In our on going regular series, important people talk us through their first jobs
Hi Sarah! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Sarah Turner and I am co-founder and CEO of Angel Academe, the longest established and most active female angel network in the UK. We are all about driving investment into female-founded business, and so we have invested in 44 female-founded start-ups since 2014.
What was your first McJob?
I did a lot of babysitting and had summer jobs, like working in a sandwich shop, waitressing, telesales, and picking marigolds — that only lasted one day, as it was backbreaking. After school, I took a year off to go travelling, so to save up I did various receptionist roles, all through Manpower.
What did you have to do?
Sit at the PABX switchboard, which was a whole bunch of different switches, sound nice and polite, put them through to the right extension and try not to cut people off. Plus odd jobs like photocopying, franking the mail, accepting deliveries and greeting people.
How long did you do it for?
For about six months, and then I went off interrailing around Europe and over to the Greek islands and Turkey.
Were they happy travels?
It was before the Euro, so life was cheap in a lot of these countries. We were held up at gunpoint by border guards in Yugoslavia who were trying to extract money from us. We didn’t have money and didn’t understand what they were saying, so we just looked blank and they went away. Then someone stole our passports, so we had to go to the nearest British consulate. But it was all good fun.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
Interacting with all sorts of people, so confidence and social skills. I learned to touch type because I realised I’d get a higher day rate, so I’m still pretty fast around the keyboard. So the sort of practical skills you don’t get taught at home or school.
Why is alumni so important to you?
You spend so much time with your fellow employees, you can become quite close, especially after going through stressful times together. So you don’t want to lose that, do you? Although I’m not seeing them every day any more, they’re often the people I turn to if something comes up. And it means that I get opportunities, ideas and moral support coming back to me.
What would happen if you went back and did your old temping job today?
It’s about being nice and friendly, so I think I could still do it! It’s nice to be nice. Your day goes much faster if your interactions are all positive, although some people didn’t want to be nice back!
What would happen if you went interrailing again?
In those days, the priority was to spend as little as possible, like travelling overnight on the train to save the cost of a hostel. It was a bit grim and there was sometimes no access to showers. I’d love to go on holiday with the same people, but preferably something a bit more luxurious!
If you could go back in time, what one bit of advice would you give yourself?
I was painfully self-conscious about making a fool of myself as young person. I still am to a certain extent. So be a bit bolder and go for it!