As soon as I was able to, I wanted to get a job.
My first memory of the thirst to work was the Thursday evenings I’d spend with my mum on Willis Street when my brother was at drum practice (I was 10). We’d pop into a little dress shop I adored called ‘Voon’. The boho style captured my imagination and although I was only a pre-teen, I was awed when the shop assistant told me and my mother that when I was 16 I maybe could come and work there. It felt like the biggest and most grown up compliment I’d ever received.
I started out racking up some jobs as a teen with varying levels of success (if you’re wondering, no, none at Voon... I’m still in the city though, call me baby!) including Moore Wilsons (my big break at 16 - I spent my first paycheck on some REALLY COOL white skull candy headphones I’d seen in Teen Vogue). In my final school year, I landed a role at WORLD. Here I learnt about the importance of belting a dress to show off your waist, being confident in selling, as well as operating a point of sale system. I also made my dearest life-long friends.
"...I spent my first paycheck on some REALLY COOL white skull candy headphones"
After shaking off the rag trade, I found myself at Uni and needed money to eat. I needed more hours, more options. Hospitality seemed the logical choice, but while I’d waltzed into my first two jobs, I found it was trickier to break into hospitality, having had no experience. I hustled and persevered.
One of the downsides to working in hospitality/retail was always the process of looking for that part time or casual job. Until it materialised, it always seemed elusive and stressful. I found Trade Me and SEEK rarely threw up much of use to me and mainly relied on word of mouth (which while great, will only take you so far in the digital age). Too late for me, but just in time for all of you hospitality hopefuls there’s now a jazzy jobseekers website that can help with finding that all important part retail or hospo job (it’s not an agency, y’all). It’s called ‘Helping Hands’ and they’ve been killing it in Auckland and now have arrived in the Capital of food and drink.
"One of the downsides to working in hospitality/retail was always the process of looking for that part time or casual job"
For job seekers, you make a free profile with your skills on offer, kind of like Tinder (so you have to sell yourself, yo!). There is more than just part time work, including full time, temp and last minute opportunities. Once you’ve signed up, your profile will be seen by employers if your skills match their search. It's exactly the same as applying for jobs on Seek/Trade Me, in that you’re only going to be considered for roles that you suit, the difference is that the employers make that decision and contact you for roles they think you’ll be great at.
Helping Hands spares you from all the shit and only gives you the goods. While you get on with the rest of your life, the site is scanning opportunities in the background without distracting you with non-relevant stuff. It spares you the time-consuming hassle of writing cover letters, trolling sites for opportunities, being rejected. All that happens behind the scenes and you only hear from an employer when they want to hear more about you. I wish I’d had this available to me when I was working in food and beverage industries because it would have saved me a lot of time! Used by my old stomping ground WORLD, Burger Liquor, Habitual Fix and Plum Cafe Cuba Street, it really is a neat winner for both employers and prospective employees.
"Used by my old stomping ground WORLD, Burger Liquor, Habitual Fix and Plum Cafe Cuba Street, Helping Hands really is a neat winner for both employers and prospective employees."
Finally, I got working in hospo starting out at Olive Restaurant, as a waitress. While I never ever achieved coffee making skills (sometimes you just have to move on) the next few years, I continued to work in hospitality. From Cuba Street to Pravda in the CBD and Hummingbird Courtenay Place, I struggled and triumphed in equal measures. I slaved all day at Toast Martinborough with Pravda (but then got to drink all the wine at the end!), and stayed up all night and almost until dawn at dancing at Betty’s with Hummingbird. Of course, there were bad days, like when I forgot customers orders when a table was particularly rowdy – or mopping floors after the shift. But without these jobs in hospitality and retail in Wellington, and the challenges they threw up to me I’d not be the girl I am today.
No one knows how hospitality can shape you as a person than Stephanie, the owner of Plum Cuba Street. We met one sunny lunchtime, over juice and pork belly, and hit it off straight away talking about hospo and technology. She’s used Helping Hands and is a vocal advocate for it to find the right people for her Wellington cafe. “We love Helping Hands at Plum and I’ll shout it from the rooftops. They’ve sped up our recruitment no end.” To find more work, she suggests that job seekers are definitive in the skills they have so employers can find them. She thinks it simplifies recruitment by “cutting out the first 30% of timewasters. You can see everything you need to up front and make contact. You can make the decision whether that person is the person you’re looking for!”
“We love Helping Hands at Plum and I’ll shout it from the rooftops"
After talking to Stephanie, I realised that the main lesson I learnt from my time in Hospitality and Retail is that how you treat a person who serves you speaks about who YOU are as a person in life on the whole. Young people are working their butts off, sometimes while balancing study and a family, to make ends meet. If you are a dick to someone in hospitality, you probably have never experienced what it means to truly work doing hard labour in a busy environment for long hours. You have to give it your all. It is not for the faint hearted and requires an effective memory, hand-eye co-ordination and oodles of gumption. On the flipside, the support of your colleagues and the family that you can build within the FOH and BOH team will be everything!
"How you treat a person who serves you speaks about who YOU are as a person in life on the whole"
Reflecting on how you treat other people is vital and an important life lesson. On the flipside, if you ever have a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend who treats someone who is a waiter or waitress like crap, run. To quote J. K. Rowling in Harry Potter via Sirius Black "If You Want to Know What a Man’s Like, Look at How He Treats His Inferiors" (that was in the context of house elves, not my amazing barista who I would bow down on the ground for, but you get my drift). Never were wiser words written (RIP Sirius).
And so, while these days my life alternates between blogging and policy, and my hospo days are behind me, I’ll always remember to thank the staff as I leave a shop or cafe - and give them an extra big smile.
This post was kindly sponsored by the good folk at Helping Hands. As usual, all opinions are completely my own and I genuinely like their product and company.
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