Six jobs before becoming a teacher

Paperboy... my first job at age 13 (not me in the photo!)

This is always a fun topic of conversation among English teachers – what did you do BEFORE you joined the front lines of the teaching profession? I read somewhere that today’s young people can expect to have more than fifteen jobs in their lives. I don’t know if I had fifteen different kinds of job before becoming an English teacher but I certainly had at least six. Here they are, not necessarily in order!

1. Aid worker

I was an aid worker first in Croatia in the early nineties. I worked in a refugee camp, organising various social events and helping run the kindergarten. Actually some of this involved a bit of English teachng, but also aerobics classes and arts and crafts afternoons. I did this for a few months (they did not let us stay too long). I then worked as a volunteer for the UNHCR (High Commission on Refugees) in Guatemala the next year, accompanying Guatemalan refugees back to their villages. Interesting work, and one felt like you were doing some real good but the pay was not good. In fact, in my case the pay was inexistent as we were mostly volunteers.

2. Video store cashier and shelf-stocker

Much less glamourous than 1, I spent some time in Montreal working for Blockbuster Videos – a truly evil company. When I think back on the staff training… shudder. But I did get a couple of free rentals a week and experienced the joy of getting screamed at by outraged customers when we charged them late fees.

3 Children’s book consultant

An amazing job that put me through university. I worked for the biggest independant children’s book store in Canada (alas it closed around ten years ago). I started working on cash and in the warehouse before getting trained to be a consultant, advising librarians, teachers and parents on suitable books for different ages of children. I discovered and rediscovered many gems of children’s literature, great picture books all of which served me very well when it came time for me to get books for my own children. I did this job on and off for over six years, the second longest “profession” I’ve had after teaching.

4 Bartender and waiter

I actually attended a course and got a certificate as a bartender, can you believe such a thing exists. For a time I knew how to make all kinds of cocktails, but all that knowledge has now been forgotten. I worked in a bar in Toronto for a summer and hated it. A few years later, I was living in the UK and I went back to the service industry as a waiter in a hotel in north Wales. And hated it again.

5 Lifeguard and swimming instructor

In my much younger days I worked every summer, and part time during the year, as a lifeguard and swimming instructor in Toronto. Those were very good times, although I feel now that we were all quite young to have such responsibility. Got good tans though.

6 Newspaper delivery boy

My first ever job. I was thirteen and got a job delivering newspapers in my neighborhood. I had to get up every morning at six o’clock to finish my round by seven-thirty. Then I came home, had breakfast and went to school. That eventually ended when the government passed a law making it illegal to hire minors to deliver papers and pay them a pittance. I guess it would be called child labour now, although it didn’t feel onerous at the time.

So, what about you lot? What are the strangest most interesting, most awful, or most glamorous jobs you have held down before opting for ELT? Leave a comment.

Actually, if you have your own blog why not do a blog post on your past trades? How about a mini blog meme on the subject? I’d be interested to read them. There, the gauntlet is thrown down!

Published in: on May 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm  Comments (45)  

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  1. This will forever ruin a “Guess the lie” warmer I do on workshops, but I can’t resist. I worked for three months as a lumberjack (aka tree-feller) in New Zealand one winter. Me and a friend had at first planned to survive hunting deer and selling venison (yes, that sort of thing is quite normal in New Zealand!) but neither of us proved in the least bit capable, and, practically penniless, had no choice but to accept a job a bloke offered us in the pub one evening: “Either of you blokes know how to use a chainsaw?”
    I survived three months of it, in the dead of winter, cutting trees down and then cutting them up. And I still have all my toes!

    • The dogmeist in you now would surely require using only an axe and not a chainsaw for such work (or perhaps encouraging the trees to fall over on their own), would it not?

      Anyway, it is always good to hear ELT superstars have at some point been willing to get their hands dirty!


  2. Sorry Lindsay, other things to write about on my blog, so I’ll do this here….
    In no particular order:

    1 Christmas tree delivery driver (I sideswiped a parked car)

    2 florist delivery driver (I broke the gear system -strand developing)

    3 brewery worker (flowers brewery, Stratford on Avon)

    4 hospital orderly (Stratford-on-Avon general): old patient gave me a tip for the Grand National and I won on a horse calked Foinavon who was the only nag left standing at the end). He shuffled off soon after that (the patient)

    5 busker (Edgware Road underpass in London was my favourite) some singing in restaurants etc- not often invited back!

    6 airport rep for BSTC = British student travel center (was that it). Best moment was fixing for the boss to be kicked off a flight cos I didn’t recognise her name.

    There were others. Memory getting dim. You know how it is.

    Oh no. You don’t!


    6 re

  3. Hi Lindsay – great post!
    My first job was at a printer’s when I was just 12. Against my mom’s complaints, I went ahead and did it (I was always really stubborn!). I bought books with every penny I earned!
    Then I worked at a stationery/photocopy store when I was in university, which I immensely enjoyed because I had an obsession with pens (which I still have) and would sell pens like hotcakes (because I told the customers which ones I used too and from then on lots became regulars).
    And then came the big love of my life – ELT!
    I loved this post Lindsay, nice to know about what you did too!

  4. Hi Lindsay,

    Nice post gives us a chance to tell those stories you don’t have time for in 140 characters, or feel are worth telling anyone about. Can’t match your ideal number though – sorry.

    Job No 1 – Personal secretary to the president of the company my father used to work for. He was really no longer active or doing anything, so I really had nothing to do, nor would anyone trust me to do any other job in that office. Read all the books on his shelves (mostly about the Rosicrucians) then got so bored I walked out after six months. (There, a six to keep you smiling)

    Job No 2 – Nightclub singer. My brother was a member of a really popular band in Greece and while he was doing his army service and could not work, he pulled a band together, into which he grudgingly allowed me to sing. We did some gigs together and had a fabulous time, then when my brother got out of the army and went back to his own band, I found jobs singing in nightclubs. What a life! Going to bed a six and waking up after 2 p.m. and thinking it was all so cool!

    But I got fed up with that, too, after three years – probably because to get ahead you need to be a certain type of person and I guess I wasn’t. Also I got quite bored spending so much time with the boys who had no other conversation but music, and music and music, and, oh, girls!

    So then someone had this bright idea that I might be an OK English teacher since my English was so OK…

    … and here I am

  5. On my way here I sold mangoes on the street in Mobasa and lucky ‘Irish’ parrots at the racecourse in Lahore. I made artificial snow in my underpants, undergound in a basement in Dublin, worked on a clam boat off the West Highlands of Scotland (cold). Finally I opened an all-night restaurant. The step into an ELT classroom was therefore seamless. Waiting tables prepared me best for teaching. I still think that they’re basically the same job.

  6. Hi Lindsay!

    We shared the same profession! We were both waiters. In America, we prefer to call ourselves servers. LOL! However, my serving job was not too bad. I worked for a four star restaurant so I learned some great recipes from the chefs. I served some great people, such as George Strait, Cindy Lauper, Sergio Garcia, Mr. T, and Madeline Stowe. Plus, I was able to pay for college completely as a server. I also worked as an educator for a hands-on science museum. I loved that job! I didn’t want to ever quit but serving paid the bills. Also, I was a caterer/ suite hostess for Peter Holt, the owner of the San Antonio Spurs. That means I saw all games from the box suite for free and even got to be at the ring ceremony when they won the championship. Yes, I did wear a ridiculous uniform that made me look like a butler and did have to poor wine, restock the fridge, and more but it was still pretty fabulous! 🙂 I was a traveling poet for awhile and that was very adventurous gig. Granted, I often slept on people’s couches or floors, but I was paid! Hmmmm, I also worked as a call representative for QVC, a TV shopping network, in the US. I have had way too many jobs but that is because I am always working at least two jobs. My most interesting online job was writing letters to kids from Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the reindeers and the tooth fairy. I even got to write them in Spanish. My nieces and nephew always got free letters from Santa every year, of course! I also wrote a babysitter newsletter for awhile and was at one time a babysitter. Other jobs included the church secretary, founder of a nonprofit, and agent for local artists. Now, I just have to join the circus, right?! LOL!

    • Wow, Shelly! I envy your opportunity to be close to the San Antonio Spurs! My favourite Basketball team, especially because of Manu Ginobili!

  7. My CV before ELT:
    1. tobacco picker in Southern Ontario, Canada;
    2. tree planter in Northern Ontario and Alberta, Canada;
    3. fruit picker and pruner in Australia and New Zealand;
    4. dishwasher in Edinburgh, Scotland;
    5. wool rouser in England and sheep dipper in Wales;
    6. removals worker in London, Engand.

  8. 🙂 OOh, this is good fun…

    Lemmee see…

    1. Wine taster (UK)

    2. Wine marketer and restaurant adviser on wine menus. (UK)

    3. Leaflet distributor (Oz)

    4. Cook & Deckhand (Oz)

    5. Director of a charity for refugee, abused and generally disadvantaged kids. (HK)

    6. Failed screenplay writer (Everywhere)


    7. TEFL/ESP

    8. Edu-blogger

    9……… did someone yell “next”?

  9. Great post! At 13, to get a pair of Nike that mom refused to buy, I started working weekends at the local library. In high school worked at Food City carrying grocery bags to people’s cars and at Mcdonald’s in the Dufferein Mall, which was really cool cos that’s where I used to hang out with friends. Also worked in a shoe store & a dry cleaner’s. When I turned 18 I’d spend every summer waitressing at my uncle’s bar. Of all the places I worked the best tips, believe or not, were at shoe store for some bizarre reason.

    When I tell my students about all these jobs I had as a kid they’re completely shocked, saying it’s child labour. It certainly did me no harm.

  10. What a great idea for a post, Lindsay.

    I don’t think I’ve had many jobs before I got into ELT, but as far as I can remember this is the list.

    1. Musician (Brazil). Played mostly Beatles cover and also played in a punk rock band. Never got a dime! I sometimes remember paying to play.

    2. McDonald’s (USA). This one was quite the adventure and I must say I enjoyed working there. Also, don’t ask me why I don’t eat McDonald’s food .. I know exactly what is wrong with their food.

    3. Painter (Toronto). I think people thought I was Da Vinci and got a job in a flash. Didn’t last very long, though.

  11. There were quite a few more than six different jobs, but here are a few of them.

    1. Library Assistant: Started doing this as a kid when I was around 11 or 12. Can you tell I spent a lot of time at the library as a kid?

    2. Telemarketing: I was scarred by a brief stint trying to get people to buy call waiting. There was something perverse about the sales script that people needed this because they were getting too many phone calls.

    3. Copy shops: I worked in lots of photocopy and printing shops. I have toner in my blood.

    Here’s the best one to throw people for a loop.

    4. Apprentice Stripper-Prepress, not pole dancing: I spent a good year or so out of school working at giant vacuum frames, at light tables, and in darkrooms preparing giant film negatives to make printing plates. Worked on everything from fine art calendars to diaper packaging. Yes, that job was really advertised as “stripper” [Link sometimes with the additional specification of two-color or four-color. Almost stuck with this instead of going back to school. Great pay and a four day work week. Good thing I didn’t since most of those jobs have been replaced by digital.

    5. Restaurant kitchen worker: I won’t call myself a chef or a cook, but did all sorts of grunt work in a couple of restaurant kitchens. One job “interview” consisted of being able to identify a bunch of different vegetables.

    Interviewer: What’s this?
    Me: A tomato.
    Interviewer: You’re hired!

    I should have known it would be a bad job.

    6. Bookstore clerk: Worked in at least four different bookstores at various times. Always fun. Maybe do it again someday. If there are any bookstores left when I am ready for a different gig.

    There are more, but those are the high (low?) lights.

  12. […] Lindsay Clandfield on his lovely “Six Things” blog has invited us to think back to six jobs we held before becoming a teacher. Good question! None of the English teachers I know have had a straight and narrow career. Something drives us to do this crazy job, opening up to anyone and everyone as we support them on their often frustrating path to becoming proficient in a language forced upon them, often enough, and making sure they like it, too. […]

  13. Great post – think I’ll find it difficult now not thinking about Monty Python’s ‘Lumberjack song’ the next time I see Scott!

    Here are a couple of jobs I had before I became a teacher:

    1) Concert usher. When I was at university in London, I spent most of my evenings at the Hammersmith Odeon (now the Apollo) showing people to their seats before gigs. I got paid (not much) to see the great, the good and the not so good play. Highlights were being present at the Dire Straits soundchecks, chatting to Motorhead’s Lemmy (a regular visitor) and showing a very drunk Chrissie Hynde to her seat (she’d come to see her then husband’s band, Simple Minds)

    2) Site Office Manager. After university, I drifted into working in office administration/management for various architects (I started off in one job working with Mark Dytham, who later won a competition, moved to Japan and came up with the ‘pecha kucha’ presentation format). Just I started one of these jobs, the project got blocked and they started making the architects redundant. Even though there was no work, the client paid for a secretary, office manager and one designer. Our brief was to ‘look busy’ or you’ll get laid off too. Our solution? We sat at three computers playing various adventure games from start to finish. That lasted a month. I guess you could say it was the first time I’d been paid to play computer games.

    • Hi all,
      Well, my story is not that interesting…but here it goes.
      It seems I have always been into teaching… but before I taught EFL, I was a gymnastics teacher, a job I still do twice a week for fun!


  14. Hi all

    1. Mortgage advisor and trainer for a building society.
    1st job here in Germany and I enjoyed it very much.
    2.Last UK job.
    Debt collection supervisor for well known High Street store.
    Interesting aspect of retail sales I had never thought of before. Chasing people who bounced cheques well I thought it was interesting.
    3. Mother This job seems to be ongoing I am sure the responsibility must end sometime but it is over 30 years now.
    4.Post Office counter clerk in the days when the pensioners collected their pensions every week. Never been so busy since.
    5.Radish picker in the school summer holidays. You had to pick a bunch shake off the soil and then wrap an elastic band around them. This could be why I am not a fan of elastic bands.
    6.Volunteer librarian. Our local library only opened one evening a week, great job and I could read all the books too.

  15. Hmm….

    Shelf stacker at Tesco (was promised I could become a Trainee Assistant Manager if I kept my head down) while I was doing A levels. Every Thursday, Friday night and all day Saturday. Fifteen hours a week for 15 quid… Highlight was dropping a case of expensive whisky. Or, perhaps, hiding in the stockroom eating cream eggs… Got trained as a butcher there, too.

    Farm worker, two summers during A levels. Mostly potato harvesting or oat harvesting, occasionally baling and all that. I was a champion ‘roguer’ (pulling out the wild oats from a field of oats before harvesting, due to crap EU rules). Worked twelve hour-days and were fed there too, swam in the lake… The farmer’s wife lost her Rolex in a sack of potatoes once….

    Bar worker, at university. Every summer I also worked in a mailing company. My job was to stack machines with inserts and watch the machines pull all the inserts together and put them in an envelop, and seal the envelope. Mind-numbing work broken only by the fact that the machines got blocked every minutes or so.

    Worked in a gift shop immediately after university, selling Francis Frith memorabilia to go with an exhibition over the summer.

    Stand-up comedian for approximately three years after university, involving a residency in a club in Coventry, gigs all over the country (including London’s famous Comedy Store) and the Edinburgh Festival a couple of times. Got my Equity card (Actors Union) and did lots of extra work including Crossroads, Eastenders, etc.

    Gay telephone dating agency systems manager and advertising executive. Based in Brixton Enterprise Centre, my job was to computerise the company but also to design the adverts for the London press and have long and pleasant lunches with people selling advertising space in the papers. Still the best paid job I’ve ever had, and the best lunches. Number 1 Trinity Gardens in Brixton was an amazing French restaurant where I did most of my work. The job also involved meeting Russell Harty once a week in Soho and sitting whilst he recorded his crap horoscope predictions for another part of the company.

    Temping as a graphic designer…. I was rubbish at it, mostly… Heard ‘we won’t need you tomorrow’ quite a few times.

    I think that may be it, but like Jeremy, my memory is fading…


  16. Haha. Great idea. In Turkey, many students will ask you what “your real job is.” Previous jobs I got paid for before joining the illustrious ranks of ELT in reverse order were

    1) Teacher’s Aide at a daycare. This was my all time favorite job as I basically got to play with kids all day. What could be better?

    2) Assistant Network Administrator for a school district. This was a job where I learned a ton about computers and networking. Too bad I’ve forgotten almost everything. Always something different to do.

    3)Manager of 2 pizza restaurants. These jobs were always pretty lame and required late nights, but the flexible schedules really helped during college. Also, the free pizza made me king among roommates and parties.

    4)Verifier and sometimes Caller for a telemarketing donations firm. Definitely the worst job I ever had, but made really good money. Also, we often called people from the sticks in Kentucky for Veterans orgs and that was just a hoot. “Yes ma’am, that big number on the outside of your door is your apartment number.”

    5) Line Crewman at an airport. This job was great. Lots of interesting stuff to do and in the winter absolutely nothing to do but sit and get paid. Cool, but the pay was terrible.

    6) Construction Worker. I think one summer I roofed over 30 houses. God was that hard.

    7) Hardware Store Worker. Boring as all hell. I learned a lot about tools and, interestingly enough, various species of grass and how to grow them.

    8) Burger joint Worker and later Manager. This was my first job and lots of fun. Typical teenage blow-off job where you worked hard and played hard.

  17. First & worst (age 13) Rubbing down a car in preparation for repainting. By hand, water & glasspaper. I lasted 2 days.

    2. Door to door survey for local newspaper – got bored and filled in the questionnaires.

    3. Sometime DJ – got nervous, drank to much, put records on at the wrong speed.

    4. Pop band manager for local band – The Mangy Bananas. Their name was the best bit.

    5. Publishing and distributing for Art Galleries & museums around the world – beautiful and privileged work.

    6. High tech consultant during the boom. Even had a couple of start-ups. Exciting and frustrating times.

  18. This is a good post…. just can’t stop thinking of Scott Thornbury as a Dogme lumberjack and Shelly serving Mr.T

    I’ve got nothing quite as fun – but there are a few worth mentioning:

    1)First ever job – working as a shelfstacker in the local co-op… we managed to post almost the worst figures in the country and had to go for retraining, failure at 17.

    2)Working in the China dept of a furniture store – I am the clumsiest person I know. That was a very self-concious month!

    3)Bar work at Lord’s cricket ground – working in a quiet bar at the top of a stand serving Pimms in the sunshine while Aussie batsmen knocked every English ball for 6 #truebritishsummer

    4)The other side of the sports ground element (The Yang to No,4s Ying) – working as a safety steward at the Vetch Field, Swansea, getting abused by big Welsh skinheads in the freezing cold and driving rain – did get an NVQ in it, though – I’m now qualified in crowd control #truebritishwinter

    5)Same company as no.4 – Doing bar work at Royal Ascot, felt like having stepped into a period drama as ourr clients got hammered in a quaint 1920s English way.

  19. Wonderful post :).

    1. Dishwasher at a Fast-Food restaurant (worst job ever)

    2. Camp Counselor at summer camp somewhere in New York for kids from wealthy families in New York City. I remember one of the kids (yes, the kids) gave me a $100 USD tip because I helped him catch a bass one afternoon.

    3. Cotton Scout. This is a typical summer job for teens in North Carolina…basically, I had to walk through cotton fields all day, looking for disease, boll weevils and the like. Best job ever (no boss looking over your shoulder, they just gave me a map and left me to it).

    4. Bartender / Waiter (Like Marisa, I thought I was really cool).

    5. As much as I had to admit it, I spent six weeks working as a telemarketer. Basically, I got screamed and cussed at all day.

  20. What a fun read, Lindsay!

    I did nothing anywhere near as exciting as the other jobs I’ve been reading about!

    * Cleaner in a hotel, then in uni halls of residence
    * I sold perfume and makeup in a department store
    * Helped out in the kitchen of an old people’s home

    Then I caught up in the world of TEFL aged 21 and haven’t left since!

  21. Fun idea!

    Mine’s a very long list & my memory is fading too I’m afraid, so I’ll just pick a random half a dozen out of the hat…

    Saturday job on a record stall in the local market while still at school – not only did I get to play whatever I liked, but my lovely boss threw lunch in and paid me the princely sum of two quid a day – a small fortune back then for a fourteen-year old.

    Spent my wages building up a priceless collection of Northern Soul and American import rarities which I stashed in the loft for safekeeping, and which my dear mum (bless her!) mistook for junk and generously donated to Oxfam a few years after I left home…

    Trainee Accountant with the local council

    Took the job against my better judgement to please my parents, who were mustard keen for me to have a proper job and a career. Square peg. Round hole. Enough said.

    Computer Games designer & graphic artist back in the 1980’s, working on PC games & game conversions for the C64, Spectrum & Atari PC’s.

    Session vocalist & wannabe rock star, also back in the 1980’s. Got to meet & occasionally gig & party with the 80’s indie A-Z list.

    A fair few funny stories to tell from back then, most of which I wouldn’t want to commit to print, so I’ll save them for another time…

    Got a few years pre-service training under my belt teaching low level English beginners, working as a registered childminder when my son was a toddler.

    Actor/Film Extra & Comedy Scriptwriter/performer.

    Wrote comedy sketches for TV & the odd bit of material for comedians. (some of it very odd)

    Did a bit of stand-up as well for a while, though mainly to raise my profile as a writer.

    Like Gavin, also played the Comedy Store. Managed to hold my own with the audience by the skin of my teeth, although just the once was enough, thank you…

    Next up after that was teaching 🙂


  22. Great post, Lindsay. An amazing array of fascinating jobs that everyone has had! Mine seem a bit dull in comparison, but anyway here goes. These are only a few of the jobs I had before becoming a teacher:

    1)A member of the Leicester University Entertainments Committee in the late ’70s with the priviledge of being a bouncer on the door at gigs such as the visit by The Damned, a well-know punk group in their heyday. Madness and the Undertones also played at Leicester Uni. The song “Jimmy, Jimmy” rings a big bell, for some reason. Those were the days..

    2) Barmaid at Leicester University’s legendary Sudent’s Union Redfearn Bar. One night I was invited to a dozen parties (a great perk of the job!)and I was unreliably informed I went to all of them!

    3) Au-pair in Genoa, Italy for 3 months when I was 19. I had to look after a 4-year-old and an eleven-year-old. I was given full responsibility. The perks of the job were that I was taken to swish restaurants every evening by the family, I had my own TV and phone in my room, I had 2 days off a week, I was given reasonable pocket money and I didn’t have to do any housework! Just (!!) look after the 2 kids. A great experience and I learnt a lot of Italian. I was able to explore the fabulous coastline in my free time.

    4)Waitress at the Berni Inns in Oxford. I enjoyed the hectic pace. I was also a wine waitress. When the manager found out I could speak Italian, French and German he promoted me to Front of House, where I had to meet and greet the huge amount of International customers walking through the door in Italian, French or German. My next task was to encourage them to go to the upstairs restaurant, which was the most expensive place to eat. A lot of people would be pleased I spoke in their language and I believe I generated a lot of extra income for the restaurant. When I left, the manager treated my whole family to a slap up meal on the house.

    5)Marks and Spencer shop assistant. There were posters which said “Smile – you are approaching the customer area” just before we entered the shop floor. I’ve never understood why a full medical examination was necessary as part of the job process. Shop floor managers used to check we were doing our job properly, so we always had to look very busy. I can fold jumpers very well now, a useful skill I had to learn.

    6)Court interpreter for Oxford Crown Court. This was on a couple of occasions. I remember I was paid £25 an hour about 30 years ago. I wonder how much interpreters earn nowadays, as that seemed a lot of money to me in those days. The most interesting case was having to translate for a woman accused of biting a boy. She actually confessed to me she had done it, but of course she denied it in court. My job was to translate her words (from Italian into English). My personal opinion wasn’t part of the job. I was very relieved that she was found guilty.

    That’s it- not terribly exciting, but all character forming!

  23. Great stories, Lindsay!

    Mine happened in the late 70’s, after graduating from high school. I worked as an operator in a post office telephone service. At the time, almost all long-distance calls in Romania could be made dialing a county-prefix so most of my work meant connecting people to the rural areas. It wasn’t the job of my life but it taught me at least two important lessons:
    1. I made some friends among the operators in other towns. That’s how I discovered that you could befriend someone you had never met and really empathize with them.
    2. It was the first time when pronunciation and intonation seemed to be more important than ever before. Does anyone remember how “strange and distorted” operators sound? Well that voice, that nasal tone is something operators achieve through mimetism. And it’s not like they do it on purpose, believe me!

    After university, I went directly into teaching and… here I am today!

  24. Smile! V. amusing post!
    1. Diecaster, told off by Time Mgmt ‘cos was in competition with my brother and we were moving too fast.

    2. Xmas postwoman, scared of the dogs.

    3. Au-pair in Chateauneuf-sur-Sartre (how do I rmbr that and not the rest??!). Shld track those children on FB!

    4. Confectioner in Hintersee bei Berchtesgaden. My Pflaumkuchen and Saesekuchen rule!

    5. Then Hamburg with the commodity markets………

    6. Recruitment consultants in London

    7. In the financial world in London

    8. Greece

    Let’s not forget the waitress who was desired on toast, the barmaid, the tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor and that was me………….love it, if only S decides to post!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Lindsy, thanks for stirring the memories. Now I realise why they asked for me on toast…I had to offer Knickerbockerglories! lol!

  26. Wow. Thank you for the overwhelming response everyone. What a great selection of jobs, from the mundane to the downright awful to the sublime. An interesting and refreshing change to read! Thanks again!

  27. Loving reading about everyone’s colorful job history. What an unbelievable set of skills in this community.

  28. Couple of disturbing similarities to Gavin (Tesco shelf-stacker, working the night shift, and wild-oat and bolted-sugar-beet pulling “agricultural labourer” – which means “peasant” as far as I can tell)

    Assistant Plant Breeder responsible for rape. I think I’ll leave that one just as a job title as it sounds much more interesting/dodgy/vile than it actually was.

    Pot washer/salad maker in various kitchens of Cambridge colleges

    I also partly helped to build the headquarters of BP, though not, you’ll be glad to hear, its oil rigs and drilling systems. When I say partly helped I mean I was the only English person involved in the grunt end of the construction among what seemed to have been 3/4s of the population of Ireland.

    In a short mid-TEFL-career-hiatus I was also a receptionist at a massage school in California (a job I got because the blind owner/lead therapist liked the sound of my voice), while at the same time, during the evenings a waiter in an “English Pub”. I did try to explain to the owner that if it was a genuinely authentic English pub it wouldn’t actually have waiters. This was a place where all the front of house staff were Brits – barstaff, servers, etc, and the menus were full of shepherds pie and fish and chips and simiar, but the moment you (as a waiter) walked through that kitchen door, the only language spoken was Spanish.

    Later I also wrote two cross-cultural training manuals for US business people on working in Australia and Saudi Arabia despite never having ever visited either of those two countries at the time.

    In a more professional way I was curriculum development consultant for a course to train relief and health workers going working in refugee camps.

    Oh, and paperboy of course.

  29. Oh, and I forgot the best one – working as a steward at Wembley Stadium. Got to see some football matches, a boxing bout and a couple of rock concerts. Trying to stop drunken Scottish football fans try every which way to get past the turnstile I was manning without paying (at least they were good humoured which is more than can be said for the “cream” of England fans singing the National Anthem with hands raised in Nazi-style salute). That last bit aside it was an extremely enjoyable job.

  30. Hi Lindsay
    Hope you are well! I was glad to come across your blog and I think it was the photo at the top that prompted me to reply because I too began my working career as a…
    o paperboy aged 13 … some very cold 6 am starts, but the Xmas tips made those worthwhile for a couple of years.
    Thereafter …
    o Plenty of freelance gardening jobs
    o Packing pot plants
    o Working in a nappy factory
    o Picking grapefruit in Israel
    o Cleaning windows in a pub – exciting stuff!
    I don’t think I’m up to 15 jobs yet but EFL brings its own variety of course.

  31. Thank you for your post, I am new at blogging. I am not an English teacher or for that matter any kind of teacher but I want to be able to express myself. Even though I don’t have any experience in the teaching field I am going to write about my jobs that I have had. Thank you for the inspiration.

  32. Hi all,

    I’ve been monitor in summer camps, a factory worker, a groupleader of teenagers travelling abroad and tourist’ agent during some summers. I’d love to try more jobs before being an English teacher.

    Best regards!

  33. My first job was as a check-out assistant at Kmart, at the age of 15. I lasted there for a couple of years, although I hated it and vowed never to work in retail again.

    Before university started, I worked in a factory that made sewing kits and different things. I had to use lots of machines to assemble all the different parts of the kit. After 6 months I got told the company was going bankrupt and had to leave (though the 2 weren’t connected!).

    Throughout uni I worked in a cinema – first as staff, then supervisor, then manager. Did a bit of everything there – sales, customer service, advertising, promotions, being the voice of the recorded information line. It was a good job and I stayed there for 3 years.

    Also worked in a couple of bars for 1-2 years – one at a yacht club and one in a wedding reception centre. There were good perks like free food and alcohol, which was great as a student, as well as great tips if someone won on the poker machines.

    In university I also worked as a research assistant/animal carer in the animal behaviour lab.

    I also did a volunteer project, in Costa Rica, which involved construction work, social work, farm work and also teaching English.

    Then back home I started some temp jobs – one in administration and data entry that was supposed to last a day or two and ended up being for 6 months. It would have been for longer but I ended up back overseas, hunting for my first EFL job.

    While waiting for that job I did some bar work – one at a beach bar in Mykonos before it became infamous (and I quit when I saw the horrible way they treated staff and customers)… and another in a pub in England which burned down a couple of months after I left.

    I must admit I’ve had no luck as a waitress – I survived 1 hour in an Indian Restaurant before running out as well as 1 day in McDonald’s before quitting.

    Add to that volunteer work in an animal shelter, environmental centre and as a crisis counsellor and I think I’ve covered nearly every job possible! Can’t seem to crack the 3 year mark though at any one job (although I’ve now made it to 4 years as a teacher!).

  34. A really great post – so far, no jobs involving uniforms, which I find quite reassuring.

    1. Tennis court maker – this was a really grim job that involved travelling long distances in the back of a transit van with a group of men, getting dressed up in paper sacks, and then spraying some kind of liquid tar all over the place. The tar would accumulate and gravel and other things would stick to it. As the 12 hour day wore on your legs would get heavier and heavier, both psychologically and literally. What better way to spend a warm summer.
    2. Coca cola taster – a summer job working in the Forest of Dean where, thanks to my grade E at Chemistry A level, I got a job working in a lab and was responsible for quality control of coke. This meant that I had to do things like check fizziness and can strength, and every half hour, taste it. For some reason I was employed to work shifts – the thing was the coke production line only ran during the day, so I just sat in a room on my own in a dark factory for much of the time.
    3. Clerk – me and a friend had a job working in a helicopter factory. Luckily, we didn’t make helicopters – instead we worked in a sort of glass box in the middle of a partially abandoned warehouse where we had to sort old invoices. We never really saw anyone; each day there would be a fresh pile of these invoices, which would take about an hour to sort and then we would just sit around until someone came along and took them away later in the day.
    4,5 & 6. To make up numbers, also paper boy (paper youth?? paper child??), film producer, fruit picker and quite a few more.

    I recently managed to get hold of a copy of Smallcreep’s Day by Peter Currell Brown ( – the definitive description of factory work, which is still as fresh as when it was written – wonderful.


  35. Late to this particular party, but such a great thread!

    Some of the more interesting jobs in my past have been:

    1) Supermarket gofor (my first official job at age 16)

    2) Part-time worker supervising adults with down syndrome and other disabilities in a workshop producing timber items (one of the most inspiring jobs I have ever done, to be honest)

    3) Assistant manager of one of the roughest and most notorious pubs/tavern complexes in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia (jeez did that open the eyes of a certain long-haired Melbourne Uni lad!)

    4) Sales and marketing manager for Bass Brewing Worldwide in Melbourne (distributed a lot of the sample stock – including the notorious Tennents Super – at parties in our dumpy house in East Brunswick!)

    5) Research and marketing assistant for the Victorian Wineries Tourism Council (a division of Tourism Victoria), which required attendance at a lot of functions I could not legally drive home from

    6) Casual food and beverage attendant at Cirque Du Soleil performances in Melbourne

    7) Hay baling during one summer

    8) Manager of a dark and dingy bar called *The Frigate* in Melbourne;s Chinatown, where I earned an open invite to the most expensive and spectacular Chinese restaurants in town

    9) Work experience at age 16 with Juke Magazine (at the time owned by Melbourne;s The Age newspaper). I was initially lumped with Greyhound Weekly, but the cool people over in the Juke section (a rock and roll mag) saw my pained expression and talked to some higher ups. Suddenly I was transcribing interviews with members of Crowded House, U2 and Simple Minds, and the great people at Juke even arranged a free subscription to the mag for another two years!

    Ah – great memories…


  36. What a fab idea! My own collection of poorly-paid pre-teaching jobs…

    1. Newspaper girl – I think I earned about 60p a week, but I loved being out and about in the quiet of early morning.

    2. Strawberry picker – backbreaking

    3. Saturday shop girl – boss took after the Robber Baron, but I learnt to judge where to slice cheese off the huge rounds and get it within a couple of oz of the customer’s order. Not been a particularly useful skill since, sadly.

    4. Packer in a packing factory. Got so behind placing the bottles in the right place to be filled, that the machine backed up and threw up its contents all over the assembly line. Was punished for all the downtime this caused by having to go and count plastic bottles coming out of the bottle making machine. For hours.

    Tip: Boots own gloop in a bottle is exactly the same as more downmarket own gloop in a bottle. Only the labels change.

    5. Reservations clerk at my uncle’s posh London hotel. Apparently my letter to “Dear Uncle Chan” amused the front of house no end – none of them would have guessed that psycho Chan actually had a niece. Fab job – loved both Chan and the experience.

    6. Volunteer teacher for the Red Crescent in Hebron. One of the few real life-changing experiences in my life so far. Completely humbling and eye-opening.

  37. 1. Paper round
    2. Door to door sales of cleaning products
    3. Making chicken nuggets for Marks and Sparks
    4. Making those aluminium containers that they put Chinese takeaways in in the UK
    5. Macdonalds (three weeks)
    6. Care worker

    • Hi Alex

      I see we share a few past jobs (paper boy, care worker/aid worker). I don’t share the McDonald’s or factory style work you had but the first ones perhaps explain why I keep thinking of great blog posts only to see that you have done them first!
      (incidentally, I was sure – but could not find it – that you had done something like this post before…)

  38. Hey this was a lot of fun to read. Thanks! I’ve posted my six jobs here:

  39. This is a little late, but I’ve seen just a few of my own collection of pre-teaching jobs here. So, here goes…

    1. strawberry picker & millet detassler — both really hard work!

    2. babysitter/au pair — I spent the summer I turned sixteen living with a family two hours drive from my home. I was extremely homesick, but I took tennis lessons during my lunch break and still (occasionally) enjoy playing.

    3. librarian assistant — As a student I worked in my college library for 3 years during the school year. This was a fun job — cataloging books, reshelving books, etc. I love being surrounded by books!

    4. house painter — I worked for a student painting company for four summers during college. It was good to work outdoors and do something completely different from studying, though I was always ready to return to school by the end of the summer! After graduating I worked full-time as a house painter for another company for awhile. It’s a handy skill to have.

    5. office clerk — I worked part-time in an insurance brokerage during my last year of college and then full-time in the same office at the worst job ever (in terms of matching my temperament and skills)…

    6. …telemarketer of insurance policies for companies. Students who know me well laugh when I tell them that I was a telemarketer. Basically, I had to find names and addresses for all the operating managers of construction companies in a city. Write a letter, print out 100 copies and send them out. Several days later I’d call the companies asking if the letter had been received and would they be interested in getting a quote from one of our brokers? The rate of return…100 letters to 10 appointments to one successful sale…

    That was the job that drove me into teaching (when my boss wanted me to get my insurance broker’s license, I knew it was time to leave…), so I am thankful for it. I learned a lot there and at all my jobs. But I’ve learned the most from teaching!

  40. I’ve never had another job, I grew up wanting to be an efl teacher.

  41. […] Six jobs before becoming a teacher by Lindsay Clandfield […]

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