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My Varied Job History

This article was written by in Career and Work. 17 comments.


For some people, finding the right career is easy. During formative years, perhaps one skill outshines all others, directing someone to develop that skill over time. Perhaps there is one particular area that develops into a passion, and the only choice is to follow that passion regardless of the income potential. In my formative years, I found myself interested in a wide variety of things, any of which could have developed into careers, some of which could have been very lucrative.

I can no longer recall the order of my earliest jobs. One of the first, while I was in high school, was as a computer programmer for a small consulting firm that developed custom applications for clients. I fumbled my way through the VisualBASIC programming language, which was fairly new at the time, after several years of hobbyist programming in BASIC. My assignments were relatively easy, but they gave me a chance to learn a skill that could prove to be useful — if I were to keep up with programming and turned it into a career. I studied C and C++. I spent hours of my own time writing and rewriting software for my bulletin board system that hundreds of people accessed by dialing with their computers’ modems. If I had wanted to, I could have taken my computer programming knowledge further by studying in college, but I had other plans.

Radio ShackAnother early job during my high school years was working at Radio Shack. I didn’t know much about electronics other than computers, and I didn’t know anything about sales. I left the job knowing that I had no interest in working in retail again. Customers were generally unhappy. Although the company’s catchphrase at the time was, “You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers,” a phrase I was required to utter every time I picked up the store’s phone, occasionally people asked questions for which I didn’t have an answer. Compensation was partly commission-based, and the main goal seemed to be to push the TSP (Tandy Service Plan), which even as a teenager I could see that was almost always a bad deal for the customer. I didn’t want to push extended warranties, and I didn’t want to bother every customer by asking them for their phone number. Eventually, whatever break from school I was on that allowed me to spend time at this job was over, and I left retail never to return.

In college during the year, I occasionally allowed myself a job, but my schedule was usually overloaded with courses that prevented me from taking too much time to do anything other than academic. Additionally, I preferred to take leadership positions in several campus organizations rather than use that potentially free time to earn money. Of course, it helped that loans, scholarships, and my patient parents helped me afford my education. I also had a few office jobs during breaks to help pay, but during the semesters, my attentions were elsewhere. I spent one break working for the university’s music department library, an easy job hat gave me some quiet time to myself as the library was rarely visited.

Also, at the time I was in college, the World Wide Web was new. I developed a few departmental websites, including taking photographs of the staff, scanning various photographs in one of the university’s computer labs, and programming in HTML. I was paid for this work from the departments’ budgets. I also consulted for professors who wanted to develop their own “home pages,” teaching them how to use Netscape to design their own websites without having to teach them much, if any, HTML.

All this time, I was studying music education with the intent to teach. Despite my heavy involvement with computers, my desire had always been to teach music, preferably at the high school level. Somewhere along the way, I changed my mind, but I was the last to know.

In addition to the above, I spent breaks from school in cubicle environments. I usually worked with a temp agency, and impressed with my skills, they lined me up with jobs in corporate environments. With my computer skills, I tended to qualify for some of the more advanced entry-level jobs, sometimes working with computer databases or designing presentations.

After college I worked as a long-term substitute in a middle school while looking for a full-time teaching job that I liked. The middle school teaching experience was one of the worst experiences of my life. My next stop was a non-profit arts organization, managing projects. I had previously worked for the organization as an intern, a requirement of my music management minor. It was a nice organization to work for, except that the organization was practically bankrupt and I was losing money just by working there.

Part of the year, the job required an intense work schedule, which was fine when I was younger. But more and more, executives used cult-like techniques for rationalization of the work. Towards the end of my career there, they invited me to attend the “bring-a-guest” portion of a cult-like re-education seminar, complete with obvious plants talking about how their lives were changed after going through the program. The executives strongly encouraged to sign up for the full program. I wasn’t buying it.

My varied interests led me all over the map in terms of jobs, and made it somewhat difficult for me to focus on one particular career. I suppose one positive thing I’ve taken away from my experiences is that I can do things my way and succeed rather than following a path that’s laid out for me by tradition or common practice. After my first horrible experience teaching, I didn’t want to accept another job unless it was exactly what I wanted — and that eventually led me away from teaching. People chided me for claiming I never wanted to work in retail after a mediocre experience as a Radio Shack employee. The truth was that it wasn’t horrible, and I could have gone back to retail if necessary, but I’ve made that decision work for me so far.

If I’ve drawn any conclusions from my experiences, it would be that I’d much prefer to drive my own career, as long as I can find a profitable way to do it, than rely on employers to be concerned about my financial needs.

Published or updated September 5, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

My work history is as jumbled as yours, starting with the similar idea that I wanted to teach. I hated student teaching and never looked back. I envy those who know from childhood what they want to do for a career. I actually liked retail but am no longer able to spend the requisite eight to ten hours on my feet every day. This summer I did people’s gardening for them, that was great. (It helped that I worked briefly for a family member’s plant nursery!) This will be a work in progress until I can retire for good.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

I always knew I wanted to write, but had no confidence that an actual writing job existed for me. It didn’t help matters that I dropped out of college after one year and became pregnant the next year.
I resisted taking the type of job my mother urged on me: To learn shorthand and get a secretarial job in the next town over. I now understand that she was looking out for my best interests, but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like control.
Eventually I heard about a newsroom clerk job at The Philadelphia Inquirer. Aced the typing test and apparently impressed the guy doing the hiring about how desperate I was to get out of South Jersey, and got hired. In time this led to an opportunity to freelance, and I used those clips to get my first job as a newspaper reporter. After 18 years of reporting (in Anchorage and Chicago), I went freelance. I still am, although I currently have steady gigs at MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly.
My own site isn’t bringing in much income yet, mostly because I haven’t worked hard enough to monetize it. If the above gigs went south, I’d have to look for more freelance work. At this point, I’m back to feeling resistance about getting a “real” job. I would if I had to, but right now writing pays the bills — mostly because I’m careful about where my money goes.

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avatar krantcents

Your varied experience helped you figure out what you wanted to do. I am in my 7th career, I teach computers in middle school. I was just reassigned from high school to middle school. The good news s it is a high performing middles school. I spent 30+ years in the business world as CFO, Consultant and entrepreneur. Our experience makes us who we are and we take advantage of opportunities from our varied experience.

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avatar SteveDH

Whew! I guess my career path must seem absolutely boring to you and many of the commenters. Busboy, Electronics Technician with the Air Force, Logistician with Boeing, retirement – that’s it. The only thing remotely interesting was the actual type of work I did and where I did it. Getting to see Thailand, Korea, Germany, Singapore, Kuwait, and seven different states, working both open and “closed” projects was pretty interesting though. I completed my degree while in the Air Force (it took me 13 years for a 4 year degree) but all-in-all it was a great trip to these so-called Golden Years.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

I may not have done it all but I’ve had it varied enough! I delivered newspapers starting at the age of 10( my older brother essentially gave me his old paper route), and then at 15 I felt too old for that and started babysitting(which paid well but then I went to college 100 miles away). The summer before college I sold knives which was great except that I cut myself badly but somehow showing one of my customers my stitches, he decided he wanted the REALLY big set since they could cut through meat easily.
During college, I had the usual cafeteria jobs, student desk worker jobs(helped me get through my last semester with 24 credit hours!) and even a secret shopper job where I got paid and then reimbursed for some of my tuition. I’ve worked as a Spanish interpreter in a small company but decided $9/hr really wasn’t worth the stress and moved to another part of the state where I get paid twice as much to speak English. Go figure. I still get asked what I want to be when I grow up. And I’m still not sure…

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avatar Laura Kumin

Lots of job changes are the norm these days. The parts of a career change that matter much more than if it happens is how and why – because they say a lot about attitude. In my experience, people who are always blaming their work environment, the job, colleagues, their boss or manager for everything they don’t like about their jobs often are not looking at whether there is a good “fit”. Moving on often makes sense – being negative and burning bridges doesn’t. Krantcents (above) and her/his positive attitude makes a good point.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

when I was in high school, I worked at a grocery store. In college, I worked for EDS in a summer internship program, also worked part time as an arena usher. After college when I couldn’t find a steady job, I was doing medical billing & deliveries for medicare patients. Then I got a job doing tech support for a large inventory management company in metro detroit. After I was laid off from that job, I got a job as a software programmer working as a consultant then because of budget cuts I was laid off. Now I’m working as an ICM Analyst for a pharmaceutical company in Scottsdale. The thing that I took away from each job is that I got a better understanding of how each industry operates, & that it allowed me to develop a strong work ethic because I felt that I had to work harder than anyone else to be successful which is starting to pay off for me.

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avatar Squirrelers

Getting varied experiences has a way of making things more clear, in terms of what works for each of individually. The rose colored glasses (or negative perceptions) move to the wayside, and actual experience provides more clear perspecives of what we each need. For example, I know that working for a micromanager, hyper-detailed boss will not work for me. Why? Because I’ve had one. I also know that working for a boss with a temper toward his staff won’t work for me. Why? Again, prior experience. This experience helps us optimize our path going forward. It really seems like an interative process to some degree.

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avatar KNS Financial ♦404 (Nickel)

Hey Flexo, I had no idea that you wanted to be a music teacher. I was a musician for a number of years until I retired (I only did it part time).

It’s good to see how you were able to take advantage of early opportunities, and prove yourself worthy of more responsibility!

I also think it’s great to see what will work for you. Following the same path as everyone else, may lead to regret down the road. It’s always good to try different things, unless you already know where your passions will lead!

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avatar Tom Dziubek

When the hell are you putting the BBS back up? I’m itching for some more “Food Fight”!

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avatar Lazy Man and Money

It’s funny, as I was reading this, I thought that you’d tie the article together by explaining how each job helped shape Consumerism Commentary to what it is today.

From the technical roots of running BBS, to the sales of a Radio Shack employee, to the teaching aspect of this website about money and the the helping people mission of a non-profit – it just all fits.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

I too had a varied work history. My first retail experience was a Christmas job and I loved it. The second experience was a job at Wendy’s as a shift manager and I learned that I really, reallly hated to work with the public but liked paperwork. I also had visions of being a grade school teacher but never got the dipoma. I actually like my current job as far as job duties but HATE the political environment. I think I would like to sit for the CPA and after a few years experience branch out on my own with a small group of clients. Nothing big.

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avatar Cherleen @ The College Investor

I envy people with various work history. They get to develop different skills and they are not afraid to take responsibilities and learn different things not only to earn decent money but also to develop their skills and personality.

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avatar Briana @ Prairie EcoThrifter

You’ve had quite the job history! My job history has stayed pretty relative to 3 industries: communications, administrative, and events. One job can lead to another.

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avatar guinness416

Interesting! For me it was reasonably straightforward. Coat check in a nightclub when I was a young teen; the same place taught me to bartend and I did that in the latter years of high school and while at college; then my “adult” career – various white collar/management jobs in the construction industry after graduating. I bartended all through college, which meant a whooole lotta late nights but I would argue it taught me as much as (perhaps more than!) any amount of studying and interacting with other students. And funded other adventures and growth.

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avatar Vic

Great story! My first job was a teacher in a classroom. But it didn’t go well. My second and last job before I become self-employed is an accountant in an accounting firm. But It was not so interesting. Now I am enjoying as a teacher in my blogs, teaching thousands of people everyday.

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

My career history has been trying different things to find out i wanted to get back to my first career path. The rest has been trying to get back.

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