no clue how I was even managing to stay alive, since I went out every night until Midnight (my curfew at the time). I liked feeling grown-up and responsible and I liked the contact with the customers, it was my first time with first hand contact with customers.
But it was stressful and I was being taken advantage of. They liked the fact that I speak 3 languages fluently and 2 others well enough to communicate with certain tourists and they knew I wouldn’t just leave, so they took advantage of the situation. When I first had my interview, my boss had told me I’d get 550€ a month, but on the second month he only paid me 500€. Ok, 50€ might not be as much of a difference, but it’s the principle that bothered me. When I tried talking to him, he responded that he had never said such thing. Again, I hadn’t signed any contract nor did I have it written down anywhere.
And I didn’t want to get fired.
It was just a Summer job. I only worked there for 3 months and once it was over, I was glad! But looking back, it did give me a ton of experience! I learned how to work in close contact with customers and the ins and outs of a hotel. If I was to do it again, I’d make sure I had a written document with the hours, job description and the wage I was supposed to get – signed by my boss.
But I would do it again.
Why? Because the customers made it worth it. Whenever a customer smiled and thanked me for something I did, it made me feel I had a purpose. I met one of my dearest friends that Summer, when she stopped by for a week at a hotel, alone and very shy. She’s from New York, was 25 at the time and has since become a writer and actress and I love her work. Best part is that we still have contact through Facebook. I met one of the most renowned actresses in Portugal, who spent the whole August in the hotel. I had no idea who she was and on her last day there – also my last work day – she told me I was the nicest and most genuine person she had met in the hotel. She told me that she liked the fact that, after I realized who she was, I still treated her exactly the same way and I gave her the feeling that she wasn’t a celebrity, but a person. And she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I saw her in 2013 again in an event I went to and she not only still remembered me, but she had kept in touch with my blog (I’d mentioned it to her once) and said she loved my short stories and that I should never stop writing.
That was my first experience working, might not have been the best, but it was worth it.
If you are in a bad job situation, do something about it! In my case, I was about to start my senior year in high-school and I knew it was just a Summer job and that helped me get through it. But if you’re in a more permanent job and you’re unhappy or being taken advantage of – do something about it! It’s your life and you should take charge of it!