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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Job History

My first job out of college was as a receptionist at a head hunting firm, or as they like to call themselves, an executive search firm.   In order to be a successful head hunter you need to have a big ego and be just a little bit crazy.  I loved the job and the crazy people who worked there.  They had a whole floor in a fancy building.  They worked hard, and they played hard.  There was always someone to grab drinks with after work and I made some really good friends there.  I loved getting dressed up, taking the bus to work and feeling like a real grown-up.

It was the early nineties and there were only two computers in the whole office.  I had one that I used to type letters and resumes and the accountant had the other one.  There was no e-mail and no internet.  That meant that when people were bored they came to the front desk to chat with the receptionist.  Since I also answered all their phone calls, I knew everyone's secrets.  I knew who was taking Prozac, whose kid was about to be suspended for getting caught smoking pot, whose wife was having an affair, who was looking for a new job and who had a boyfriend and a girlfriend.  

The only problem was the pay.  I barely made enough to pay my rent and make my student loan payments.  If I needed new shoes or groceries, I had to dip into my savings.  After about a year, I had enough of the "fun job" and wanted a job where I used my brain.  Beside, by then everyone had a computer and e-mail, so the front desk chit chats were less frequent.  The thing about head hunters though, is they have lots of connections.

They helped me land a great job in the Human Resources department of our local trash and recycling company.  It doesn't sound very glamorous, but the work was interesting and the pay was decent.  At least the offices were across the highway from the landfill so the smell wasn't too bad.  There were only four people in the HR department: myself, another twenty-something woman who was a single mom, the head of HR and his assistant.  The head of HR was an ex-military guy who ran things very much like me was still in the army.  He insisted everyone in the department call him Mr. Duncan* and treated us more like minions than co-workers.  He sat in his office with the door closed a lot, so we had a lot of time to make wise cracks about Mr. Duncan behind his back.   I stuck it out for a little over a year, but decided to quit when I realized the company was run by a bunch of old boys, and I had enough of Mr. Duncan.

After that I worked a few temporary jobs.  I spent a week giving handwriting samples for a tech company working on handwriting recognition software, various phone answering jobs and even taught preschool for a short time.  One temp job I had was for a big ice cream company in the East Bay.  My job was to input entries for a contest into their database.  The contest was to come up with a new ice cream flavor and the five winners got a trip to their factory to create the flavor and vie for the grand prize.  I spent two weeks there entering people's ice cream flavor ideas.  The most popular flavor idea sent in was some sort of combination of chocolate and raspberries.  I had a great time there and they even offered me a full time job.  I turned it down though because of the commute.  But the real reason was that they kept their kitchen stocked with all kinds of ice cream that employees could help themselves to anytime they wanted.  I knew having unlimited access to all that ice cream would lead to very bad things for me.

I ended up getting a job at an investment bank.  Things were good.  It was an interesting job with lots of perks.  It was the dot com boom, so there was always a new and exciting deal going on.  The head of the company would come around with a beer cart on Friday afternoons.  I worked with smart people who knew how to celebrate success.  I also met a guy at the company Christmas party and we started dating.  After that young guy and I decided to move in together I decided to look for another job.  Living together and working together was getting to be a bit much.   I spent four years there and walked away with some great work experience and a husband!

My next job was at a management consulting firm.  I didn't work as a consultant, but had a job that I loved behind the scenes.  Not only were my co-workers smart, they were genuinely nice people.  It was a fantastic place to work.  People respected each other and they didn't just talk about new ways to do things.  If someone had a good idea, they implemented it and gave it a try.   Men were given paternity leave and new mothers had the option of flexible hours when they returned from maternity leave.   The kitchen was stocked with healthy snacks as well as cookies and soda.  I truly enjoyed my job.  I worked there for 6 years before I left after the birth of Lolly and Frostine.

I still keep in touch with most of the people I worked with there.  I miss the office, my job and the free snacks.  I haven't worked in an office for the past six years.  People often ask me if I plan to go back to work at some point.  I really don't know.  Right now it doesn't make any sense for our family.  Especially with Mr. Mint on the road so often.   I have been feeling that pull for something more in my life, but I am not sure what.  Right now, blogging fills the void.  I loved my previous job, but not enough to give up time with my kids.  If/when I do go back to work, I have no idea what path my career would take.  Going back to an office job after spending six years making bottles, doing dishes and watching Diego scares the daylights out of me.  I figure I will know when the time is right and maybe my sister and I will open the housewares store we always talk about.  

What do you love about your job?  What do you hate about it?  What do you think makes a job great?  Inquiring minds want to know.

*Not his real name


Melissa said...

I miss working sometimes, too. But, like you, it doesn't make sense for me to work because spouse's job is so crazy. I do substitute teach in the school though. It doesn't pay a whole heck of a lot, but it is something to help pad a little bit. Which is nice.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

When I had my first son - I SO wanted to stay home with him. I hated going back to work. But then I had the twins and really appreciated a break from the madness. One 3 month was a lot easier than 2 newborns and an 18 month old. So I wasn't as eager to be home all day with them.

In the end I don't think I'm stay at home mom material. Or maybe I have been groomed to be working mom material. That's probably true for everyone. We either choose or are given a life path - and then we just adapt.

As for what I've like about my jobs... I LOVED working with hotels for my old meeting planning job. But I took my current more "training" related planning job so that I wouldn't have to travel. I miss travel - but I can't be away from me kids for more than a night or two. Not yet. I love the flexibility of my current job and the fact that no one is watching me come and go and having opinions about the hours I keep. Although I loved many things about my last job it was always a contest to see who could work the longest hours. Sorry - not for me anymore.

So true about needing something for yourself. Writing is a great option because it's something you can do on your own time. The trick is finding time to do it!

anymommy said...

I didn't like being a lawyer, so I don't miss that at all. My favorite job was a huge legal editing project that I did on contract from home right after my first baby was born. Right now, I love being at home with the kids, but I do think a lot about what I need to do to make sure I have a fulfilling job in the future. Another degree? Start over at entry level? Manager of SB (for the free coffee). Lol. Kidding, sort of!

Anonymous said...

I have a serious love/hate relationship with my job. I love knowing that I am doing something that can potentially make a difference. I love when I see former students and they tell me that even one thing I said has stuck with them. I love helping kids find a way to a better future.

I hate the politics. I hate the standards and the pressure. I hate the babysitting aspect of the job.

But more than anything, I hate, hate, hate being away from my kids all day. I resent that I spend more time with other people's children than my own.

I used to work in publishing and for a literary agent...LOVED both. Such a vicious but creative industry. I do miss that often.

Lish said...

There is so much I love about my job (financial aid at a community college). I love working on a college campus where anything and everything can happen. Just this week, we had a huge army recruiter tent/RV blasting Sammy Hagar in the staff parking lot while Newt Gringrich's sister staged a protest of Prop 8 in front of the bookstore. Today I got to sit outside in 85 degree weather for an hour manning a financial aid table for transfer day.

I love the energy and excitement of working with college students all day. I love that I work a balance of people and alone time with a computer.

What I don't like is being blamed and yelled at and cursed at for students' not receiving money due to their own irresponsibility. What I am getting increasingly disillusioned with is dealing with those who are not particularly smart except when it comes to using taxpayer money to stay at home to have more babies with their baby daddies. I miss a type of intellectual repartee that is hard to get at the community college.

I LOVE the people in my office, including my boss. And I love starting work at 11:30 in the morning.

Lish said...

Oh, sorry I have to add to you taxpayers that students who take advantage of the financial aid system are few and far between. The majority of students are using the money for the right reasons. It's just MY job to police the others, and it gets tiresome being cursed at when we refuse to bankroll them.