Apr 23, 2012

Still a Teller

There are many types of jobs in a person's life - or at least there's a chance in anyone's life, to have many types of jobs. There are those you take because you need the money, those you take because you are bored and have nothing better to do, those you get involved in because you believe in them, and those you take to build a career. There are many, many more types of jobs, and regardless of them, usually there's one type (at least) that means everything to you. Whatever the conditions of this job or type of job, the lessons you learn with it are the ones that form you and brand you the most. Years can pass by and still those lessons are there always present, and even if your everyday life makes you lose them out of sight, they always find the way to be back in the center, burning and glowing like the embers that support the flame of your soul.

The first job of a significant type for me was as a teller at a bank. It was the first iob I've taken not to make money, but to work towards building up my career as an economist. The job was hard, perhaps poorly paid, rutinary and maybe even far away from the a "real job" economists do, but it was the first in a very rewarding process to become the economist I am today. And believe it or not, my two best friends from the University also started as tellers at the same bank. ^_^

The job of a teller is hard. From 8 am to 5 pm we worked directly with the customers, manning little glass boots and facing long lines of impatient, upset people that often took off their frustrations on us. We had to stay constantly alert, pay attention to any possible fake document or phony bills and checks, paying close attention to large sequences of numbers to make sure the right person was depositing or withdrawing money from the right account, or paying the right loan or mortgage. There was no time for a little break to surf on the net, nor space to kick back and read a book. Nine hours of this could easily get on anyone's nerves, but the real test came after the last customer was gone and you had to close, which is pretty much a daily close of books. This could take you a lot of time as all your transactions and the money you had in the register had to match. It didn't matter if the previous day you did good, if today you hadn't paid enough attention and were missing an important amount of money, or had entered wrong a transaction probably causing the bank and the customer a big damage.

In this job you didn't have an end of shift, but when you left home depended on how you closed the day, how much attention were you paying then, and had been paying through the day. In a way, after keeping in control, and doing a rutinaty, even mind numbing task all day long, trying not to lose it with people offending you or accusing you of their own lack of attention, or treating you as if the bank policies or National policies were nothing that an invention of yours, you had to then face the results of your day and your own working capabilities. You couldn't just pretend everything closed, ball up the whole thing and give it to the accountant, because then the accountant would go over the whole thing, and if there was something missing, or an error included, you would be called to answer the next day, and the results would come off your meager paycheck. Something as small as overseeing a wrongly dated check could mean that you would have to pay the amount of the check from your salary.

My direct boss back then, gave us a every important advise, and made sure to repeat it every day at different moments, specially when the tension was high and us tellers could be prone to mistakes just to get the huge line disappear. He said "slowly because it's urgent". It might sound strange, but it was one of the best advises, and one I have used since in cases of great pressure and great urgency. His words were meant for us to take our time, be careful, because by doing things fast as the urgency demanded them, we could commit many mistakes that then would take us more time to correct, and when correcting later we could start getting so tense we wouldn't be able to do things properly. At the bank, and specially at the teller section, conartists often used up the moments when the lines were long to creat confusion and slip a fake bill or a fake check, maybe even pile up many transactions and use the tellers desperation to get the line going, to steal money by pretending they had already given the money for the deposit,  claimng that the teller hasn't given them the right change because they paid with a larger denomination bill than they actually had.

At the end of the day, the desperation in those moments of rush would come out clear. The things you neglected, the shortcuts you took when you shouldn't have, the documents and bills you didn't test properly, the documents that have gone missing... all that shows. At the end of the day other things show to at the closing of books. Your shenanigans, the swindling, and though it is your cash and you can get rid of the "evidence" when nobody is looking, the treasury officer can decide to pop up at your boot right then and audit your cashier.

From my time as a teller I learned about pressure and working under pressure. I learned to count money faster, pay attention to long sequences of numbers, and also learned tricks to do it more efficiently. I also learned the valuable lesson that every day is a new day, and that you can't relay on your past success, but must make every day count and make every day a success. Also learned that today's failure doesn't mean that you can't succed tomorrow. One of the most important lessons I learned was to fo the daily close of books.

In some jobs it's harder to do it, but it's never impossible. At the end of the day, at the end of the period, look back, fish out all the slips, count the cash you have still in your cashier, your experiences, your joys and your sorrows, the overtime you've done with the results you have achieved, and close your books, balance your cash, measure your day.

In a way, whatever you do, however you decide to live your life, work and follow through your projects and duties, you'll have to do a close of books. Now or later, and I don't mean it as "when you die" or "when you come close to death". No, you never know when are you going to be called on to give account of what you have been doing. It could be in a meeting, when out of the blue one of your jobs is pulled out and you need to explain what you did and why, or it could be at an impromptu "activity report". It could be when you are applying for a promotion and you are asked to resume your achievements in your current job, or it could be at a new job interview. Sooner or later you will be asked to give account of what you have done, so are you sure of what you have done? Are you sure you know what will come up? Are you ready and calm about a possible auditing of your books?

And not only in your job, but on many other of the spheres of your life, are you ready for ggiving account of them?

Yes, I'm still a teller. I live in my glassbox and face the pressure, mutter to myself the lessons passed on by those savvier than me, and do my work not only trying to do my best at the moment, but also looking forward to my daily closing. So yes, please "slowly because it's urgent", you don't want to mess it up.


Dragonfly said...

Muy buen consejo el de tu jefe "slowly because it's urgent". Así deberíamos de revisar todas las cosas en nuestra vidasin prisa pero sin pausa...

Sartassa said...

love the "slowly because it's urgent"! Now that I started "Project Job Hunting" through updating my online career portal profile and asking my brother in law to send me a scan of my engineers degree, I have to pay more attention to your job related blogposts :D I tried not to think about the topic during the past months but it's time to face reality.
I guess someone should've told my former boss that doing things faster isn't always better...

Storm Bunny said...

To Dragonfly-cr: Sí, es uno de los mejores consejos que me han dado, y qué cierto es! Cuántos problemas se podrían evitar en el trabajo si, en lugar de sacar las cosas ya, a como sea, se sacara el rato para hacerlas bien, pensando, a conciencia.

To Sartassa: I'm glad my posts can be of use! Geez, right, you are an engineer! ^_^ It keeps surprising me because your demeanor is nothing like that of an engineer. You are just too sweet and too artistic! As for the advise, you can definitivelly pull a lot of wisdom from it!

Sartassa said...

:D haha yea, everytime I say I am an engineer people expect it's an electronics degree ect, and when I tell them it's interior design they say "that's not engineering" ... bah!

Storm Bunny said...

... There are people who are industrial engineers (plan the process of producing, but not the products themselves) and they are engineers. I have never heard of an interior design engineer, but I guess they exist. ^_^ That makes you an engineer!

In Spanish speaking countries, that entitles you to put an Ing. before your name. That's a really distinctive rank! I've a Lic., which is my University degree, but it says nothing about my career. Then again I'm looking forward for a different abbreviation. ^_^I want a Dr.!