Want to work in professional services? Not sure which area is right for you? Take our quiz to find out. https://quiz.allaboutcareers.com

Epic Fails

Factory Boy: My First ‘Graduate’ Job Epic Fails

Factory Boy: My First ‘Graduate’ Job
Rice doesn’t kill pigeons, shotguns do

Jack Collins, the Managing Editor of AllAboutCareers, didn’t walk straight out of university and into his dream job. Like many university students, who choose to focus on studying and socialising rather than thinking about their career, he had to pay his dues before getting a graduate-level job…


I had just graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature from King’s College London, which, at the time, was ranked amongst the top 25 universities in the world. Pretty good, I thought. Consequently, after an intense final year of exams and essays, I felt like I deserved a rest. I hung out in London with my friends and even went to Tuscany for a bit. However, after my well-deserved break, I returned back to my family home where I foolishly attempted to extend my life of leisure for as long as possible.

I was still recovering from my ‘revision hangover’ and decided to spend the majority of my time mooching around, going off on countryside bike rides and playing Virtua Tennis on my Sega Dreamcast (retro gaming all the way). After a short while though, the final instalment of my student loan started to deplete rapidly. Before I knew it, I had developed a serious cash flow problem.

Welcome to the real world!

When you’re lacking cash, there’s only one thing to do: get a job. Unfortunately, my sloth-like enjoyment of the early summer months meant that I’d already missed out on tons of summer job opportunities. I stalked the streets of Nottingham, armed with a CV and a cheap suit.

I visited a bunch of different recruitment agencies in my hunt for temp work, but I was routinely dismissed by each po-faced consultant who gave me a metaphorical middle finger when they discovered that I didn’t have “six months of office experience.”

Down & out in the East Midlands

Tired, sweaty, dejected and desperate to destroy the computer-generated Tim Henman on Virtua Tennis, I returned home without a single job prospect. At this point, my charming, yet evil, parents suggested contacting some of the factories in our village to see if they had any jobs going.

This didn’t sound like the American Pie II-esque summer that I had in mind, but my pockets were empty and I was at a loose end. So I thought sod it. Why not give it a whirl?

The application

I phoned the bathroom towel factory first. Nothing doing. I tried the cheese factory next. No dice. Finally, third time (un)lucky, I dialled the number of the local clay pigeon factory. After a few rings, somebody answered with a familiar East Midlands accent:

Receptionist: “Claaay Pidg’un Cump’oneh!”

Me: “Hi there, my name is Jack Collins, I wondered if you had any jobs available?

Receptionist: “Aye lad! Someone’ll call yer back in ten minutes. Alreet?”

Me: “Ok, great. Thank you.”

The telephone interview

Around five minutes later, I received a call from the production manager:

Me: “Hello.”

Production manager: “Right then, Jack, you’ve got the job. Can you start today?”

Me: “Erm…I’m afraid I’m busy today (I lied). Would it be possible to start tomorrow?”

Production manager: “Fine. See you tomorrow at 6am. Tarah!”

The quickest telephone interview ever? I think so.

The first day

My first day at the clay pigeon factory was the longest day of my life. I arrived at 6am, as the sun was beginning to poke its head out from beneath a duvet of grey cloud. As soon as I stepped inside, two steel-toe-capped hiking boots were thrust into my hands. I pulled them on with enthusiastic gusto, before being directed onto the factory floor.

After briefly meeting the rest of the team, I began my working life as a ‘pigeon packer’. Essentially, my job involved the following routine: picking up a flattened cardboard box; folding it and turning it into a box; picking up 20 clay pigeons off the conveyor belt at a time (two piles of ten, one in each hand); stacking them into the box; when the box was full, moving it onto a pile of other boxes; repeating this all day for eight hours. Bliss.

The gloves

Just to clarify: when I’m talking about clay pigeons, I’m not talking about charming bird-shaped ornaments that might adorn your grandma’s mantelpiece; I’m talking about bright orange discs of clay that are flung into the air by a machine and then blown into smithereens by trigger-happy people with a shotgun.

The horrible thing about these whimsical little discs is that they’ve just been sliced and moulded by a rather rustic looking bit of machinery. Consequently, they’re absolutely razor sharp on the bottom. Pick up thousands of these bad boys at high-speed all day and you’ve got yourself a recipe for severe finger lacerations. Throw into the mix the fact that when the ‘clays’ get stuck in the frequently malfunctioning machinery, you have to stick your hands in there and fish them out. At least ten times a day, you’d run the risk of going home without one of your beloved pinkies.

My other ‘packing’ companions were all burly oafs who could pick up the razor sharp discs with their bare (seemingly asbestos-coated) hands, but it was recommended that I wear some protective gloves. Much to my dismay, the so-called ‘protective’ gloves that I was given were not the armoured gauntlets I was expecting; they were made out of a thin latex material and were pretty much torn to shreds in a matter of seconds.

Maybe it was because I was dizzy from the loss of blood, maybe it was because I didn’t want a group of grown men to see me cry; but after that first day I decided to invest in some proper gloves. I went to my local hardware store and bought some woollen gloves with a protective rubber coating on the palms and fingers. After that, I felt like an invincible, box-packing superhero. Bring on the pigeons

The positives & negative

The worst thing about working at the clay pigeon factory was just how mind-numbingly boring I found it. Sure, I made good friends with the team, we listened to music and chatted about stuff, but the repetitive nature of the tasks completely killed me.

I did the same thing eight hours a day, five days a week, for two months. The only respite I got from my packing duties was when I had the wonderful ‘treat’ of sweeping up the broken clay pigeons that fell off the conveyor belt and made the factory floor look like a higgledy-piggledy, orange mosaic

Admittedly, there was one positive: doing such repetitive tasks allowed me to completely switch off and pack the boxes on autopilot. This gave me a marvellous amount of time to think about other stuff. I fantasised about the jobs I should have applied for, what job I might do in the future and I even wrote an entire film script in my head (straight to DVD).

The wake-up call

For the two months I worked at the factory, the ‘banter’ between the team largely revolved around football, beer and music. However, one day, the topic of conversation turned to our respective academic backgrounds. One lad was 16 and had just left school; another was in his mid-30s, but had left school at 16 and done factory jobs ever since; and the last chap had quite a surprising academic background:

Fellow factory worker: “Well, I got my undergraduate degree in ancient history from the University of St Andrews; then I got an MA in classics from the University of Liverpool. I didn’t get funding for my PhD, so I came back home and I’ve been working here for the past 12 years.”

Me: "Sorry, what?!"

Fellow factory worker: “Yeah, I suppose I just got kinda stuck here.”

The exit

This was the wake-up call I needed. I didn’t want to get stuck. I handed in my notice the next day and finished off the week. With my trusty gloves in my back pocket and my newly-acquired hiking boots on my feet, I walked out of the factory and started my job hunt properly.

I’ve got nothing against paying your dues and doing a job just to get some money. However, I think it’s important that you pursue a career that will genuinely interest you and challenge you. For me, as a graduate, I didn’t feel the job in the factory was right for me at all, even as a temporary solution. Don’t get me wrong, factory work is incredibly important and the guys who work at the clay pigeon factory do a great job. However, I think it’s important that you make your career decisions wisely.

If you haven’t got a job lined up when you leave university, you need to be proactive. Don’t do what I did. Get off your lazy bum and make things happen for yourself. Go after a career that you will absolutely love. You did your degree for a reason; make the most of it.

Image courtesy of Brian Omura, ‘That Ain’t No Shotgun’

More Epic Fails

How NOT to Write a Vacation Scheme Application

How NOT to Write a Vacation Scheme Application

The prospect of writing a vacation scheme application can leave the best of us weak at the knees. They say you can learn by example. Well, here’s an example of how to completely scupper your chances of getting on a vacation scheme. Members of the jury, we present to you Exhibit A: exactly how not to write a vacation scheme application…

Epic Fails

Zen and the Art of 719 Apple IDs

Zen and the Art of 719 Apple IDs

My CV was bare. Completely and utterly empty of experience, of any kind. I knew full well that I wanted to work in my first summer of undergrad, but the chances of that happening were probably somewhere in the negative hundreds of percent with the experience I had, even if I tried to cover it up with my "substantial extracurricular achievements". So, when a family friend offered me a week-long temporary position at his company, I naturally jumped at the chance. The first step is always the hardest, right? I reasoned that this first job would put me in an excellent position to seek more, regardless of what it actually entailed.

Epic Fails

Words of Warning from a Call Centre Veteran

Words of Warning from a Call Centre Veteran

If you need a job to fund yourself through university, you might consider working in a call centre. Why not? There’s certainly nothing wrong with working in a call centre, right? Hot Rant, a blog for angry people, has a slightly different opinion on the traditional student stomping ground… 

Epic Fails

University Halls

University Halls

My university halls were sold to me as the jewel in the crown of my Newcastle experience.  I was fortunate enough to get my first choice of university halls and had settled on Castle Leazes.  With the promise of a huge student population of fun-loving freshers it was billed as the place to be in Newcastle.  I arrived wide-eyed and hopeful with the contents of my life stuffed into bin-bags. However, after one quick lap around my would-be utopia it became all too apparent that I had just condemned myself to a year in the place where the 1960s went to die. I had been hoodwinked.  Like Alice tumbling down the rabbit-hole, I was about to uncover the oddities hidden in this student wonderland...

Epic Fails

The Worst Interview Ever?

The Worst Interview Ever?

Jack Collins, the Managing Editor of AllAboutCareers, has not always been so clued up on how to nail a job interview. During his own plucky search for a career, he made some mistakes; some quite ridiculous mistakes! However, he’s learned from those blunders and perhaps you can learn from them too! What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…

Epic Fails

The Tale of the Misguided Book Shirt

The Tale of the Misguided Book Shirt

Britain, as Julian Barnes famously said, is “the land of embarrassment and breakfast.” Embarrassment is embedded in the British psyche, although some people do have reason to be more red-faced than most. Editorial and marketing assistant, Maudie Powell-Tuck, shares her most embarrassing internship story. Read it and cringe…

Epic Fails

The Perils of Being an Enthusiastic Temp

The Perils of Being an Enthusiastic Temp

Many students get temp jobs during the university holidays. It’s a great idea. Temping is a fantastic way to earn some money and get some much-needed work experience on your CV. A word of warning though: don’t be overly enthusiastic. Hot Rant, a blog for angry people, tells us why über-keen temps often get landed with the jobs that nobody else wants…

Epic Fails

Six Chemists, Three Kittens & A Soaring Globe of Phlegm

Six Chemists, Three Kittens & A Soaring Globe of Phlegm

Living with your pals during your second year of university is meant to be a joyous occasion. One filled with philosophical midnight conversation, homely dinnertime gatherings and a sociable carefree buzz. My first mistake was making this assumption. My second mistake was disregarding the mysterious behaviour of my fellow housemates at the expense of a very large chunk of phlegm…

Epic Fails

Mini Fail: The Unfortunate Catheter Incident

Mini Fail: The Unfortunate Catheter Incident

Picture the scene: You’ve recently finished your medical degree and it’s your first day of foundation training. You’ve got your scrubs on. You look like a doctor, but you’re a little bit nervous. You want to get stuck in and prove yourself, but, most importantly, you want to get through the day without making any mistakes or any of your patients dying…

Epic Fails

Mini Fail: Paint Splattered Woes of an Unpaid Intern

Mini Fail: Paint Splattered Woes of an Unpaid Intern

In our brand new series, Mini Fails, we’re inviting you to share your ‘fails’ with us, specifically when it comes to internships, job applications, university or terrible jobs. Whether they’re mortifyingly embarrassing, horrifically exploitative or just downright heart-breaking, we’re all ears. So, are you sitting comfortably? Got a nice fire going in the living room? Let’s kick things off with an all too common tale of an unpaid intern… 

Epic Fails

Is this the PA Job from Hell?

Is this the PA Job from Hell?

Most of us have had some pretty shocking jobs in our time. Olivia, marketing executive at AllAboutCareers.com, is no exception. Here she shares her worst job experience. Want to know what it is? We’ll give you a clue: it involves old chewing gum and double decker buses. Intrigued? We thought so… 

Epic Fails

How to Get a Job You Are Totally Inappropriate For

How to Get a Job You Are Totally Inappropriate For

You might have financially coasted through your A-Levels on an idle diet of EMA bonuses, occasionally re-painting your grandma’s numerous sheds and washing the cars of your begrudging neighbours, but now school is out and the summer is over…

Epic Fails

How NOT to behave in any job interview

How NOT to behave in any job interview

Today’s the day. The one you’ve been waiting for. Your entire life has been leading up to this moment, the crucial juncture, some would say. Ever since you were told that you had landed an interview for the ideal graduate job you have thought of nothing but your first day at the company, strutting into the office suited and booted and carrying out work so majestic and thorough that your co-workers will look to you in awe and hail you as The Second Coming. 

Epic Fails

House of Horrors: Choosing Second Year Accommodation

House of Horrors: Choosing Second Year Accommodation

So you’re part way through your first year at university. You’ve met friends, work is going well. You think you’re all set. Hold on. Second year housing. The three words which are guaranteed to send a shiver down the spine of any first year…

Epic Fails

Graduation Ceremony Epic Fails

Graduation Ceremony Epic Fails

Life as an undergraduate is finally over (sob) but before you embrace this so-called real world that you hear people chatting about, it’s time for your graduation ceremony. Everyone will be there. And by everyone, we mean everyone. Your mum, dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, dogs, cats, hamsters, goldfish, next doors gardener and even your best mate’s cousin’s dad’s boss is set to make a cameo appearance. Not to mention all your lecturers who have guided you along the treacherous undergraduate road. What on earth could go wrong, eh?

Epic Fails

Giving it the Big’Un: Suffering the Recruitment Job Interview

Giving it the Big’Un: Suffering the Recruitment Job Interview

Quite often it’s not the person being interviewed that should experience the shame and embarrassment of an epic fail. Sometimes the interviewer should be the one hanging their head in shame. Nowhere else is this trend more prominent than in the macho world of recruitment. Jack Collins explains it all…

Epic Fails

Fresher’s Week: First Impression Fails

Fresher’s Week: First Impression Fails

As all students-to-be for 2014 will know, Fresher’s Week is on the horizon. A time when heroes are crowned. When mavericks make their mark. When indelible reputations are first formed…Here are just a couple of real-life Fresher’s experiences to get you geared up for the university year. Thank goodness you’ll have all of that time to have a second crack at ‘the first impression’. 

Epic Fails

Football Manager Ruined My Degree

Football Manager Ruined My Degree

Widely-regarded as the most addictive computer game of all time, Football Manager (a.k.a. FM) has the ability to seriously affect people’s lives. We managed to track down one guy who let his obsession with the game completely ruin his degree. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll consider throwing your own copy of Football Manager in the bin as he recounts his unfortunate tale…

Epic Fails

First Day of Work Epic Fails

First Day of Work Epic Fails

You managed to survive graduation without any epic fails and now the next hurdle in the race of life is making it through the first day of your new job with having any fails of epic proportions. 

Epic Fails

Fawlty Towers of Terror: A First Job Experience

Fawlty Towers of Terror: A First Job Experience

First jobs are rarely the real deal. And for Jos Weale, new editor at AllAboutCareers.com, this was no exception. Here she lets us in on the dirt from her first ever experience of the working world… and when we say dirt, we mean quite literally. False teeth and Vaseline you say? We smell an epic fail…

Epic Fails

Epic Fail: Picking the Wrong Housemate

Epic Fail: Picking the Wrong Housemate

Your first year at university is about to finish. It’s almost time to leave the breezeblock walls, communal showers, athlete’s foot, romantic misadventures and insipid décor of student halls behind. Greener pastures await. You’re moving into a student house with your friends. It looks a bit rough around the edges, but it’s going to be “EPIC”. Surely nothing can go wrong?

Epic Fails

Mini Fail: When Office Pranks Go Wrong

Mini Fail: When Office Pranks Go Wrong

Hot off the viral grapevine is this little gem of a formal complaint. It reads like something out of Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais’ The Office; a beautiful marriage of inter-office pranking and company bureaucracy. David Thorne, we salute you! 

Epic Fails

Recruiting? We can help