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The first job I ever had was at the Royal Mail sorting office in Chelmsford. Needless to say, while it paid me quite handsomely given my age at the time (16), it remains the most thoroughly depressing job I have had, and given the choice, I think I'd rather be on the dole or doing unsavoury things for money than go back.
Around the Christmas period, though, it is VERY easy to get a job here: they are always after people as the turnover is quite high, and I got a job very easily despite having no experience at all. On your first day, you are shown a video that's much ado about nothing, and is very general as it has to be shown to all sorts of staff members, and so doesn't really tell you anything about your specific job.
I worked as a mail sorter, and the job was very simple: I stand at a cubicle as mail is brought to me. I check the postage, weigh the packet if need be, and then stamp it as either First or Second class, before sending it on to be transported. However, on my first day, nobody told me where to go or what to do, and had it not been for the fact that my brother was also doing temp work there, I would have been screwed. I eventually found a line manager after wandering around like a lemon for a while, and he quickly explained what to do before running off, while I confusedly figued out what to do. I cannot stress enough how terrible their management is, for they didn't really seem interested, and to be honest, I could have just gone on a break for ages and nobody would have noticed.
Also, the job is just thoroughly depressing. The warehouse environment is soul-destroyingly grey, from the design of the building to the can't-be-arsed, cold personality of everyone I met there. Nobody wanted to be there, and it made me fortunate that I was only there for 3 weeks, as I couldn't wait to be gone when it was over.
Was I well compensated? £5.95 for a 16-year old isn't bad money at all, and the work wasn't stressful, but it WAS stressful learning the ropes because the managers were just spread too thin and terrible at their jobs. If you're the type that likes to have friendly banter while you work, this is NOT the place for you.
I have been working for Royal Mail now for about 3-4 months, as a part-time mailsorter. I work 20 hours a week, and it works out that I am on about £7.80 per hour before tax, and when I work nights (between 11 and 4) or dawn (between 3 and 7) shifts then I get an extra allowance of about £15 - £20 a week.
When I started the training was excellent, a very high standard. A full day's induction (these can get boring!) was filled with varying stuff and was a very interactive day. The job itself is rather boring, not a massive amount of variation (although that could soon change - see below), and I usually find myself sorting out packets into first and second class, pre-paid stuff, and separating out the letters from the packets.
My basic hours mean I work a 4-hour shift every day, with a 20-minute break, which is good. It can be quite a stressful job as the mail has to be out the door by a certain time, and if we are late even by a minute then we fail.
We are allowed a radio on, a must in a workplace such as Royal Mail, and we are allowed to wear headphones. Lots of uniform is provided, 4 shirts, 2 t-shirts, a fleece, stormproof jacket, 2 pairs of trousers, 1 hat, 1 belt, leggings, 2 pairs of shoes (safety and non-safety), high-vis jackets - the list goes on, and all the clothes are of excellent quality.
I have also been offered to get driver training, on transit vans, and it has been mentioned to me that I will probably get training on the HGVs and they'll put me through my Heavy Goods Test - Brilliant! This means soon I will instead of being stuck indoors all the time, be able to go out and do some collections or delivery.
Overtime is usually available, as I said I am contracted at 20 hours per week, but often get closer to 30-35. Wages are paid weekly straight into the bank account, which I much prefer to monthly. Another good thing with Royal Mail is they allow you to buy extra holiday (unpaid leave in effect!) which is very useful should something important come up.
So all in all, the job involves some hard-work, but they treat you well, with good training, uniform, and rights etc... It can get rather tedious, I have to agree with that, but it is well paid, with my wage going up after 6 months, and the job is very secure. Royal Mail is one employee that I think will probably survive the recession with it's head held high, I feel very lucky to work for them.
I worked sorting mail for two weeks as a Christmas temp.
I started at 6 am and was scheduled to finis at 2 pm but normally had some overtime.
There is a massive amount of work available, I did 15 days out of 10 and did extra hours on some days. The standard rate is £5.95 but you get more for overtime and you get holiday pay pro rata.
Unfortunately the money doesn't arrive until after Christmas and then it is split into payments for each week and separate holiday pay spaced a few days apart.
The work is easy and boring; there are envelopes with post codes on them, boxes with post codes on them and two days training.
The training is done a few days before the two weeks work starts which is awkward to fit into Christmas holiday, I had to move shifts at my regular job last minute because I wasn't told when Royal mail actually wanted me - in fact it was implied training took a few hours at the start of the first day.
Training is completely useless of course and focuses on health and safety.
The job requires you to stay standing all day and you have to break the binding around stacks of magazines with your fingers which becomes painful.
For a change you can sort parcels which is better since bigger movements don't make you ache as much.
They have the radio on an you can listen to your MP3 player; I spent the time learning virology from university of Warwick podcasts (available to download online).