20 of 50
My first job - one where I was paid by someone other than a member of my family - was as a paperboy. I’d get up early each morning before school and deliver papers from the village newsagents to houses around the village. It used to take about an hour to do the round, kept me fit and gave me a little money, which I often spent in the newsagents.
At the same time as the paper round I used to cut lawns in the summer months. Gardens in the village where on the large side and many of the lawns were big, but I could do this with my walkman on, lost in my own world.
My first ‘proper’ job though was as a Saturday and holiday relief in a secondhand bookstore. In 50 years this is probably my ideal job and I think in career terms I peaked a little early, as I could quite happily be doing this job now as I was at 16. It helped that I had a love and good knowledge of books and I stayed in that job until I went to university and then did holiday stints when I could. Of course I also spent quite a bit of my wage in the same shop, but this time with a healthy staff discount. I still have some of those books. That shop is in a different location, but as far as I know run by the same person now as then.
Since then I’ve done all sorts of things, including as I do now working for myself. The job I look back on most fondly though is in the secondhand bookshop. I wonder nowadays if you could make a go of such a business, without having some kind of financial cushion or bias in your favour. There’s not a huge amount of money in secondhand books (I’m not meaning rare or antiquarian books, just ordinary secondhand), with business rates, rents etc., could you make a go of a secondhand bookshop? As I say it feels like you need something else other than books to be working in your favour.
Now I’m not thinking about opening a bookshop or anything, but it has got me thinking about how lucky I was to be able to work in one when I did. A few years ago I looked at Christmas work in a branch of a national chain. I went into the store and got a application form, and I was quite shocked at the questions. This is much more about marketing and promotion than knowledge of books and authors. I still like to think my knowledge of the latter is pretty good, but you could write what I know about the former on the back of an envelope, certainly not the 250+ words required to answer the questions on the application form.
I think over the years, some jobs have come to me at the right time. I think latterly I was a bit tied to the promotion/advancement cycle and jobs were just a way of paying the bills. I miss the days where job satisfaction rated higher than the wage slip, and I think I am slowly working my way back towards only chasing work from which I derive a sense of satisfaction whenever I can.
I doubt that you’ll see me behind the counter in a bookshop any time soon, but you never know, maybe…..