I recently finished reading a book written by a highly successful person (no spoilers, but I’m sure you’ll figure out who it was in my year end book review) who devoted a whole chapter to the jobs she suffered through before she became a highly successful person and I thought ‘hey, I’m a highly successful person (practically a household name) whose suffered a lot I should do the same.’ So, without further ado here you go (I’m going to link to this page for any potential future employers):
My first job was as a very glamorous chamber maid at a very run down motel by my house in Raymond Maine. At the time I was 14 and limited to working at places I could walk to – it was either the motel or a candle pin bowling alley – man I wanted to work at that bowling alley! The job was terrible, the motel was un-airconditioned, mildewy and run by a creepy old pervert. And because I was only 14 I was scrubbing toilets for student wages which at the time was just about $2.00 an hour. I was paid under the table but my creepy old boss still deducted taxes from what I earned. I worked there one season, left when the motel closed in September and never went back. The last time I drove by it, it had been completely renovated, expanded and gotten a pool. There definitely was no pool when I worked there, it was the kind of place you only stayed in if your car broke down on the way to somewhere better and you had no other options (it was not unlike the Bates motel). My boss used to open up the guest rooms before I got there in the morning and pocket all of the tip money people would leave for me. I really hated that guy.
That year I turned 15 and got my first car, I promptly drove it to the local McDonald’s (I needed $ for car insurance) and was hired immediately. I worked primarily the early morning breakfast shift up front behind the registers. It wasn’t a terrible job – I never once had to clean a toilet, scrub a 30-year-old shower curtain clean or get groped from behind. But it was HOT, it was excruciatingly HOT in there, I doubt it was air conditioned and if it was it probably wouldn’t have mattered since I was always given the register right next to the fryer. I was also greasy ALL the time. My biggest take away from this job was that my boss, who was a young and relatively attractive woman had a colostomy bag. I remember learning that and trying hard to stop myself from complaining about stupid things. My feet always hurt.
I spent the next summer at McDonald’s but once school started again I decided I needed a change. I left McDonald’s and upgraded to the high class world of Dunkin Donuts. Dunkin smelled a lot better than McDonald’s, didn’t leave me nearly as greasy and allowed me to eat all the free munchkins I wanted. The one big downside to DD was that my boss was a dick, a total old school asshole who didn’t like the way I filled 2 jelly donuts with one hand and complained that I wasn’t pouring coffee the right way (is there a wrong way to pour coffee? Apparently there is…). One day, without ceremony he fired me for eating a munchkin behind the counter (this was a big no-no we had to go into the back room to eat on the clock). This is the one and only job I have ever been fired from – it was totally worth it even though I don’t have any recollection of eating anything on camera, I as happy to get out of there.
In order not to lose my car and insurance the day after I left Dunkin Donuts I went right back to McDonald’s, they welcomed me back with open arms (who else was willing to be there at 5:00am on a Saturday?) as far as I recall I worked there the rest of the way through high school.
I had a few other gigs, that weren’t real long-term jobs. I spent a few days every year taking inventory at a local hardware store, I have vivid memories of sitting on an overturned bucket counting loose screws until I thought my head would explode. I spent a few months shelving children’s book at my local public library (by far the best job I have EVER had). I spent a month one summer living outside Los Angeles CA and working in the HR department of a fortune 500 company – I was so out of my element there I remember not being able to figure out which was the copy machine and which was the fax machine, but I liked that job I worked at a desk and got a paid lunch hour – HOUR. And occasionally I babysit, but I was terrible at it, I couldn’t relate to children, I didn’t know the first thing about caring for babies and I was super irresponsible – actually I’d like to publicly apologize to anyone I might have babysat for, I hope I did not emotionally scar your children too bad and I’m sorry for making long distance calls and eating all of your frosting.
When I got to college I wasn’t planning on working but beer isn’t free and I found that pocket-money comes in very handy when you are a freshman making poor lifestyle choices. I presented myself to the on-campus pizza place and was hired right away. I was given a name tag and a register front and center. I liked that job, I actually liked it better than most of my classes and my attendance there was better than in most of the lecture halls. I met a lot of friends there probably because I was always grossly under-charging my fellow students. I have no idea how much money I lost that place through my shenanigans but for a brief period of time I was a big hit in a small circle of people. I remember when one day when I was tasked with scooping cream cheese in to small containers to wrap up with the bagels – the cream cheese came in a 5 gallon tub and after an hour of handling it I was so disgusted that it was years before I would eat it again. That place had the best curly fries.
After I left school and moved to California I spent my first Christmas season there working for a high-end luggage/gift shop upstairs next to Neiman Marcus in the fashion valley mall. I was hired strictly as their cashier which was perfect because the store sold $5,000 briefcases and Mont Blanc pens that would retail for twice that. I was WAY out of my comfort zone and I remember having some culture shock at the ridiculous things rich people spent their money on.
My next full-time gig was at a low-end gift shop (Coach House gifts?) if the Christmas job had been the Sakes of the gift world my new job was somewhere between a DollarTree and a poorly stocked hallmark store. We sold cheap plastic and resin bobbles and knick-knacks that nobody wanted and nobody needed. The job was easy because hardly anyone ever went in there. the majority of my work day I spent giving my socially awkward boss dating and fashion advice. Fortunately for me he thought I was valuable enough that when I threatened to quit because it took me two buses and almost 2 hours to get to the mall (I only lived 3 miles away) he started driving me to and from work – looking back now I realize he may have been doing that for other reasons…
I eventually left the gift store and spent some time doing odd jobs – I worked for a few weeks telemarketing (selling pens and promotional items over the phone) I was terrible at that job. I spent exactly one day working for Boston market (sill waiting to get paid) and I spent a few weeks working for a small business out of someones garage. I was making cold calls selling… something? I don’t remember, I do remember that my ‘desk’ was an ironing board and I was paid in cash – there is a good possibility that that was not a legitimate business.
Eventually I was hired to work the sales counter at a local hair salon, once again I was inside and had a steady schedule. My boss, who was a real asshole never called me by my name, he referred to me as ‘girl’. As in “Girl – go restock the bathroom. Girl – order some more Paul Mitchell!” it was humiliating but at the time he was paying me more than his competitors would, the salon was a 2 minute walk from my apartment and for the first time in a long time my hair looked rally good, I was willing to put up with a lot of crap.
when I couldn’t take the salon anymore, I turned my boss in to the CA labor bureau for back overtime he never paid me and with the money that I got from that settlement I was able to spend an entire summer doing nothing but sitting by the pool and reading cheap sci fi novels. I guess I should be grateful that I won in the end.
after my settlement money was all gone I decided it was time to buckle down and try to find a real job. I bought a nice dress, and heavy resume paper (it was the 90’s I was still sending resumes through the mail). I managed to land a job at a small lien sale office, I started in the mailroom, posting and dragging (literally) 1000’s of letters to the post office everyday. I learned patience standing in long post office line (before there were smart phones to keep you entertained). Thanks to an incident of embezzlement and a dramatic mid-day arrest I was quickly promoted ‘up front’ to work data entry. I felt like I had finally made it – I got to SIT down at mt OWN desk, I had a telephone and health insurance and a 401K, it was amazing. It was a real job but it was also a double-edged sword, I worked with awesome people and had a regular schedule but I routinely got yelled at by angry and upset customers and at one point we had to install a buzzer on the door because of numerous death threats. It was at this time that I decided I needed to go back to college.
I worked at that little office for four years while I got my associates degree and then part of my bachelors degree in the evenings. The day I left was both a huge relief (no more angry customers!) but also incredibly sad – I worked with my two best friends and I wasn’t leaving them for another job but to move 2,600 miles away.
I relocated to Philadelphia and quickly got hired at a full service brokerage firm which was surprising to me because I thought I was interviewing at a temp office. I walked into that job knowing nothing of investing or money management or anything financial (I hadn’t had a savings account since before I started driving). I quickly discovered hat no one cared, I was just a pretty face to answer the phone and fetch coffee – I did that for six years.
While answering the phone at the firm I also got a part-time job at Barnes and Nobel, mostly to support my book addiction but also to get cheap coffee and because it was 3 blocks from my apartment and I spent most of my time there anyway. All the money I made at the bookstore went directly back to the bookstore (I was a great investment for that place). I rally loved working there and working two jobs wasn’t a big deal when I was single and had plenty of time on my hands but eventually I met my future husband and a started missing shifts. We moved in together and I realized that being a secretary and a part-time bookseller was unsustainable. I had been studying for my series 7 (brokers exam) and I had serious plans to take over my bosses portfolio when he retired but a very brutal and honest conversation with senior management one day reminded me that I would only ever be a pretty face to them and nothing more. I quit my job the next day.
I decided to go back to school and get my masters degree so that I would never have to work two jobs again; I managed to score a job at the University I planned on attending to eliminate that pesky tuition burden.
And that is where I’m leaving you my friends – the rest is BORING and very adult and due to litigation concerns I can’t talk about much of it. Let’s just say I ended up where I wanted to start out – surrounded by books.