My First 11 Jobs

Last night I was cruising around on Twitter and came across the hashtag #myfirstsevenjobs. It was really interesting to see how people’s careers progressed (or not) over each job transition.

tramway

Working the Tramway with Amy

Anyhoo, I thought it might be fun to consider in my depth than a tweet my first MANY jobs. Seven won’t cut it for me, and I’m in the mood to paint a path from beginning to present day me.

1. BABY SITTER

Since it seems more a right-of-passage than job, I’m not sure whether to count this. But babysitting IS work – particularly when you are babysitting three brothers who love to get into fights, go on the roof, and do the opposite of what their parents put down as rules … not to forget force you to play non-stop driveway hockey. Ah, but I enjoyed it. Five bucks an hour back then, and I felt I was asking too much.

I’ve actually known people who have paid the bills with babysitting. Man that is smart. I’d never considered it back when Z and I were flat broke.

2. SUBWAY SANDWICH ARTIST

Ah, my first ‘real job’ on the books with tax deductions.  I walked into the restaurant and answered this question correctly: The lunch rush just finished. The tables are messy, the tomatoes need to be cut and a customer just walked in the door. What do you do first?

Serve the customer? Then fix the floor? Then cut tomatoes? CORRECT!

I got the job. It paid for my week-long grad trip to Mexico. A summer well spent during a time when I really was in a bubble about the value of a buck.

2. OLD NAVY

Never-ending-folding-opportunity!! I walked into a group interview for this simply because some friends of mine and I were wandering around the mall and there was a sign. I was wearing this ridiculous pink tank top and my hair was sloppily piled on top off my head in a bun. Apparently this made me hip enough to land the job. They played non-stop 80s pop music and the floor was concrete … i.e., it was literally painful to work there.

4. CONCESSION STAND

Truly my worst job. In writing this, I realize I am lucky this was the worst job I ever worked. Really it was just gross – limp lettuce, drug deals in the walk-in-freezer, concession stand food, and a bunch of flirting-with-each-other fifteen year old kids working their first jobs. Did one season to save money and then ditched it.

5. TRAMWAY

Oh man, the job wasn’t great but the summer was AMAZING. Since I was a kid I had wanted to work a summer in Jasper National Park. So during my first summer of university, I got myself a job at the Jasper Tramway working in their retail shop on top of the mountain. We’d do 12 hour shifts, but we ALSO all lived together in a big house, and rode bikes up mountains, and ate ice cream in the park and went dancing all night long. It was incredible. Everyone should work a shitty job in a beautiful national park at least once.

6. BOOK SELLER AT CHAPTERS

I have very mixed feelings about this time in my life, but my most vivid memories from then do come from this store. Here I met a boyfriend, and also my best friend Catherine – she worked in the kids department and it took about 6 months before we ever really spoke to one another, because we were shy. Twelve odd years later and she’s still a rock in my life. This job also helped pay for the back and forth trips to Hungary during my time courting Zsolt.

I just have a bit of a pinch with it, however. When I finally left for good, after three years of working there and showing up keen for each shift, the management were a bunch of assholes minus one fellow. Not a card wishing me luck (I was moving to England to be with Zsolt), barely a thanks, and the head manager (who so clearly hated his job) didn’t even want to let me use my discount one last time on buying books. I know that sounds petty, but in retail that’s like saying ‘go frack yourself’.

However, it did connect me to good people, and was a place about which I cared.

7. PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPER INTERNAL DEBT COLLECTOR

How the HECK I ended up doing this, I don’t know. In England you go to a job agency, and they place you in a position. Somehow I ended up here and accepted it because, you know, money. It was my first financial office experience. It was my last financial office experience. I worked about 9 months here, observed the bitterness of both management and long-term employees, saved cash for my MA in Creative Writing, and then took off on a trip to Iceland, never to return there again. I also met some great people, all recent university grads like myself.

8. ASSISTANCE SERVICES UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

This was a FUN job. I got to go to other students’ lectures and take notes for them. Sometimes I’d go hang out with them on job placements. Other times I would just take them around campus so they were familiar with the space. It was all about helping these young people feel capable in their studies.

10. LIBRARY ASSISTANT & DIGITIZATION

Again with the University, but at a tiny library in the Humanities campus that looked out onto a courtyard. *happy sigh*

If we had stayed in England, I most certainly would have remained here for ages. Not only was it a lovely place in general, but the people – oh my goodness, such good people. This was the first job where I really felt valued as an employee, and in turn it made me value the job so much more. I wasn’t some expendable part-time employee . . . I mattered to them. It’s also where I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my manager truly helped me navigate that nightmare.

10 – ish. MORE LIBRARY

I truly love libraries, and this was no exception, but WOW… working for the city is a ridiculous jungle of protocol, ridged rules, and hierarchy. However, I did work at a very special branch in our city.

11. FREELANCE WRITER & SOCIAL MEDIA’ER’

Ohhh yeah. I don’t know how this happened, except that I had a MA in creative writing, moved back to Canada, did some blogging for local sites, and then one day went to a networking meeting where I randomly told people I was a writer. From here Camille Boivin came into my life. She hired me as a blogger, and it was a great relationship. I had two main clients in my work, and they helped Zsolt and I float along just enough to get out of my parent’s house and into the apartment in Vanier. It was lean times, but times where I was really building what I wanted to do with myself.

12. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

A series of fortunate events, and projects, and job board emails, led me here. I am happy and grateful. So grateful. My project for the organization is the book club. It basically wraps much of what I have loved into a big ball, and then lets me play with it. I am inspired daily by the people with whom I work and am in awe they have welcomed me into their circle.

AND THAT IS IT.

?: What were your first seven, or eleven jobs? Share in the comments or write your own post and link back here 🙂

My takeaways from all this:

1) You gotta carve your own path, and it probably won’t be a straight or expected one. If it were not for my taking on independent projects like blogging for Apartment 613, writing my novel, or creating Write Along Radio with my co-host, or randomly telling strangers I’m a writer, I would never have had the better doors opening for me. Also, I did an MA in creative writing . . . which people may tell you leads nowhere – except for me, it lead everywhere I pushed it to go.

2) Being valued is important. Once I stopped accepting shitty management, or devaluation on my services, or being treated as expendable, I found positions where my work was honoured. I want to work with people who care, and so that is where I end up. Put it out there and, if you can, don’t accept less.

3) A monkey wrench does not need to stop you. During all these years I felt, at different times, totally aimless in life, totally broke and worried about payments (plotting out our groceries dollar by dollar then feeling sick when we went over our small budget), totally sick with chemo, and totally worried about dying any second. But I’m still doing what I love to do, because I am far more than my fears AND (point 2) work with incredible people who help me keep going.

Okay, I can’t believe I have written so much in this post. Blame it on the lack of children in my life. If I had had a kid, then I would just bore THEM with all this recollection and take-away insight . . . heck, if I had had a dog I’d aim it their way too. But it’s just me and you, honey, blogging around together.

And so I will now stop writing.

The end.

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14 thoughts on “My First 11 Jobs

  1. Very interesting and just lovely. I babysat, housekept, worked in an insurance office, raised four kids (they started out at 6, 4, 2, and newborn, now gray-haired), taught piano, composition, and music theory for forty years, then became an author and speaker with all 50 states, England, and Canada under my belt. Except for the kids, I didn’t plan any of it. Ah, life.

  2. Love it! Due to brain tumors I write very little these days, but I love to hear from other bloggers like you with whom I am very close. My jobs were babysitting, going to Canada for a brief exchange/debate program, doing factory work at Eastman Kodak for the summers, teaching chemistry at the University of Rochester as a grad student, and becoming and working as a patent agent and then an attorney. My whole adult life has revolved around patent work until stage 4 took a stage left. But I wish I had been a science librarian. Libraries are fascinating and good for the brain. Loved your story and love your blog!

    • A debate exchange in Canada, Jan. I grew up loving debating 🙂 How interesting you would have enjoyed being a science librarian – it’s so different from patent work, apart from all the necessary researching!

  3. Hello Catherine! … I just loved reading this. I stopped by your page on purpose to see how you were doing. This told me a lot! You sound totally lucid, positive and proud about your past accomplishments. And rightfully so you darn should be proud. We all are, Catherine. I’m still proud of your daily trials and tribulations … how you gracefully meander onwards. You’re doing great! … My own humble beginnings also started with babysitting. I remember earning enough to buy christmas presents for my family. This brought me such a sense of satisfaction. Then on to making submarine sandwiches before my first fulltime governments office job at Hamilton Housing. I could type exceptionally fast – 85 wpm. And I took shorthand. This meant I was employable pretty much anywhere. So I travelled a lot – moved to Glasgow Scotland for 11-yrs, where I set up my own word-processing business down the road from the University. And this was fun for me because I’m a word nerd. I helped to fashion many a dissertation thesis type of reports. I was The Word Girl. Yeah, it was so fun as I recall. I made many friends, and the odd romance blossomed. I was doing well enough to buy my own flat, and then house. But suddenly following a failed engagement, I decided to pack up and move back home to Canada. I married a gem and had twin boys within 2-yrs. And here we are. Much love to you, as always, Catherine. xo

      • Very kind of you to say, dear one. I did all this before becoming a quadriplegic. Geesch. So little time, as they say. Following my accident, when I was in rehab in Toronto for 5 months, I dared to ask the resident psychologist the effect my recent diagnosis would have on my 15-yr marriage. She looked at me and said, “Well, Denise, I wont shit you. Marriage has only a 50/50 chance of success at the best of times. And I’m afraid you’re at the worst. The odds are you have less than a 5% chance your marriage will survive.” Phew, I said. No worries. Five is my lucky number.” …. 🙂 That was so 5-yrs ago. much loves. xo

  4. Love it– and I love the way you write. I’m there with you on each job. Keep writing and KUDOS on Amnesty International!! I had no idea but I’m so distracted these days, I’ve lost touch with everything.
    ~Much love, AnneMarie

  5. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  6. Pingback: My First Seven Jobs – TurtleHead

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