I was recently reading a post from Jo of Shut Up & Go fame, about working so many ‘random’ jobs over the years. She explained that taking on a new job can be a fun way to get all of those new place feels, when you maybe aren’t able to travel just yet.
You get new friends, a new environment, follow new rules and a new work culture and you have completely new surroundings – and she hit the nail on the head.
I had an interview a few weeks ago in my little ole hometown. I had only just shaken the interviewer’s hand when she said, “Oh, so you’re from here?” Strange thing to lead with.
“Yes, I’m from here.” (In fact, you and I went to high school together, but I’m not going to bring that up.)
“Oh. Like, you were born here?”
“Um, yes. I’m from FROM here. Like. From here.”
“Oh.” Silence. “It’s just that your resume says your last job was in London.”
“Ahh…yes. Well, I lived there.”
“And the rest of your work experience is, kind of, like, all over the place.”
“Well. I love travelling and trying new things, and it’s hard to explain all that in two pages, so…”
CAN WE JUST START THE ACTUAL INTERVIEW PLEASE.
Why is it so damn important that my work experience is presented in a nice, neat, little package? I’ve had a life, okay?
I love learning. I thrive when I am constantly meeting new people and picking their brains and analyzing their Myers Briggs type and hearing about their spiritual beliefs.
I get obsessed with exploring new towns and streets and pretty brick walls wherever I go. I get crazy when I feel like I’m not growing or challenging myself in some way, big or small. Being in my comfort zone makes me very, very uncomfortable.
Can we please just not shame people because they left a job to follow their heart or travel the world or make more money or go back to school or any of the million reasons that a person might leave a job?
I’ve worked a few jobs over the years. It can take forever to figure out the thing you really want to do, so we all do something in the meantime, right? One thing leads to another, one option opens up other opportunities, which opens up other paths. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? I don’t personally know one single person who left high school at 18 and walked into their dream job.
Let’s stop pretending that we are supposed to know it all before we actually learn it all. Life takes time.
This is my mission to lay it all out, to connect the dots for myself and find that golden thread that weaves through all the experiences I cherish, so that next time I’m face to face with an employer with a bad attitude, I can speak freely about the work I love, instead of shying away from the fact that I love learning through doing multiple different things.
So. In no particular order, a snapshot of my work experience.
* I’m pretty sure I’ve signed a contract saying that my opinions and the opinions of my current employer are probably not the same.
** I’ve definitely signed contracts saying that I could get sued for sharing certain parts of certain jobs – so I’m limited with what I can share, but DM’s are a thing, so…
Job: Customer Service at a small-ish, not very well known airline
I did this job for a year, and I’m now going back 7 years after leaving to do it again.
Yes, the travel perks are amazing (truly) but it was one of the very few jobs that I never minded going to, or working weekends for or staying late at. The shifts were at extreme times, the hours were flexible and I spent my days at the airport meeting people from all over the world who were usually extremely happy to be travelling.
One of my favorite interactions was checking in a middle aged woman for her flight to Chicago. She was buzzy and excited and then she leaned across the counter and said:
“Can I just tell you something? Is that okay?”
“Yeah. Of course. Tell me.”
“Well, I just finished my last treatment for breast cancer. I’ve wanted to go to Lollapalooza for years and just dance and listen to music and I have no one to go with but I know that I can’t wait. So I’m just going to go by myself and I’m scared but I’m also really excited.”
*weepy eyes for both of us*
“Do you think it’s weird that I’m going to a festival in another country by myself?”
“No, ma’am. It’s not weird at all. Not one little bit.”
Lesson: Everyone has a story. Everyone is scared. Everyone just needs someone to listen. Also, travel heals souls.
Job: Office Manager at a music school
This is one of those jobs that is made wonderful because of the people you deal with on a daily basis.
I spent two years talking to excited 7 year olds who just learned a new song on the piano and chatting with the bored parents who waited patiently for their children to finish their music lessons.
These were parents who likely had no musical talent of their own but supported and encouraged the dreams of their kids who were just trying to stay true to their own precious hearts.
I worked with music teachers who were all trying to pursue their own musical goals, but who needed something steady in the meantime. I spent my weekends going to their gigs, wearing their band t-shirts and buying their cds to help support their dreams while I organized their work life at the office.
Lesson: People supporting other people’s creativity is everything. Also, kids are geniuses and need to be encouraged and listened to always.
Job: Production Assistant for lots of famous shows that you’ve definitely watched
Okay, this is mostly on my resume because I know it impresses people. I also learned a shit ton of new skills, but I definitely feel like potential employers usually skip over that because they always just ask me for juicy on set secrets.
TV Production is my chosen career, I guess, and it’s what I studied in college but somehow working in tv has mostly been an exercise in learning what I don’t want.
I don’t like kissing ass. I don’t like being yelled at and told off and being made to feel like I’m not good enough. I don’t like feeling like if I don’t keep up, my job will be given to someone ‘better’. I don’t like working within the stereotypes of reality tv casting. It’s soul sucking.
But! One of the biggest lessons I learned from this work came when I worked on children’s talent shows. These were kids who had been sitting in their room, playing Taylor Swift songs on their half size guitars, keeping their talents a secret and then all of a sudden were waiting in a mile long line at 4 am so they could try out for a tv show.
Being vulnerable as an adult is maybe one of the hardest things to learn and there were these 9, 10, 11 year old kids who were putting themselves out there for the world to see.
And 99.99% of them got turned down.
They wanted it so badly and yet, getting turned down did nothing to deter them from their future plans. They would leave the audition room with wet eyes, telling producers, “Thank you for your time. Thank you for giving me feedback. I appreciate the opportunity. I will come back, thanks for believing in me.”
These kids were SO gracious and wise beyond their years.
My youth looked so different and if this is the future, well, I feel like we are going to be okay as long as we nurture brave little kids who believe in themselves
Lesson: You don’t need to be a jerk to get ahead. (But it really helps if you want to work in television.) Also, kids are great and being gracious is so cool.
Job: Supervisor at a grocery store
This was my first ‘real’ job, where I started at the bottom and worked my way up. It literally drives me nuts when I am buying groceries and the cashier has to look up the code for bananas. 4011! My GOD.
Lesson: The lesson here? Everyone should probably do a job like this at some point, because no matter what experience I’ve had in the years since this, somehow my skills from this job get used over and over and over. Oh, also, when you work in places with lots of employees, some of them won’t like you. There may not be a reason, personalities are different.
Job: Customer Service at a giant museum filled with weird facts
My interview went something like this:
“Hi, I’m Brittany.”
“Yes, I know. Your name really stood out to me. It’s so American!”
“Um. Well, it’s Canadian too, actually.”
“Oh, well in London, we just associate it with America. It’s so American. Do you get asked about Britney Spears a lot? Have you been to America? Your name is really, really American.”
So, it should come as no surprise that 5 months later, I was being told by this same manager that I needed to smile more at work because I always seemed exhausted when I was there. CAN’T IMAGINE WHY.
Lesson: This place was the first job I had where I worked with people from all over the world. I laughed hard with them. I learned from them. I kissed some of them. I loved one of them. Differences make the world go round.
Job: Customer Service at a museum. A boring museum.
I helped people, I talked about things, I guarded expensive cars from famous movies that I’ve never actually seen while simultaneously letting people sit in other expensive cars. I met some of the greatest people ever.
Lesson: Sometimes it’s not the work you are doing, but the people you are doing it with.
Job: Researcher at a company that had lots of initials so I never really learned their full name.
I don’t really know how rich people get so rich because they never seem to actually work and wow, they take really long lunches.
Lesson: Behind every suit and tie is just a big insecure kid who is constantly surprised that people let him mess up the things he messes up.
What I’ve learned so far
- There’s a story in every experience and everyone’s story is worthy of a listening ear or a gentle smile.
- Kids are smarter and funnier and kinder than we usually give them credit for.
- Being around people brings me to life.
- Creativity is not the most important thing, but, well, okay, yes it is. (And money definitely isn’t.)
This is not a full list of every job I’ve done, but it’s enough that I can attempt to go forward with my check list of needs and wants, paying attention to the atmospheres and environments than I place myself in and the people I surround myself with. No more defending my work experience to a stranger with pre-conceived judgements or trying to squeeze my big life onto one sheet of white paper.
(And yes, reality tv is fake. Duh.)