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Lydia’s Work Experience

The following is the long overdue publishing of a guest post by our niece, Lydia Sheils. She had a weeks work experience with us in July. We need to say thanks to Lydia for the sanding, binning, sharpening, shop keeping and the lovely post. and You’re not as bad at punting as you think!

As the week draws to a close, so does my work with my aunt and uncle at Providence UK. I decided that a range of different types of work experience would improve my CV and so I thought coming to Cambridge would be a good idea because from the workshop to the till, there would be a wide range of jobs for me to try. On day one I was introduced to the seemingly simple Cybertill but as I will explain later on, under pressure it isn’t all that simple. I then became an expert at hand stamping the labels and brown paper bags, which, I was told was an almost thankless task. Therefore, next time you buy something from Providence and the member of staff hands you your purchase, I implore you to appreciate the beautifully stamped bag, as the likelihood is, it was done by my own fair hand. So, despite the fact my first day was tiring, it hadn’t been particularly laborious and I had thoroughly enjoyed my day.

Tuesday brought a completely different range of activities, as I was to be working in the workshop. There was a copious amount of sanding to be done and I was more than happy to do some and after a while I was deemed responsible enough to do the important job of knotting which consisted painting BIN onto the knots in the wood to prevent it from splitting and seeping sap. This was obviously much more physical Monday, but with The Doors’ Touch Me blasting out it was another good day.

The next day I learned how to sharpen chisels. I then helped out with some deliveries which was a great way of seeing more of the surrounding area as in the past I had only really been to the centre of Cambridge. As we were driving along with a van full of bespoke furniture, it struck me at how flat the area was in comparison to the hills of Surrey: it was quite a contrast. Once we had arrived at our destination, I then helped unload the van which included carrying some rather heavy oak furniture – not something I was particularly practised at and thus I was in a bit of pain by the time we got back home.

Thursday included some more jobs in the workshop such as cleaning up an old army-polishing box. Having worked on the box, I was then sent to work at Bridge Street in the shop. Due to the fact I had been shown how to use Cybertill on Monday, I wasn’t that worried as I thought I would only have to do a couple of sales and it would be pretty simple. As it turned out, this wasn’t the case. There had been a few people drifting in and out of the shop, but then suddenly a lady walked up to the counter with purpose and I knew immediately that she was going to ask me a tricky question. She had brought in a faulty item and was hoping to exchange it. As I was new to the whole shop-keeping thing, I had no idea what to do and told her that there would be someone back soon. She didn’t want to hang around and so I called Kathy and it was all sorted – phew! I was somewhat shocked after this experience and thought it could only get better from here on in. Next an Irish woman came to buy an acorn doorstop. As I was beginning to put the item through the till I suddenly realised that in the heat of the moment I had completely forgotten how Cybertill actually works, despite the fact I had gone through it several times. Luckily, I had the ingenious idea of stalling the women with a quick chat about her Irish accent. When she said she was from Dublin, I was thrilled as my brother goes to school there and I knew I could provide some excellent chat on the topic which would keep her distracted whilst I tried to figure out how the till worked. Thankfully, my cousin (a till expert) walked in halfway through and saved me from any further talk on Dublin. I then thought, great, that is customer number two dealt with and I now felt pretty confident behind the counter. As the next customer came to me with her items I was fully prepared to process them quickly and efficiently. Everything seemed to be going fine and despite a few mishaps with bag size selection, I thought I was doing well. I then asked how she wanted to pay and when she said card, a feeling of dread ran through me. I had been shown everything apart from how to use the card machine. Despite this I gave it ago and it all went quite smoothly until the lady had to remind me there was a customer copy of the receipt that she would need. Oops. In order to relax after my somewhat stressful time with a whopping number of three customers, we went for a lovely pub dinner and a punt down the Cam. Turns out I am not only dodgy at working the till, but I am a complete disaster at punting.


So overall it had been an enjoyable week and I had tried out a range of different jobs, which is important when doing a work experience. I had learnt a lot about myself such as that I’m brilliant at stalling when discussing Dublin, and that I am actually a lot stronger than I thought, shown by my ability to help carry large pieces of solid oak furniture. I had also learnt about the way a company works and all the things that go on behind the scenes which you may not realise when you are simply buying something. I also noticed the huge amount of effort and care that goes into Providence in order to make it work. I am very grateful for this week and will take away a variety of different skills for the future.

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