Manish Patel is a 1st year BSc Business Computing and IT student. Alongside his studies, Manish has been working part-time as a Sales Assistant at John Lewis & Partners, Birmingham. He also recently won the institutional round for the Above and Beyond category in the Student Employee of the Year Awards 2019. We caught up with him to find out more about his job, and everything he’s learnt along the way.
What does a typical day in your part-time job look like?
Every day is quite different. Since I work on the first floor, there are multiple departments I have to cover so it varies where I could be working: Menswear, Home Electricals, Cookshop, Tabletop, Gifts or Beauty. On top of that, I have to help out on tills. Sometimes I might also have to change a fixture, meaning taking off a display from the shop floor and rearranging a new look for customers. And often I will be given a one-hour slot where I am leading the first floor service like a manager – I’ll be the first line support for all of my colleagues, whilst communicating with the other three floors. But mainly I’m serving customers with the help of our ‘partner devices’ which are iPhones with our work app.
What has been the highlight of your job so far?
My main highlight is ultimately customer fulfilment. I treat every customer equally, but the way each customer reacts is very different. You can get rude customers, but it’s the customers that appreciate your work/help that make your effort worthwhile. My main highlights are a combination of times when I’ve helped customers who genuinely thank me and go beyond, and tip me or try to tell the managers of my work. All the tips we get go to charity, but knowing you’ve helped someone like finding the right Christmas present for a family member is something you can’t measure with money.
What skills have you developed?
I’ve developed both life skills and work skills. I’m more confident when I’m speaking and I’ve learnt ways of being more social than I was before. Networking is a key skill in any career path and working at John Lewis has helped me develop that particular skill, as I’ve spoken with customers, colleagues, managers, selling coaches, senior managers, floor managers and even the owner of the Birmingham branch. Each person has a different way of communicating and I’ve learnt how to reciprocate that purely by talking to many different people.
Why did you decide to get a part-time job?
There were a few reasons. One of them was because my family wasn’t financially stable at the time and I needed/wanted to help out. Another is because I didn’t have much experience in the working world and, like most of us, we have to start at the bottom – it’s better to start earlier rather than later. I also wanted to be financially free, meaning I pay for all my bills and if I ever wanted to buy anything, I could by myself. I also wanted to be independent.
How do you juggle working and studying?
It all revolves around priorities and making sacrifices. You have goals you want to achieve and you have 24 hours in a day. For me I balance sleep, cooking, gym, family and friends, studying, work, house chores, sports, photography and playing/making music. Sometimes I balance everything in 24 hours, sometimes 7 days a week, 4 weeks in a month, 3 months in a term etc. For example, in exam season I might drop some things for more study time, but in the summer I might pick them back up. It’s all about your perspective and what you want to do in your life, so make it count.
How have the skills and experience you’ve gained from your part-time job helped you in other areas of your life?
Networking and the ability to create and seize opportunities are the biggest things I’ve learnt. I can apply it to university, job/placement hunting and making friends/acquaintances. These skills have taught me that if there is a chance, take it, no matter how small. You learn more from losses than wins.
What advice would you give to other students thinking about or looking for a part-time job?
Do it. In this work climate, experience in your field is worth more than your degree since degrees have now become a standard. Employers expect a degree. But always try to look for work in your field first, for example volunteering at a Law firm is worth more than getting minimum wage at a retail job if you were to pursue Law. Sign up to job alerts on recruitment/job searching websites via email to save yourself a lot of time.
How does it feel to have been nominated for a Student Employee of the Year Award – and winning the institutional round? How do you feel this will help you in the future?
I’m surprised, I honestly didn’t think I’d make it this far. Funnily enough I didn’t think I’d be nominated let alone win, yet I still applied because I had a chance. This will help me in the future because sometimes you don’t realise how hard you work until someone else takes notice. If you get results people will see it and I’ve learnt that results don’t go unseen and that you have to take advantage of the results you make.
Any other comments?
Thank you for reading! Whether you skipped straight to the end or read all the way through, thank you. Also congrats to the nominees and runners-up.
Has Manish’s story inspired you to find your own paid part-time job? Well, lucky for you, we’ve got our own JobShop team who are just itching to help you get one! You can find them next door to the Careers+Placements Centre (1st Floor, South Wing) or drop them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org