My First Work Learn

3 August 2023

Student Zone  |  

Knitting together all of the learns from our latest social media share, #MyFirstWorkLearn, this page will be added to on Thursday each week and to our YouTube playlist below.

This week’s #MyFirstWorkLearn comes from Naynesh Desai, Consultant Solicitor at Chan Neill Solicitors, and Working Options in Education Trustee …

“The first two jobs I ever had, which were holiday jobs whilst I was at school, were as follows, both were in the same Summer and therefore they both made a lasting impression on me:

The first was a job working at a warehouse which distributed clothes to all the retail stores. My job was preparing shipments of clothes to go to various retail shops and then making sure that those were loaded onto the vans. The important thing about the job was that you learned that you had to work as a team to ensure loading the vans and preparing the consignments for loading onto the van did not become too tedious or onerous a task. If you worked as a team, work was easier, it also made sure that you realized the value of having to rely on one another to make sure things went smoothly.  Importantly, for a first Summer job, it also taught me the value of learning to get along with people and the experience of that job still remains with me.

That same Summer I also had a job selling ice creams at one of the Ice Cream Parlours situated at Lords Cricket Ground. The important thing about the job was that it taught me how to be polite to customers, even when they were being rude, and to learn to keep calm and cool no matter how customers behaved with you. You learned the value of service and you also very quickly learned that if you were polite to people, no matter how they had initially behaved towards you, things could calm down very quickly.  That lesson has remained with me throughout my working life as a lawyer, that you are in a service industry, it is important that you provide the best service that you can and no matter how much people may try to aggravate you or annoy you it is best to keep calm as things will very rapidly return to normal.”


Omar Gonzalez-Nina shares his my first work learn about developing resilience and a good sense of humour with us ???? 

“My first job was as a Customer Care Agent in a busy call centre dealing with inbound calls, a job I did part time whilst studying for my degree. As a customer care agent you deal with customers about a number of issues. Most people are reasonable and want a solution to their problem, and you are in a position to provide that solution or at least acknowledge their concern (an unexpectedly high bill when they came back from holiday, wanting a refund, wanting a better deal, etc.).

My first work learn taught me that each customer is unique. It taught me to remain calm and collected, to think on my feet and how to deal with difficult situations, develop resilience and a good sense of humour. Working in a call centre gives you a lot of useful skills and though intense in nature it was a very fun job.”


Simon Parker, Aircraft Engineer in the Royal Navy, shares his very honest #MyFirstWorkLearn with us …

“I chose to push myself way outside my comfort zone and see what I could make of myself, becoming comfortable with the fear of failure but fearing not trying.

As a child growing up in a deprived area, I was surrounded by apathy and helplessness.  My role models were unfortunately very uninspiring and closed off to the world. My options were to stay and accept what is, or look elsewhere.

If you’re lost and uninterested in life, perhaps uninspired or aimless, searching for something. Push outside your comfort zone, experience new things, open your mindset, travel!

Travel is the best educator, it teaches us alternative ways to live, breeds compassion, and exposes us to other cultures.

Believe that feeling inside, it’s telling you to change something”.


Aspire to become an expert in your field, whatever it is – this weeks’ #MyFirstWorkLearn from Sylvanus Hingston-Williams, at Google.

“My first job was at Toys’R’Us, and I can still hear the Noddy and Thomas the Tank Engine theme tunes on loop in my head …

I was placed in the pre-school section, an area I was not familiar with as a young adult at the time.

However, I took the time to learn the bestsellers and favourites.

Equipping myself with this knowledge allowed me to provide customers with a better service and shopping experience. Whether it was simply locating a specific toy on the shelf or providing recommendations; I was able to ask specific questions about who they were buying a toy for and provide great suggestions on the perfect toy.

It showed me the importance of becoming an expert in your field, whatever it is. This is something I have carried with me through my career, especially whenever starting a new role.

Also, wear comfortable shoes for six hour+ shifts that require you to be constantly on your feet! You need to right kit for the job if you are going to do it well.”


Graphic Designer (of our new lightbulb), Jack Bleakley, tells us how his #MyFirstWorkLearn came from having the door literally slammed in his face …

“My first role was as a door-to-door salesman, I just didn’t suit it. But, it did teach me three crucial things that help me in my work with clients today:

1. Rejection is all part of the job, you need to ask for constructive feedback from it and move forwards.
2. Knowing what I don’t like motivates me to constantly keep working harder at turning what I love to do (designing) into a lifelong career for myself.*
3. Never give up. During my first role there were two-three occasions where I was very close to not meeting my sales quota and losing that job. At one point the day had finished, and I was walking back to the team, and I decided to do one more street of 4 doors – just to try! I got the sale and kept my job. Lesson I leaned that day – it’s not over until it’s over. Never give up.

*We should say here that Jack is VERY good at what he does, and we know his career will go from strength to strength!


We learn the importance of honesty with ourselves and following our gut intuition

A holiday park in Cornwall, at the height of summer, aged 16, gave Ben Stevenson, Chief of Staff and Head of Sustainability at Bloom, his #MyFirstWorkLearn.

“Saying I was nervous was an understatement. I got on well with my fellow team members, but even at that age, I knew the industry and role just weren’t right for me. I learnt a lot that summer, most importantly:

1. It’s ok to try something and move on if it’s not for you. You need to be honest with yourself, find your tribe and be somewhere where you will flourish.

3. Handing in your notice is not the end of the world – whilst you wish the ground would swallow you up, so you didn’t have to say the words, you’ll soon discover it keeps on turning and you will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Making these decisions on my own kick-started my confidence and began the process that moulded me into the person I am today. I never regret the jobs I have had, or going with my gut when I felt a decision was right for me, they are all part of my rich tapestry of lifelong learning.”


We asked ChatGPT what its first work learn was …

The importance of continuous learning and ongoing training … that is the #MyFirstWorkLearn that ChatGPT shared with us this week …

“As an AI language model, I don’t have personal experiences or a physical existence, so I don’t have a “first work” in the traditional sense.

However, I can tell you that my training involves processing and analyzing vast amounts of text data to learn patterns, grammar, and information across different topics. This process is iterative and continuous, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a single lesson as the very first one.

Through this training I gradually developed an understanding of language, context, and knowledge across various domains.”


We hear from our Chief Exec, Sue Maskrey

People who shout the loudest aren’t always the most capable, was part of our Chief Exec, Sue Maskrey’s, #MyFirstWorkLearn.

“Very early on, I imagined the best leaders to be charismatic, ‘energy-changes-when-they-enter-a-room’ type of people. That belief (along with the knowledge that I’m not like that) made me very self-critical, and that was holding me back.

I learned that having ‘boss-like’ energy doesn’t always equate to doing a good job. Once I worked out what my own strengths were and built on them, I was given opportunities for promotion and found my place in a career that is perfect for me. I learned to trust my approach and not to mimic that of others.

My first work learn was that you don’t have to fit into a mould to be good at your job. Celebrating our differences and building on our strengths makes us more effective.”


Next up is our Trustee, Sufian Sadiq

Realising that he was a positive disruptor and a champion for the voices of others has helped Working Options in Education‘s, Sufian Sadiq, throughout his career. So where did his #MyFirstWorkLearn come from?

A school initiative at 14 allowed Sufian to find the natural salesman in him.“Sitting in that classroom planning, or standing on that market stall selling our products … I felt like I could take over the world. I found my voice. I realised pretty quickly that I am fairly innovative and a natural salesman. That feeling for me was incredibly special because I found hope.”

Fast forward a few years and Sufian is now the Director of Talent and Teaching School at Chiltern Learning Trust, which comprises the school he attended as a student!

And that sales technique he learned at 14? It has proved vital throughout his life and is still something he uses everyday as he tries to make a difference in the world – at work, with Working Options, The Luton Food Bank, Discover Islam, and Luton Town Football Club (to name a few!).


We start with our founder, Paul Monk

Why was Working Options in Education created? Our founder, Paul Monk, shares his #MyFirstWorkLearn and answers that very question.

“I wasn’t prepared for the challenges I faced in my first full time job at 18 years old. I had worked extensively part-time since a young age, so work wasn’t a totally new concept, but maybe I was still a little naive and underprepared. Perhaps three-four years at university would have broadened my outlook and led to greater maturity.

The good news is that after a few years I moved to another company, which was much more open, vibrant, fun, and I’ve always described the difference as like going on holiday. That change transformed my whole career and I have never looked back. The lesson here is don’t take too long to realise you’ve made a mistake with your first career choice; give it a reasonable length of time but if things don’t improve there are plenty of other options out there for you.

The second benefit of changing company early on in my career was the creation of this charity Working Options in Education. As my career developed, I remembered not having much idea about what I wanted to do or what was possible for me to achieve, and the difficult job challenges I had experienced at the start. I wanted to see if I could help young people by sharing useful advice with them on preparing themselves better for further education and career choices. We started over a decade ago and have now supported thousands of students, especially those who need more help in identifying their talents and how they can maximise the many opportunities available to them.”

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