First up, if you’re in Year 11 and 12 and haven’t got a job yet, get one. They give you a level of confidence and maturity you can’t get anywhere else. Best of all, you'll be earning your own money and getting experience However, there’s a point in all of our lives where our high school job reaches its expiration date and all you want to do is change things up (either through progression or finding a new gig entirely).
I’ve worked at my cinema job for five years now and I know all the signs of dangerous familiarity that come with being at a job for too long.
1. You become a robot on shift
Do you ever rock up to work, start your shift and not even have to think about what you need to say to the customer? My usual spiel begins with “Hey, what can I grab you today”, followed with “any food or drinks?” and then finally “cash or card?” While being a robot has its benefits (nothing better than being able to turn your brain off and get paid for it) robots can also malfunction. This throws me into situations where I ask a customer “hey can I grab you some food or cash?”
If you’ve become the robot, you’ve probably been at your job too long.
2. Everyone you started with has left
Your work squad is sacred. Some of the people I started with, despite now moving onto full-time jobs, are people I still consider close friends. This isn’t to say that the people who started after I did aren’t my buds as well but if you get to a point where you’re one of the longest working staff members, think about whether that's what you want. It could be a good thing and mean progression but, if you're feeling a 'lil stale and surrounded by 14-year-olds, it might be time to move on.
3. Slacking off becomes second nature to you
I remember when I first started, a staff member who had been there for a few years was telling me that when she started, she followed the rules religiously, but after she had been working for a few years she stopped giving a shit. My naive ears didn't believe that this would happen to me; I was still young, fresh and wanted to impress. Five years down the track and you can probably guess what happened.
4. The customers know you too well
Most workplace will have a handful of regulars, or a least a couple of familiar faces and this can be a beautiful thing. Regular customers are usually easy to manage, you know what they want and they know how the place works. But, if they start saying things like "oh, you still work here?", "haven't you been here for a while?" or "what's your plan next", then they've probably noticed you've been there too long. If they can pick up on this, it's time for you to pay attention to it as well.
5. You get triggered by things that are associated with your work
If you work in hospo, maybe it's the smell of greasy chips or a brand of mayo that sends you spiralling into flashbacks about a particularly bad dinner rush. Retail guys, hearing a song on a radio that is on repeat on your store playlist could give you an immediate headache. Personally, the stench of fresh popcorn (which is now embedded in most of my clothes) only serves to remind me of the shifts at the cinema I have coming up and I'm at the point of no return.
Look, there's nothing wrong with doing the hard slog somewhere to earn cash and get experience (we all do it). But if it's starting to feel like each shift is becoming harder and harder to get through or you're genuinely sick of customers screaming in your face or cleaning out dishwashers, it's time to look at your other options. We're not saying chop and change for the sake of it–sometimes you need to suck it up and push through not wanting to work. But sometimes, it's just time to get out.