I Want Your Job: Postman

'We sing along while we work'

Peter Asagba, 38, is a postman who works in Peckham, south London. He won the National Bravery Award at the Royal Mail's 1st Class People awards.

What do you actually do?

Being a postman is a public service. It involves working in the delivery office, sorting mail into general and individual sections for each postman to collect. While we work, we sing along to the radio, tease each other, and talk about things like football. It helps us to get the job done. Every postman has his own area of several hundred addresses that he covers. Once we've sorted the mail, we head outdoors and deliver it.

What's your working schedule?

I start work at 5.30am, although officially work starts at 6am. I sort my mail first, according to the exact order in which the streets are arranged, so that later I won't have to search for a particular letter or parcel. I have my customary cup of coffee, and then at around 6.30am I do some general sorting. My delivery round starts when we've finished sorting, depending on how much mail there is – usually 9am to 10.30am. Most postmen finish by 2.30pm, but I often don't finish work until 4pm as I have a very heavy round, and want to make sure every last parcel has been delivered. Then I head home and doze off in front of the television.

What's the best thing about it?

I really like meeting people, and now that I've been doing the same round for three-and-a-half years, I see lots of familiar faces. People smile when they see me coming with their mail. I've made a lot of friends.

What's not so great about it?

Barking dogs can be very unpleasant, and there are certain buildings where I have to lock up my trolley. I've had it stolen three times. The third time the police caught the people who'd stolen it – but as they were being arrested there was a violent scuffle, and I had to intervene to help one of the officers. I was recommended for a bravery award after that, but I felt I was just doing my job. I feel responsible when people's property is stolen.

What skills do you need to be a great postman?

You need dedication, patience and social skills – it's all about public service. Sometimes I have to work beyond my actual finishing time, and my patience can wear thin when I'm out on my round and someone spots me and keeps asking whether I have a letter for him. Not every postman is that sociable – some just want to get on with the job and won't give anyone a whiff of a smile. We're trained in how to sort letters and parcels, and how to write delivery cards if someone is out.

What advice would you give someone who wanted your job?

When I applied to work in the post office I did it through the post. Now I'm told it is done through the internet. The job has got more difficult, because there are too few people doing too much work, and I've suffered a back injury from bending down when letter boxes are at the bottom of the door. I would ask a postman whether you can accompany him on his rounds for a couple of days, to get a feel for whether it is for you. You have to get used to getting up early – I never was an early riser, even at school.

What's the salary and career path like?

You could progress from being a postman into management, with experience. The starting salary is roughly £15,000 a year but that rises quickly. If you're working in London, you would usually earn more because of the cost of living.

For more information on working as a postal delivery worker, visit the Royal Mail website at www.royal mail.com; or the Postal Services Commission at www.psc.gov.uk.

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