There’s currently a meme on Facebook: Your First Five Jobs.

What interests me more, is what lessons did you learn from your first five jobs?

How did each job change you?

Here’s mine:


1) Apprentice Toolmaker: I was 16 when I left school and started work in a factory, it wasn’t anything like I expected.

It was duller than anything I’d believed possible

After a year I learned I didn’t want to do that for life.

So I went back to school and took A levels.

That factory was my gap year, I’d learned what education was for.

Why I was working hard.


2) Third Class Seaman: After four years in New York at art school I wanted some romance.

To experience exotic peoples and unusual lifestyles.

So I got a job as a deckhand on a freighter, to see the world.

What I found was that the ship spends nearly all its time at sea.

That’s like being stuck in a factory that you can’t leave, with the same thirty blokes.

Then once a month you might get one day ashore, that’s it.

I learned not to believe the hype that my own mind feeds me.


3) Junior Copywriter: I got a job in a New York ad agency.

I used to go for a couple of pints at lunchtime, just the way I would back in London.

If I worked late I’d take a beer from the agency fridge.

I got fired because they thought I was an alcoholic.

I learned that behaviour that was okay in working class London wasn’t okay in middle class New York.

I learned we had nothing in common but the language.

Culturally, ethnically, I had nothing to draw on as a copywriter.


4) Bank Clerk: When I came back to London I worked in The City while I tried to get a job in advertising.

All my friends were messengers.

They let me use the bank’s Xerox machine to make 50 small copies of my portfolio.

They let me use the bank’s postal system to send them out to fifty people in advertising.

I got two job offers in a week, instead of the process taking months.

I learned, if you’re in advertising: act like it.


5) Copywriter: I was the first person John Webster hired when he was made creative director of BMP.

He did ads for ordinary working class English people, like me.

What I learned was I didn’t have to pretend to be middle class.

Or try to write like P G Wodehouse.

If I found it funny, ordinary people like me would find it funny.

I learned to be proud of what made me different, not to try to copy middle class people.

If you are yourself, you own that market.


So what I learned:

You work harder when you love the job.

Don’t believe what your mind tells you.

You’re better when you use what you know.

Advertising isn’t a place for shy people.

Make the most of what makes you different.