“Work work work work work work” – Rihanna, 2017.
It’s been a little while since my last entry in The Immigrant Blog, something I will blame entirely on my new found employment status of, well, actually being employed.
The whole process of going from unemployed to employed took me around 3 weeks, which in hindsight is absolutely no time at all, but at the time those three weeks had me comparing myself to Nelson Mandela and his 22 years in captivity. I do not cope well with downtime, so the magical words “we’ll see you Monday” were music to my ears.
I work for a company with a social media policy that bans me from explicitly mentioning it in anything publicly available, so suffice to say it is a big box electronics retailer where you can be sure of an Excellent Purchase. While part time retail isn’t exactly what I dreamed of growing up (nor whilst getting a very expensive education) I’m genuinely having a blast, and while I’m still on the hunt for that next career step, I’ve settled in quite quickly.
As is what I’m trying to achieve with these blogs, what follows is a series of short, random thoughts on how working in America is different to anything I’ve experienced in the UK.
- Flexible work actually means flexible on both sides
If you’re reading this from the UK, and have any experience at all with the kind of insecure, entry level retail I’m describing, you’ll be all too familiar with a corporate culture that demands full flexibility that works entirely in their favour. You will be expected to clear space for 50 hours in your week, only to be offered 20 hours of actual work. You will request days off only to be told you’re suddenly super important to the company on that particular day.
Maybe I’ve lucked out in my employer, but that flexibility definitely feels more like a conversation here than a command. My boss will regularly check in to see how my schedule is working for me, and if I want to change anything about it. I can get my hours in whatever combination works for me, so currently I’m working less days per week but for longer shifts, because I’m all about saving on that travel time. For a country that doesn’t have the same legal rights in terms of paid time off that the UK has, employer/employee relations seem to be working a lot better for me here.
- This country is designed to make you reliant on your job.
I recently applied for Healthcare through the government operated marketplace. My lowest price quote was $250 per month for almost no coverage. They would basically pay enough to reattach a toe if I lost my whole leg. That’s because most people get health insurance as a benefit through their work. Typically though, that only applies to full time workers, hence most people get brought into jobs part time because it saves employers a ton of money. It makes losing your job a much more daunting prospect though, as not only is it a missing income, but you lose EVERYTHING. That’s pretty INTENSE.
- SITTING IS SINNING.
America has this weird concept that sitting down is the ultimate in disrespect. As such, if you work a retail job you better expect to be on your feet for the entirety of your shift. No nice chairs for checkout people. You stand. This leads to a lot of aching legs and backs at the end of the day, but I guess the benefit there is that it’s helping the memory foam mattress topper business boom.
- Everything I heard about retail is true.
This is my first real foray into retail. I don’t count my call centre experience because it was short and I was too busy concentrating on how much I hated everything about it to remember anything else. It’s also an anomalous situation, in that call centre workers are so dehumanised that the level of abuse they recieve occurs in its own separate bubble. Things that would never be said to a person face to face.
That being said, I have over the past month experienced all of the tropes I heard about retail. I have been asked if something was free when barcode didn’t scan. I have had a debate with myself on the ethics of selling a drone to somebody so high he probably could have experienced the view of the drone without the bundled vr headset. I have witnessed (and caused) arguments between husband’s and wives, mothers and sons, all because I’ve accidentally convinced someone to spend more money than they expected to. I’ve been greeted with a shake of the head when asking someone how they are today. And genuinely, I kind of enjoy it. I feel like I’m living out my own sitcom.
I hope to write these a bit more often again. My actual green card arrived yesterday so I’m all legal, all the time!
Persistency and consistency