My first job was in 1992. I was 14, and became a waitress in a family-run restaurant in a little North Yorkshire market town. My trial week earned me £1.50 an hour, which rose to £2 an hour once I’d made the grade. I did this every Saturday and most holidays until I was 19, when Mum pointed out a golden opportunity to bag a 75% pay rise, and become a relief care assistant in a nursing home. A 75% pay rise…just imagine it…

CV Writing is one of the services I offer, and clients often want to know whether they should include the jobs they had when they were at school (is that even still possible these days?!). I always say yes, even if it’s a simple line to say “Various positions in retail during my education years” or “Bar work while a student”. You did it, so take the credit for it – show off your knowledge and experience of as many sectors as you can. And you never know, you may strike a chord with your interviewer’s own past!

This all sprang to mind when I came across a post on Twitter this week, started by personal finance expert MrsMummypenny. There were some terrific offerings in there, and I asked one or two people I know about their first jobs as well:

“I did a morning paper round. £3.50 a week. Seven days a week about 45 mins a day! I held down three jobs. The milkman on a Saturday morning paid four quid. The sweet shop Sunday morning paid four quid. Both after my paper round. I was minting it. #workethic”


“Copy telephonist at Raymond’s Press Agency in Derby. £12.50 for all day Sunday in 1987”


“Selling candy floss, Blackpool Pleasure beach, 1983, 99p an hour (free candy floss)”


“I worked in a fish factory in 1994, packing the bonemeal mush for pet food. The stink of fish was worth it for the £100 a week.”

It’s hard to believe, in these days of minimum wage, what we were prepared to put up with in in our first jobs, in exchange for what was basically pocket money. I saved it all up, and then spent it like water when I got to university. Not quite the idea really, but I probably wouldn’t change it.


One thing often leads to another with Twitter, and this little train of thoughts led me to those jobs that used to be everywhere, and now no longer exist. Here are some of my faves:


A Lector

Someone who was hired to read to big groups of factory workers on the line, usually crowd-funded by the workers themselves. What a lovely idea – like having a real life audio book on while you work.


A Knocker-Upper

the poor soul who had to get up before everyone else, and go round banging on doors and windows to wake people up for work. Redundant with the arrival of the alarm clock, but much harder to hit, I should think.


A Leech Collector

the medical treatment of choice for centuries, but someone had to go out and get them. As they generally inhabit the murkiest, dankest, muddiest waters, this must have been grim work.


Buggy Whip Maker

obvious why this one’s gone, but oddly I never thought of it before – there must be so many of these jobs, essential for centuries of horse-powered transport, and wiped out almost overnight in the first half of the 1900s.


Fascinating stuff – and there must be a few jobs whose card is marked now, with the advance of technology. Will our lovely little MK delivery robots take over the world, and conquer Deliveroo? Will there still be referees and umpires at sporting fixtures? I might just revisit this post in 20 years, and see what we can add to the list…

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