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December 17, 2023Article written by Nisha Rikhi, BA in Politics and International Relations from University of Sussex, GDL graduate, and current LPC student.
I worked for my parents’ business for several years while at university. I was a receptionist at their local business in a small Surrey town that thrived on local customers who came because of recommendations or our good reputation. This article is about the transferable skills I gained while working for my parents’ business and why working for the family business is a viable option for students and young people.
A work ethic was something I developed from working in the family business. I learned what people do to earn money and how hard people have to work to earn the money to meet their essential needs. This led to an appreciation of how hard my parents work and have worked to provide for themselves and their family. Being able to work for a family business can be a viable option for young people because it allows them to experience the workplace for the first time. Furthermore, working for a family business gives young people an opportunity to learn the value of money and some of the skills that employers look for when recruiting new employees.
Organisation skills were something that I enhanced while doing this work. I booked appointments and managed the diary, and I was responsible for ensuring that the reception area was kept clean and that the petty cash was logged. I learned that good administration and housekeeping were important to the running of a business. Working as a receptionist allowed me to be at the centre of activity and allowed me to develop the organisation skills required for managing the hive of activity that was the reception area. I learned how to handle money as I was responsible for taking payments and handling cash payments. This was valuable as it demonstrates honesty, which is very important to employers, particularly those whose staff have to handle money as part of their work. As law students, we know that honesty is a highly prized attribute for lawyers as it is a requirement of the code of conduct that we behave honestly. Being trusted to handle money is a privilege and by working as a receptionist for several years, I proved that I could handle the responsibility that came with that privilege. That in and of itself is an invaluable experience for a student. This is because they can be seen to be dependable and honest, thereby establishing early on that they can be trusted by employers.
Customer service was an important skill that I learned. I was speaking to clients and managing client expectations which inherently involves interpersonal skills. I learned how to converse with members of the public in the context of a consumer relationship, and I learned how to handle clients assertively. Being able to observe proper proprieties and learning how to interact with a variety of different people is important to future employment. This is because employers are looking for a certain level of professionalism and courtesy from potential employees and they are looking for candidates who would be able to manage or engage with their clientele. This means that knowing how to greet members of the public and being able to manage customer expectations are important interpersonal skills that can be learnt from working in a family business.
It was an invaluable experience in preparation for paid employment. This is because it allowed me to develop some of the soft skills that are highly valued by employers and easily transferable from industry to industry. Without this experience working for our family business, it would have been harder for me to gain my first paid job because I would not have had some of the soft skills that are prized in the legal industry. Therefore, one can only conclude that working for their family business can be a vital and enriching experience for students, regardless of the career they are pursuing.