“I Still Have The Scar”: Our Editors Reflect On Their (Questionable) First Jobs

Unless you’re well connected, a discovered prodigy or you’re just really, really lucky, then chances are your first foray into working life was far from glamorous.
For the team at Refinery29 Australia, this certainly rings true — not the part about being prodigies, but about being unglamorous. From hyping up kids’ birthday parties to receiving cash payments in Chiko roll wrappers, our first sources of income gave us some experiences we’ll never forget.
We all have to start somewhere, and work experience is nothing to scoff at — after all, how many among us can say they got to take home six loaves of bread after a long hard day of slyly eating said bread (talk about being a breadwinner). And though there are plenty of memories that have left some scars (literally, for one writer), our first attempts at Working Life proved to be huge learning curves that set us up to bigger and more fulfilling ventures. Not only that, but they make for some pretty entertaining yarns. 
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Below, the team reflects on their first-ever jobs, from the suspicious to the disgusting, we spill on how it all began.

Zahra, Head of Editorial

"My first proper paid job was scouting potential models for a now-defunct company that sold their portfolios to large companies like Wilhelmina Models. It involved getting dressed up (in painful stiletto heels) and “casually” approaching people that fit the bill — in malls, cafes and the like.
That was excruciating enough for a 19-year-old but the worst part was when those scouted people would come in and have to get measured (height/weight etc). I remember my then-boss telling a beautiful young woman to “come back when [her] teeth were fixed"(!). I lasted about three weeks."

Pema, Style & Living Editor

"Technically, my first job was at a local bakery in year seven. It was an open format and the wind hit strong so I used to huddle up to the pie oven for warmth, addressing customers from afar to do so — better that than say, I don't know, wear pants instead of One Teaspoon cutoffs, right? That lasted a month and I was paid a whopping $6 an hour in coins. 
"My first real job was in the confectionary section at a David Jones where I worked out that if I stood behind a giant pillar, the cameras — and roaming managers — couldn’t see me eating the surplus candy. Then onto my first 'Big Girl job' — an assistant at a magazine I had long idolised where I once had to take a $600 Uber to courier a jacket to a shoot. It was a slug but I was grateful. Good times!"
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Maggie, Writer & Producer

"Searching for my first job required 14-year-old me handing out my sweaty resume to every shop that was Scooter-appropriate distance from my house. I proudly landed a job at a local fish-and-chips joint. My first foray into capitalism was a baptism by fire. Quite literally.
"I was in charge of deep-frying the chippies, manning the phone, and taking customers’ phone orders. I burnt my arm on a wire rack and still have the scar to show for it, eight years on. I had four shifts, and was paid $40 in cash for each of them — handed to me in Chiko roll wrappers, no less."

Bree, E-Commerce Editor

"My first job (I was in year 7) was being a clown at kids parties. I used to love it because I got to paint all their faces, give out lollies, hype them up, play games for hours and get paid cash for it. During my later years of high school, I was always a bit of a 'slashie' — baby sitter/swimming teacher/dance teacher/barista etc. But my first Big Girl job was the Beauty Assistant at DOLLY Magazine and it was my teenage dream come true."

Kate, Managing Editor

"My first job (at 15-years-old) was as an assistant dance teacher at my local dance school. I’d been practising jazz and contemporary there since I was 6 years old, and taught two kindy classes a week for cash in hand (the cuteness was out of control). I loved that job, it helped me to build a lot of confidence during those testing teenage years.
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"When I left school, I swapped my dance shoes for an apron and waitressed nights at an Italian restaurant so I could afford to intern three days a week (unpaid) at — what was then — ACP Magazines. It was worth it though, I landed a job as the Fashion Assistant at Woman’s Day after 10 months and never looked back."

Alicia, Culture Editor

"I had my first casual job at 20 when I was working at a jewellery store. I'd just finished an accounting degree and decided I wanted to do journalism instead, so I joined the Christmas casuals world to start earning some coin in the meantime. To be honest, it was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it because after that it was a series of unpaid journalism internships before full-time paid work in the media."

Vanessa, Publisher

"I got my start as a Slide Attendant at the local indoor pool. My responsibilities were two-fold: man the entrance to the giant slide to stop overexcited kids taking each other out by sending them down too quickly after one another and alert the lifeguards when, from my vantage point, I spotted a ‘floater’ in the pool ("Someone get the net!").
"I’m not sure if I was drunk with power or high on the fumes of the chlorine but I found those 10-hour shifts pretty meditative — plus, my reward at the end of the day was always leftover chicken nuggets from some kid’s birthday party."

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