Considering my parents’ unquestioning conviction in my future in either open-heart or brain surgery (I could choose my speciality myself) and after PSHE classes spent filling out the careers quizzes that informed me and my 14-year old friends of our future vocations to be, variously, a fishmonger, a commercial pilot and a long-haul truck driver, it was understandable that I had always had high hopes for my prospective entrance into the ‘world of work.’
Yet last summer, a year into an English degree and after a brief stint as a ‘charity street fundraiser’ (do not read ‘chugger’), I found myself jobless (I cried after an old woman told me to ‘fuck off’ at Clapham Junction station and quit on the morning of my third day). With summer plans already booked but a bank balance largely depleted by ASOS and 8th Week Park End, I turned to agency waitressing. A waiting agency provides staff for anything from corporate events and awards ceremonies to weddings and Bar Mitzvahs and, after all the cafés I had handed my CV into were apparently unimpressed by my work experience in the renal department of the Royal Free Hospital, joining one seemed like a good plan-B. I could decide when to work, meaning I wouldn’t have to miss out on anything over the summer, or ever really have to wake up before midday.
As if that and the lure of minimum wage wasn’t enough to convince, have a read of some of the other perks of the job and find out if agency waiting could be for you too:
Free food and drink
Seeing as the job entails serving delicious dishes at open bar events, leftover food and drink are always freely on offer to the staff. Slyly eat one of the salmon mousse canapés you’ve accidentally dropped on the floor because you’re crap at your job, or sample the dregs of someone’s cocktail before you pour it into the slop bucket, hoping they haven’t got herpes or a cold – a little taste of the high life.
Meeting new people
The job provides endless opportunities to engage in awkward small-talk with strangers about your A-Levels and where you’re from; a bit like a sober Freshers’ Week only you’re all wearing uniforms but no one makes you go to Camera.
Chatting to fit barmen
With your hair scraped back into a bun and your polyester bootleg trousers just allowing your Marks and Spencer’s velcro shoes to seductively peek out from under their flared hem, you know you’re at your best; a shift becomes the perfect opportunity to engage in a little workplace flirtation. Whilst polishing glasses, strike up a rapport with that Lower Sixth boy who once watched Cocktail with his mum and realised if he could only pour drinks he’d be running his own bar on a beach in Trinidad instead of on the sofa with his mum watching Cocktail. If you’re mopping the floor, make eyes at the guy on his gap year who’d heard from his older brother that tending bar was cool and would make all the girls love him. Who cares if he didn’t realise it was only cool because his brother had done it in a bar on the beach at sunset on Phi Phi Lee island and it would be different when he was doing it just after lunch at an annual building material suppliers’ conference in Moorgate? Everyone knows that being able to pour liquids from bottles into glasses makes you instantly more attractive than anyone who can’t (or doesn’t happen to be at the time).
Rubbing shoulders with celebs
These events are pretty high class so you’ll have to learn to keep your cool and top up that table water in front of the likes of Billie Piper and the one that isn’t Greg off Masterchef.
Interacting with customers
Guests might sometimes show off their cosmopolitan talent with languages by slurring at you in what is supposedly your mother tongue and are left confused and disbelieving when you tell them you only speak English because you are from London. But if you try and be obliging, complimenting them on the finesse of their linguistic merits, that parting ‘sayonara’ might come with a generous (drunkenly misjudged) tip.
Agency waitressing is a truly rewarding experience. You’ll leave work glowing with pride (sweat from lugging a dozen bags of dirty table linen onto the laundry van) at the great (shoddy and probably quite rude) service you’ve given your guests. Your manager will always make sure to give you a pat on the back (tell you to ‘Leave your apron by the door’) and a parting ‘Goodnight!’ (‘You can go now.’) to make sure you feel appreciated.
If you like what you’ve heard and happen to have a very small skillset and an unimpressive CV then you might well have found your calling. Top Tip: have a quick practice of spooning plastic fruit and veg from one plate onto another plate – refine your technique and you’ll be sure to impress at training!
But if you aren’t convinced but still haven’t heard back about that summer internship, then I’ve conducted some pretty extensive research into a few alternative, yet equally rewarding, potential holiday jobs that come highly recommended by a varied cross-section of your fellow students (the girls that I live with):
Leisure centre staff
If you like waking up at 6.30am on a Saturday morning with a hangover to supervise a kid’s 5th birthday party then you’re just £395 and a National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) later from doing just that. If you’re lucky enough to be on pool duty you can read a magazine inbetween yelling at children to ‘WALK, DON’T RUN!’ and laughing at their belly flops into the pool. Top Tip: If you have been out the night before, try not to blow your whistle – it will give you a headache.
This is for those of you who enjoy having your self-esteem systematically worn down by seven-year-old girls called Saffron, and telling Hamishes and Barnabys to stop picking their noses and eating it. If you thought your haircut suited you and that it was fine to wear a jumper because you were only picking her up from school then you’ll be glad to be told by a 4ft-tall Miley Cyrus fan that you were, in fact, mistaken. Luckily it will probably shrink in the hygiene wash you have to put it on after Mummy’s favourite boy gets sick on it after one too many Haribos.
Working on the factory line of a tennis goods manufacturing company
If you’ve ever looked at a tennis net and wished you knew how to make one by hand then I hear this is the job for you. Other responsibilities include putting tennis balls into bags (normally 24 per bag) and counting and stacking plastic circles.
If you still haven’t been tempted but have noticed that your bank account has already begun to start haemorrhagingyour loan and that e-mail from Reuters still hasn’t come through, then it might be time to start photographing some of your possessions to sell on eBay. It will only take a minute and after it’s done you can go back to refreshing your Nexus inbox, secure in the knowledge that somebody probably will want to buy your P!nk 2002 ‘Party Tour’ T-shirt for quite a lot of money.