Saturday, 7 August 2010

That certainly taught me a lesson!

I read on the Keeping You Awake blog several months ago what the author had learned from different jobs over the years.

It got me thinking - every role we take on teaches us something about the world, ourselves - well, mine have certainly taught me a lesson or two! Then I forgot about it for a while. But when I wrote my recent post on what I learned from being a special constable, I returned to the question.

So I thought I'd share a list of what I've learned from where I've worked. 

  • From the bank I learned my alphabet. I knew it already, of course, but years of filing cheques and statements into name order made it more instinctive, innate. 
  • From my secondment to a help desk in another area, I learned never to assume anything – especially the level of intelligence of the average person. I also learned that a lone young woman living in a hotel is rarely in want of company.  
  • From the kibbutz I learnt many things: In the baby house there I learned just how fierce and protective a mother's instinct is... I mean, I drop one baby* and they go crazy!  In the kitchen,  the art of cutting. In the communal dining room, that nothing ever stays clean. 
  • From working on a local newspaper I learned that not everything is gospel, that being in print makes mad people's words assume a gravitas they don't deserve. 
  • From self-employment?  That my mum was right about that ‘you are a hat in a shop window’ thing and that I am inclined to put too low a price on myself.  Also, that people take advantage of that – even nice people.  Maybe they don't even know they're doing it. 
  • From the voluntary sector?  That one person can move mountains, but it's bloody hard work and there'll be lots of people standing around saying ‘Great idea to move mountains! They should be moved!’ but then don't help and are merely critical of how you're moving them and where to. Also, that some mountains just might as well stay where they are. 
  • From running training courses for tenants groups, that people, even quite unpromising ones, sometimes have the capacity to go and move their own mountains when someone finally gives them a bit of encouragement and a few tools.
  • From giving grants?  That, depending on who you're giving it to – the same sum of money is one person's peanuts and another's pool winnings. 
  • From public sector?  That everyone's too busy covering their backs and following (or writing) the rules to ever, ever do something merely because it would make the world a better place.
  • And from the library? Erm, that'd be the alphabet... again.
  • What have I learned from writing?  That you don't always measure or understand what you've learned, what you know and how you feel about it all until you put it into words.

So what have YOU learned from what you have done?

* No babies were permanently hurt and there were mitigating circumstances.



  1. I've learned that no matter where I work, eventually I always wind up being the boss.

    There is obviously something seriously wrong with me.

    Ref: babies
    You have got to tell what those mitigating circumstances were.

  2. You've had an interesting work history. That's an impressive list and to be able to attach significant learning experiences to each job is quite an accomplishment.

  3. Hmmm, the jobs I've had and what they've taught me. How long have you got?

    If I had to say what I'd learned from writing, it would run pretty much the way you've expressed it yourself.

  4. Love the 'you are the hat in the window' comment. Brilliant :o)

    I've had many jobs, and they've all taught me that I don't like any of them as much as I like writing. Oh, and being a pub landlady taught me I'm not cut out for dealing with drunken behaviour on a daily basis!

  5. From my job at a supermarket, I have learnt there are two types of people - those who have the patience to queue and those who don't. Generally, it is the older retired people, with lots of free time, who don't like to queue.

  6. Ah, this was a great post, BB. Funny and wise and clever all wrapped up together. The very best kind.

    I would have said something along the lines that Kass did - it's pretty amazing that you could extrapolate such knowledge out of all those experiences. To do this myself would require some thinking, and I'm just not up to that this morning. Something about moving mountains...

  7. "From the bank I learned my alphabet. I knew it already, of course, but years of filing cheques and statements into name order made it more instinctive, innate."

    Did you mean 'instinctive, innit'?

    I believe this is the way you young folk speak these days.

    Me, I have learned how young people speak these days - and that birds do not speed past windows like bullets.

  8. Sorry for delayed response - I 'popped' to Scotland again over the weekend but had learned how to schedule the publishing of a post!

    Maria - you must have Unnatural Aptitude! Mitigating circumstances. Changing Baby A, who was motionless, saw out of corner of eye Baby B about to pull chest of drawers on top of herself. Took hand & eye off Baby A for ONE SECOND to rescue Baby B. Baby A did sideways somersault in bid for freedom.

    Kass - not sure 'accomplishment' is the right word. It was more by osmosis.

    Martin & Deborah - I understand - it took me a while to think about it...and I've missed out a lot!!

    Karen - I didn't appreciate, or even understand the 'hat...' comment til it was too late! I don't envy you being a pub landlady at all

    Ellie - you'd like me - I'm a very good queuer! In fact, anything that involves standing staring into space - maybe I should hire myself as a professional queuer to the frustrated?

    Moptop - Actually, knowing YOU has been very educational... it certainly taught me a lesson! ;-)

  9. You say that you have learnt this and learned that. One should try to be consistent.
    And I see that the spelling checker here is probably set to American English, but in a non-American context as I assume you to be, learnt, leapt, leant, spelt, dreamt should be the preferred spelling. (See the online Style Guides of the Telegraph, The Economist etc).

    Andrew M

  10. Anonymous Andrew M - So nice to have a visit from such a learned gentleman.

    Looking back, I did indeed say 'learnt' in the part about the kibbutz (perhaps subliminally reinforcing my fish-out-of-water Englishness I felt at the time.)

    I had not given much thought to the matter -the online Style Guides of the Telegraph not being top of my current reading list - but a quick scan through other comments reveals that all but one of my British followers (who showed a preference) similarly plumped (should that be plumpt?) for the 'ed' ending.

    Incidentally the Guardian online Style guide has this to say:
    not learnt, unless you are writing old-fashioned poetry

  11. Oooh, did I sound defensive there? What I think I'm getting at is that language is a living thing and it's no wonder we get confused when multiple uses are acceptable at the same time until one dominates.

    But consistency is important, yes. I've let myself down.

    Maybe 'Inconsistency' should be my middle name, not 'Trouble.' 8-)