Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Working Class(less)

Hands up who has a job? Now leave it up if it's in a specialist trade. Leave it up if you deal with private information on a daily basis, such as direct debit mandates, insurance details, prescriptions, etc. Keep those wigglers up if you've had to do at least a day's training.

I'm going to go out on a limb (pun slightly intended) and guess that most of you have your hands still up. Pretty much every job nowadays has a certain amount of responsibility. My hand's still up, although metaphorically of course; I'm typing, and also scratching my leg (but that's irrelevant).

The point I am ham-fistedly trying to make is that you can assume that with great responsibility comes great training*. I for instance have had to spend 9 days oop North at company HQ - not that I'm complaining, the shopping was great and the company paid for me to eat like Henry VIII, oh and the course was good too - just to reach the necessary standards dictated by my contract. And I do have a Qualification-specific job, I'm earning an NVQ as I work and I needed to meet entry requirements.

So why in Jenova's name do people still judge me for my age??

Without giving away too much about what I do for a living (or what company I work for, I aught to be very careful on the WWW), I handle public data on a daily basis. I wear a certain uniform and help my colleagues provide a service to the public. I'm currently one of the youngest staff members on my team, the other ladies being in the region of 30-50 years old (I'm 21, fact fans) so I do stick out a little bit. Having said that, I've qualified and trained, passed documentation and tests stating that I am perfectly capable of the mathematics, science and knowledge needed to do my job on a daily basis.

But for some that is just not good enough.

Sometimes, a customer is taken aback by someone who appears to be so young knowing a lot about a specific trade, and that's fine. I've been pleasantly surprised to find an old school friend working in a trade specialist store once: she knew a hell of a lot more than I did about different sizes and thicknesses of MDF and I wasn't about to turn down her expertise based on the fact that she appeared to be under 25.

What isn't fine is judging me to be bad at my job, or somehow not knowing what I'm talking about. Especially since I pride myself on honesty: if I need to go and fetch my boss to check something I will damn well go and fetch my boss, and I will say to my customer "I would just like to double-check this for you". This is to me and many of my customers acceptable in any field of work that requires a certain level of expertise. They don't want me to get things wrong, do they? And in fairness, the girls there that are older do know a lot more than I do. But age has little to do with most aspects of my job.

What is not acceptable is the customer who assumed that because equipment I was using was not working properly, this was down to my own incompetence, and who then began shouting loudly enough for other customers and colleagues to hear that I was too inexperienced. My colleague very kindly told him not to be so rude, and my boss kindly told him to leave quietly and not come back. I have had a few customers like this: thankfully that was the worst it ever got and all he did was made me feel a bit stupid for a few minutes.

On the other scale, we have the thousands of polite customers who have faith that I do actually know what I'm doing. Now I don't want a pat on the head every time I do something at work, but it is nice to be recognised as someone who can do their job. Pop out for a shop and see how many people serve you as you go: how many different races, creeds, genders? And why should you think "Oh, she's too old to work a till." "He's bound to get my prescription wrong." "He knows nothing about perfume, I'll ask a woman." As long as someone does their job confidently, coherently and competently I don't see why anyone should be judged.

Finally just to point out: I am very happy with my job - I'm not revealing what I do for a living and where I work and this should not be interpreted as a complaint against my workplace at all. I am just against discrimination of all kinds.

*Spiderman never said this, I can't be sued. Ner ner.

1 comment:

Luke said...

I always hated dealing with customers at my jobs! I was never any good at it and there were lots of rude people :(

Lucky those like the customer you mentioned there are in the vast minority, it's a shame they leave the biggest impression though!