Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Writers and Jobs: Where Have You Worked?

Part of what shapes us as people (and writers) is our experience. A diversity of experience can be a great benefit to writing, and for most people, jobs are a large subset of experience. There are basically two camps of experience when it comes to jobs: either you've worked at one or two jobs for long periods of time, giving you extensive experience in a particular field; or you've worked many jobs for shorter periods of time, giving you a shotgun variety of experience in small doses.

I happen to fall into the latter camp. My "working" career hasn't exactly been stable or steady. Writing has been my only constant. I have moved jobs many, many times over the years, always believing that some day I'd find the best "fit" for me and never quite getting there. But regardless of the instability of my working life, I believe my experiences have at least benefitted my writing (because they certainly haven't benefitted my finances :-).

Some of the jobs I've held include:

* Department secretary for a Student Services office at a community college (an internship which led to a full-time job at a department that was dissolved after I'd been there less than a year).

* "Paid" volunteer for Americorps (we received a $100/week stipend for 45+ hours of work), which included working with the Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, various women's shelters and programs for troubled kids, and other community service projects.

* McDonalds employee - from regular crew person to trainer to manager and back to crew, over the space of 10 years and a number of stints in two different restaurants that ranged from a few weeks to the longest at 2 years.

* Parking lot attendant - a gig that consisted mostly of sitting in a booth, waiting for the shuttles to the stadium to show up so I could use my little clicker to count all the people getting on and off the bus.

* Newspaper layout assistant, a job from which I was fired for being too creative.

* Temporary agent employee, where I was sent on exactly two week-long assignments: one running insert fillers at a newspaper plant, and one performing quality control at a glass bottle manufacturer.

* Fed-Ex (formerly RPS) SWAKer and unloader: no, it doesn't stand for what you think. My job was to Scan, Weigh And Key packages as they came off the truck, which involved scanning a bar code and punching in a destination zip code. When there weren't any coded trucks to scan, I unloaded instead, which involved climbing around in the back of a truck and putting boxes on a conveyor belt. This job won the award for most unusual hours - my shift ran from 2 a.m. to anywhere between 7 and 9 a.m., whenever we finished unloading all the late trucks for the day.

* Gas station cashier/attendant: running a cash register at a gas station. The biggest problem here? Trying to go to the bathroom when you're the only employee on the premises, and the restroom is outside the building and requires a key.

* Freelance writer/editor/copywriter: another unreliable staple I've worked at for several years. Sometimes there's work, sometimes there isn't.

* Waitress - this one lasted about three weeks, or until I figured out that making four bucks an hour plus tips averaged out to less than minimum wage when you couldn't remember which tables you were supposed to serve, and your customers got a little agitated when they didn't get their food, and therefore failed to tip you.

How about you . . . where have you worked, and how has that experience contributed to your writing?


Kathryn Magendie said...

I have been a personal trainer, a dog groomer's assistant, a secretary, an administrative assist, a cocktail waitress, um, let's see -- that's enough fo rnow *laugh*

Kim Smith said...

I have been a telephone sales person(before it was bad to be one!), a fast food employee, an office clerk, a data entry clerk, a dispatcher/driver manager, and then my current position which started out as data entry in the early 90's and has erupted over the years into a network admin, my official title. Funny, but I like being called a mom, a wife, and a writer the best!

Marta Stephens said...

I was a secretary for several years until I developed the WorkLife program at our state university. I've been in charge of it since 1990. In the early 1980s (keep in mind this was before the Internet)I started a gift catalogue business. I had it advertised in various magazines and sales were picking up nicely but I couldn't justify leaving my day job for it, and couldn't keep up with demands on a part time basis. And then, I decided to write. :)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

First job was baby sitter at age 10 for 5 babies, bottles and diapers. (Parents were nuts.)

Telephone company filer, information operator, long distance operator--did that in between having babies.

Teacher in a pre-school for developmentally disabled kids.

Day care teacher and pre-school teacher for disadvantaged kids.

Owned, operated and lived in residential care facility for 6 developmentally disabled women.

At the same time was the training chairperson and instructor for state-mandated Administrator classes and continuing education.

Have retired from all of that and just write and promote now. (Far less money.)

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

The long litany of jobs that came before college(engineering) are: vegetable stand salesperson, mushroom picker, blueberry picker, linen factory, electronic component assembler, dept. store clerk, music salesman, garment factory order picker, circuit board driller, jr. engineer at ocean engineering company, chair caner, horseback riding instructor, and oh, yeah, a bathroom cleaner for Servicemaster. Yuk. That was the worst!