You don’t have to be mad to work at H+K, but….


Unsurprisingly with over 2.5 million people unemployed, the subject of work or lack thereof is currently high on the media agenda. Aside from a minor manufacturing boom in sunny Sunderland instigated by Nissan’s answer to the Ford Fiesta, and the announcement of (our client) InterContinental Hotels Group’s intention to create 3,000 jobs in three years, the discussion around employment appears to have been largely negative.

Only yesterday the Government, throwing PR caution to the wind, decided to potentially make up to 1700 disabled people unemployed; a tricky manoeuvre for any spin-doctor by any stretch – and to be fair they didn’t try very hard to spin it. Whether this could have been perceived as an inspired move or utter madness all came down to timing. In the boom years, you might have positioned it as stroke of genius social improvement. Let’s face it who could argue that disabled workers might not be better off fully integrated into the general workplace?  However, the trouble with this in austere times is that most people fear that the only thing the workers of Remploy will now integrate into is the benefits system and job seekers’ clubs.

The current debate in Westminster and the media on work experience got us thinking about the jobs we've all done previously (Image:

Speaking of job seekers, by far the biggest loser in the job debate of late has been of course, Tesco; a target of recent mass moral outrage against workfare schemes. Leaving aside (here) the rights and wrongs of such schemes, the ensuing debate was ill-timed for them and almost wholly eclipsed their announcement this week of the creation of 20,000 new jobs, in what appears to be a competition among supermarkets to see who can claim to be hiring the most shelf-stackers in the shortest period of time.

Speaking of shelf-stackers, who knew so many Captains of Industry started life as such. Well, in fact we all did very quickly as those supporters of workfare out-ed high profile former shelf-stackers like Sirs Stuart Rose and Terry Leahy to prove the point that workfare could actually pay off some day. Of course, these revelations were indeed inspirational but only in the way that Leona Lewis is inspirational when you find yourself giving it large with a rendition of ‘I will always love you’. You know theoretically that Simon Cowell could discover that you have the voice of an angel and propel you to a Christmas no. 1 but you also know that you are more likely to be stuck in a karaoke box with some drunk (and deaf) friends for the rest of your life.

Of course there is nothing wrong with a period of shelf-stacking, or indeed karaoke for that matter. Looking back at my own employment record, a stint working on the Belgian chocolate counter of Lewis’ department store in Glasgow as a student did my career prospects no harm at all, although can’t say the same for my hips. And ok, I wasn’t on benefits at the time but I may as well have been as I seem to remember that toast was pretty much a necessary staple in my life. I guess the question is though; did it do my PR career any good? Hmm… not sure.

Intrigued I asked my colleagues in our Financial and Professional Services team about their formative career-building activities pre-PR. The response was truly remarkable as you will see below. Interestingly, not a shelf-stacker among us!

However, what I thought was more remarkable was the immediacy and enthusiasm of the email response to my question. Not enough work to do you might ask… No, it seemed that most people looked back at these jobs with a great deal of fondness. While tough at the time, and in some cases sheer embarrassing, they were clearly memorable, and dare I use a Dad-phrase; character-building.

What this list says about the ambition and capabilities of our team is probably a subject for another post, if not a reality TV programme but it definitely explained to me, why ours is such a fun (if slightly mad) team to work in:

Most embarrassing but slightly cute: Shamu, the Killer Whale impersonator

Most dangerous: UK friendliest city tester (involved standing by the side of a pretend broken down car for a couple of hours in cities across the UK to see if anyone would help, while avoiding being mistaken as a hooker)

Most coveted: Receptionist and middle-aged housewife chatting up-Jedi at a gym/yoga studio (the same person was also a Holiday Inn bedwarmer – go figure)

Close second on the most coveted: Lifeguard (there is a theme developing here I fear)

Least coveted: Bin man

Close second on the least coveted: Player hospitality assistant at the World Snooker Championships

Most depressing: Chicken trussing in a factory in the West Midlands and cleaning gas showrooms in the same region (worth noting this individual is the most senior member of the team today).

Most useful: Pension’s administrator/photocopier

Least useful: Extra in a Zombie movie

Most traditional: Paperboy, milkman, pot-washer, burger-flipper

Most power-yielding: Baggage handler

Most likely not to tell you parents: Nuts magazine model (complete with bunny costume)

Back to work…

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