Saturday, January 03, 2009

My Career Path: a Twisty, Unkempt Trail

It seems I've been tagged and my mission is to list the jobs I have held up to now.

Although I hear many stories of the Life Planned and Purposeful, it has never been in my nature to think long term. Yes, the teachers-slash-counselors who found themselves, for whatever reason, working in the pungled-together education approximation that was Vernonia High School did their best to administer the career aptitude tests of the day (anyone remember the one where you answer questions by slipping pins into holes in a stack of cards representing careers, and as you answer the questions, the inappropriate jobs slip out of the pile, leaving you with a few Perfect Career Choices?), but my high school self was not one to accept suggestions, although I was one to latch on with jaws of shark-like intensity to the career workshop that was 1970's situation comedy television, namely Bob Newhart. Hence my bachelors degree in psychology. Unfortunately, by the time I had my bachelors degree, I knew enough about psychology to realize that to be effective, I needed a prescription pad and to get a prescription pad, I needed an M.D. and to get an M.D., I would have to work way harder than I was willing to work.

What did the card-pin test tell me? Surveyor. My teacher-slash-counselor thought a bit about that result and decided that most of the world had already been surveyed, so that was probably a loser idea. Vernonia High School. There may be a reason that God keeps flooding it. I did not just say that.

Where was I?

My life in jobs:

  • Strawberry Picker. I learned that I daydream a lot and can't seem to stay on task, even if it means making more money. Maybe I have improved in these areas since I was 12, but I wouldn't bet on it.
  • Kitchen Staff, Perry's Basketball Camp (since sold and reborn as Larry Steele Basketball Camp). I learned that you can get a lot more mustard out of one industrial-sized can by adding a quart or so of vinegar. I learned that employers do not care to take suggestions regarding HR practices from 15-year-olds.
  • Dairy Queen in Forest Grove, Oregon. I learned that the proper DQ ice cream cone has a swirl on the top that goes CLOCKWISE, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.
  • Millworker, Longview Fibre Company paper mill, graveyard shift. My dad got me this job, and the mill workers knew it. I lasted one night. I could have gotten all Norma Rae on their ass and stuck it out, but, well, I wasn't into that. I learned what I would not do for money or my parents' approval.
  • Weighmaster, Clatskanie log sorting yard. Yeah, my dad got me this job, too, but I wasn't bad at it, and I didn't have to shovel sawdust off plant rooftops in the middle of the night. I weighed log trucks as they entered and left the log yard, and made sure they didn't bump into each other on the one-way road into and out of the yard. It kept me busy during college summer breaks and made my resume look all hardcore. I learned to use truck scales and a CB radio. I did not learn how to tell the creepy guy at the log scaling shack to get lost.
  • Research Assistant, Psychology Dept, Univ. of Oregon. I started doing this for research credits, but I ended up getting paid for it, because it was better for the study to have consistent scoring of infant affect. I would go on, but I would rather not have you harm your keyboard when your forehead falls onto it. Actually, I enjoyed it. We worked in groups and looked at videos of babies for hours. I'm not sure that I learned anything.
  • Retail Clerk, Motherhood Maternity, Austin, TX. The best post-college job I could manage in 1984 with a face that could pass for a middle-schooler and the confidence of a hamster. I learned that I when someone big and scary-looking comes in and wants to buy a bunch of clothes and then pays with a suspicious looking check, I will not force the issue.
  • Nursing Education intern/assistant, (Red Cross volunteer), Bergstrom Air Force Base, Austin, TX (Drew being in the Air Force and stationed here). After I got pregnant by working at the pregnant ladies' store, I bided my time on base, helping out at the hospital.
  • Mom, Austin, TX. This one was a little more intense than I bargained for. I was a typical first-time mom. Very protective and worried that Dean was going to be the next Jessica Down the Well. Turns out he's still alive, so job well done.
  • Office Manager, Decoratique interior decor and window coverings, Vacaville, CA. I learned a lot about running a business (hint: hire installers who can complete their workday sober). I bet I can still measure, order, install, and repair a mini blind.
  • Correspondent, Longview Daily News, Longview, Washington. This is a really good small town paper. I don't know why they hired me, but I'm glad they did. I learned a lot covering the even smaller towns surrounding Longview, attending city council meetings, school board meetings, elections, and the crime beat. I loved seeing my byline in the paper.
  • Staff Writer, Central Oregon Business Journal, Bend, OR. This was a good job and I would have kept it longer if they could have paid me decent money. I learned how to cut and paste the old fashioned way with hot wax and little divider tapes. With the advances in computerized publishing since the early 1990's, this is a skill I will, sadly, never need again. It was my favorite part of putting together a newspaper.
  • Research Assistant, FIT Ski Boot Consumer Research, Bend, OR. A part-time job with an odd little niche-based start-up company. I learned what to do and what not to do when starting a company (helpful hint: don't go into business with your ex).
  • Lease Administrator/Supervisor, Hollywood Video, Wilsonville, OR. My job was to make sure our landlords built our stores right, gave us any money that they were contractually obligated to do, and then to make sure that we paid them as little as we were contractually obligated to, and at the last possible minute. Need I say more? Actually, I stayed in this job for longer than any of my other jobs. The people I worked with were Good People, and not themselves all that ethically challenged. And it paid well.
  • Volunteer, Humane Society for Southwest Washington, Vancouver, WA. I walked dogs and got thanked for it. A good deal, I think. I still help out when I can.
  • Legal Assistant, Law Office of Cynthia Horenstein, Vancouver, WA. My current position. I use my writing skills, my contract and legal savvy, and my love of solving puzzles. And it gives me time to paint and/or sit on the couch regaling you with the twisty, page-turny plot that is my career path. It fits pretty well.
Where has your career path taken you?


D.B. Echo said...

Heh. I've been planning a post called "I'm going to tell you what I've done"* which would give gory detail of the jobs I've held since college. Seems like it fits right in with what you've written.

The problem with my work history is that many of my jobs were so unique, so specific, and so making-it-up-as-you-go-along that it's hard to translate them into bullet points of a resume. "DVD Asset Manager? What the hell is that?" "Well, let me explain..."

*This is a reference to the South Park serial killer who captures one of the kids and tells hime "Let me show you what I've done," and then proceeds to run a long and boring slide show of vacation pictures.

piglet said...

ooh, I love obscure references.