JUST BECAUSE I'VE HAD 500 JOBS DOESN'T MEAN I'M FLAKY

sarah akwisombe smarta

I’ve had so many jobs. Really. I’ve flitted between industries, I’ve tried my hand at most things, and as a result I have a varied and wide skill set. But I am stigmatised with the idea that I don't know what I want to do, or be. My friends laugh and say ‘so what are you doing now Sarah?! Are you a bee keeper today?’ Of course I can laugh it off but it does bother me that people think that. Just because I’ve had 500 jobs doesn’t mean I’m flaky. 

My first job was at a fish and chip shop when I was 16. The man who ran the shop had to try and get me to shout ‘HADDOCK’ louder every time we got low on stock up at the front. That shows how young I was (I would have no problem with yelling fish names at all now). Every night I came home and my clothes would absolutely reek of grease. No matter how many boil washes I put them on, it just didn’t come out. After a few days of working there I had to leave as the grease was literally making my lungs close up and I couldn’t breathe properly whenever I got there. I mean, I thought it was the grease, maybe that was the first sign of my anxiety over work and dealing with people. Who knows.

The chip shop days. This was new years eve 1999. That's right, I chose to spend the millennium on a doorstep, rolling a spliff.

The chip shop days. This was new years eve 1999. That's right, I chose to spend the millennium on a doorstep, rolling a spliff.

The next job I had was at JD sports. I loved that job. I even left school at 16 after really promising GCSE results because I had way more fun learning about the world of retail and making displays of trainers look nice. Plus I was earning my own money, and it felt good. JD sports was my version of Uni. I met people that I would have never met within my school environment and I learned to stand up for myself. I would chase after people who stole stuff and challenge people using fake cards on the till. People hurled abuse at me and I learnt to take it and hurl it back. In a couple of years I grew up and into the confident, outspoken girl that I was when I was a kid. I started to form my own identity. But the best bit about it was the visual and creative side. I would get to dress shop displays and lay out hoodies and trainers in a way that made people buy them, and that was cool to me.

I made some lifelong friends at JD Sports. Lois, on the left here, is still one of my closest friends and we even ran a business together.

I made some lifelong friends at JD Sports. Lois, on the left here, is still one of my closest friends and we even ran a business together.

After JD sports, I left to pursue an idea of being a glamour model. Yes, I know. Ultra cringe. I can’t even remember how or why this idea came to me but somehow I ended up getting booked on a few shoots. I learnt a lot about how mundane it was, or on the other end of the spectrum, how totally creepy and sleazy it was. I guess it was something to do with a new found confidence and wanting to be perceived as being sexy. I was only 18 after all, I didn’t really know much about being sexy by being confident in your own skin, I thought you ACTUALLY had to be like, real sexy. Boobs sexy.

It wasn’t sexy.

The PG version. 

The PG version. 

After that a string of retail jobs followed:

Claires accessories

La Senza

Oasis

Range Rover (I lasted one day. They wanted me to ‘visual merchandise’ a set of about 4 baseball caps and mugs with ‘range rover’ printed on them. It was so boring I only worked there for one day but it felt like a year)

I actually enjoyed retail a lot, aside from the standing up all day, dressing up mannequins and creating looks for people to shop was really fun. However, dressing a bunch range rover umbrellas was not.

My 18th birthday. This was mid-retail phase. I had no idea who I was back then, I think this was my glamorous hip hop look. 

My 18th birthday. This was mid-retail phase. I had no idea who I was back then, I think this was my glamorous hip hop look. 

Then came a bit of a game changer in my working life. I got a job in a sandwich shop. It was next door to my dad’s radio station, and every morning I’d wake up at the crack of dawn, get in my dads car and put my headphones in so that I didn’t have to listen to his radio station on the way to work (wow, I was such a friendly girl) and reluctantly clean his radio station’s toilets and kitchen before heading over the sandwich shop.

God knows why I took a cleaning job. I think it was because they paid me £20 for 2 hours of cleaning but I worked out pretty quickly that I could cut corners and get it done in just over an hour. Score! The pit of this was that every morning, without fail, someone in the station would leave a fucking mole sized turd in the toilet and it would JUST NOT FLUSH. Every day I had to battle with this. In the end I just started leaving it. I knew I didn’t deserve such ill treatment (woe is me). Anyway, back to the sandwich shop.

I actually loved it there. It was run by a young couple who had saved up and bought the business. That inspired me a lot. I got to be really creative, coming up with new sandwich combinations, helping them come up with ideas on how to upsell to customers or branch out into different areas, and I really, really loved making food for people that they enjoyed eating. The couple always treated me and my ideas with respect. We always had positive feedback from customers and I was so fulfilled.

After that I was at college studying music, and then left college to start my career in the music industry, which went really well. At the same time as making money through selling records and giggling, I was doing youth work to top up my income.

One of my first gigs. I gather I had decided to drink myself into confidence by the state of my T shirt.

One of my first gigs. I gather I had decided to drink myself into confidence by the state of my T shirt.

I’ve then had a host of jobs, from project managing youth projects to tech projects to being the editor of a business website. I’m now working on building my own interior design and styling business.

Maybe now you can see why people think I have no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going or who I want to be. But I know.

You see, all of the jobs I’ve enjoyed have all had the same string that ties them together: having my creative ideas enjoyed and respected. I'm not talking Kanyes-bow-down-to-my-genius here, just a little recognition for an idea shared or creativity shown. 

JD Sports was the first glimpse of that. The sandwich shop was the next. Even down to managing youth projects and starting up a tech venture, all of these projects let me express myself and be creative in my role, whether that was directly creating a piece of music or just being creative about how to problem solve a payment issue or tech glitch. If I had my creativity trampled on, I’d hate it. If I gave energy to coming up with creative solutions or money making ideas for a company and they were too set in their own ways to take it, I’d hate it.

You see, I’m not flaky, I’m just eternally searching for companies, people and places that allow me to express my creativity and be respected for it. So if you find a role at a place that celebrate your creativity and allow you to try things out, hang on to it! They don’t come easily, trust me – I’ve tried a few.

S x