My Job: Explained (Customs Co-ordinator)
Job title: Customs Co-ordinator
Describe your role
I deal with all the official documents and forms that come with bringing literally anything into the country and make sure it’s all here legally
How long have you worked in the industry?
Over a year now!
How did you manage to get into this role/industry?
I basically fell into it. I was working at a bar where I was treated badly, so I signed up to a temp agency, saw the ad for work in customs, quit my job and told the agency they better get me in quick (and luckily for me they did). I also live in a port town which definitely helped job-wise!
What's the best part of your job?
Seeing all the weird things people bring into the country (or try to). We once turned down a client who tried to bring in the corpse of a giraffe they'd shot down on holiday. Another situation was a client who wanted to bring over "just his car", upon inspection of the container we noticed that there were various species of snails and some strange chemicals inside (both which are illegal in the UK).
The creative ways people try to smuggle drugs in to the UK is also fascinating - I would share some examples but I wouldn't want to give anyone ideas...
Pretty much everyone who works in customs or transport has at least one funny story to tell.
What's the hardest part of your job?
When technology stops working. If a system goes down, it reduces my day to purely filling out applications that the computer would do automatically. What takes a computer half a second takes me five minutes to complete. That and, as with any job, dealing with dissatisfied customers. Things as simple as the weather can delay shipments and it’s hard to explain to an irate person that we can’t swim out to sea and drag their container into port just because they have a delivery booked the next day.
What skills would you say are necessary for this role?
You need to have a sharp eye for errors. You need to be a really good problem-solver too, this is a key part of the job. It’s also majorly beneficial to have a good team around you – if you don’t know the answer, chances are someone on your team will.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering this industry?
Make. Notes. You are not a machine; you are not expected to remember everything you’re being taught. It’s a constant learning experience and no one expects you to remember everything straight off the bat. But also, on the flip side of that, no one wants to explain it to you twice.
What surprised you most when taking on this role?
That everything you could possibly think of needs a customs declaration to get into the UK. Plants have passports, every single import of honey is examined in a lab, to legally have the word ‘organic’ on anything you import, you have to jump through hoops first or trading standards will get you. As one of my colleagues once taught me, “If it’s organic, panic”.
Are there any things that you didn't expect to be doing that has been asked of you?
This one wasn’t me, but my boss has had to pick up a body in a coffin in his personal car to get it to the funeral on time. Recently we had to deal with a kidnapping – a delivery driver had a disagreement with a few site workers and they physically stopped him from leaving which, as he pointed out to us and the police, is legally ‘kidnapping’.
Personally, I just didn’t expect to be doing so much maths.
If you weren't in this job, what else would you want to be doing?
I want to work with children one day, preferably as a teacher. I’ve got a way to go before I start on that career path, though.
The My Job series was created to help those unsure on the industry they want to go in, so this is an insight on the day to day life of different people in different industries. If you would like more details on working in this industry please drop me a message and I'll direct you to the interviewee! If you would like to get involved, please let me know.