What It's Like to Work at UPS

If you've ever been curious about what it might really be like to be Santa, get a job working at UPS during the Christmas season. You better believe that Santa couldn't possibly be jolly and round. He's got muscles made of steel and very little body fat!

As I am currently a college student working toward my certification as a paramedic, it's always a challenge to find a job that will mesh perfectly with my schedule of classes. Last year, I saw an ad on Seattle's Craigslist seeking driver's helpers for the holiday season at UPS and thought I'd give it a go.

I followed the links from the ad and filled out the online application on their website. It wasn't long before my phone was ringing, with a UPS hiring manager calling to schedule me for an interview.

A hard day's work

I drove down to the Seattle UPS hub for a large group interview. The room was filled with a diverse group of individuals, all interviewing for the same position. Most of us didn't know exactly what the job would entail or what to expect, but there were a few people present who had worked during past Christmas seasons. The hiring manager came into the room, sized us up and then launched into a long monologue about why this job would break all but the most enthusiastic and dedicated.

The manager explained that it would be a physically demanding job; it's essentially getting paid to work out -- all day long! She asked us to imagine getting in and out of the UPS truck several hundred times each a day and then compared that to the number of reps you might perform in a step-aerobics class. The UPS truck has much larger steps, which makes it much more challenging than your average step workout. Next, she said, imagine carrying heavy or bulky boxes up and down those stairs. It was sounding better all the time! I had recently been through some training with the fire department and wasn't scared away by her warnings and admonitions. How hard could it really be to deliver packages all day?

After being questioned in more detail about my likelihood to persevere and my physical condition, I was hired on the spot. I was told that I would be scheduled for a training session and then paired up with a local driver who would contact me directly. I attended a large training session the next day, where we learned a lot about safe lifting practices and efficient movements while on a UPS truck. The focus of the training was how to survive the daily grind on a UPS truck while keeping your body intact. I was still somewhat skeptical that it could possibly be that bad.

A few aches and pains

My first day was relatively easy, although I must say that my legs burned that night from getting in and out of the truck all day and my back was sore from bending and lifting. I am sure there are busier places to work than UPS during the Christmas season -- but not many. With each passing day, the job became more and more demanding and the days grew longer. We were out delivering packages after 8PM on many nights.

It's an interesting experience to try to find people's house numbers in the dark, navigate unfriendly dogs and try to pleasantly extricate yourself from chatty customers so that you can get the job done. Imagine having 500 packages on a truck and each person wanting to talk for 30 seconds. That would add hours to your day, so you simply can't do it.

By the end of my experience on Christmas Eve, I had mastered the route and had learned a lot about UPS. My body had taken quite a beating, but I didn't quit like many other helpers I saw come and go through the revolving door.

UPS really has the teamwork concept down. If you manage to empty your truck early -- which we almost never did -- you help out other trucks that are swamped. Every truck helps every other truck get it done.

UPS offered me a permanent part-time package handling position with the company, but I haven't decided whether to accept that job yet. My school course load is what is causing me to hesitate, for ultimately, UPS is a great place to work. They offer their permanent part-time employees benefits and tuition assistance and that's pretty hard to come by. Overall, if you can hack it physically, it's a great job.

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