I’ve been reading David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and as usual, he mentions some of the random jobs he’s had throughout his life – furniture refinisher, bus-boy at a hummus place, Macy’s Christmas elf. Sedaris brings up these jobs in context with times he was floundering; as stumbling stones on the way to something bigger…but I disagree. Obviously, these experiences gave him not only humorous material for his writing, but an understanding of “regular people” that added flavor to later experiences. In other words, it’s all relative.
I myself have had no shortage of odd-jobs. In college I wrote key-words for a German stock-photographer living in DUMBO. Anyone who’s searched through a stock photography website knows what sort of weird things you can find. Need an image of a glass jar full of porcelain doll legs? You got it! Now, imagine writing the key-words (search terms) that would help the weirdo looking for that image to actually find it.
Another time I worked for my creative writing teacher who had carpal tunnel and needed someone to type his latest novel while he dictated. I also cut out newspaper articles for the PR company that first represented the White Stripes, booked appointments at a Chinatown spa where the “uniform” included gray silk pajama pants, and had my first “design” job at a real-deal print shop literally type-setting stationary and business cards.
I never worked as a waitress, not because I felt it was beneath me, but because I don’t deal well with the rudeness of others, and if there was ever an abused serviceman, it’s the waiter. I did work as a hostess, during high school, in a Mexican restaurant/biker bar. I could probably write an entire book about the characters I met there.
Of course, I eventually learned my “trade” at Pratt and began working as a professional graphic designer in real-deal art departments for a number of years, starting before I graduated. Then came the recession and being laid off. I could have gotten another design job, in fact was offered one, but I chose to go the route of the odd-job once again. I took a low-responsibility position as an office manager so I could skip out early for floral design classes; I then moved onto horticulture classes and somewhat ridiculous job as a glorified plant-waterer to Manhattan offices. From there it was my fortuitous introduction to Permaculture and the opportunity to leave Brooklyn with Butch and start a new life in a new location.
Upon arriving the 1000 Islands area, the work “opportunity” I was given didn’t actually pay anything (despite me having to pay to live on-site), so it was onto odd-jobs once again – first in a plant nursery, then as a tour-guide at a castle, then in a flower shop, all while working freelance as a gardener and a graphic designer – before landing my current job in Education and Outreach at a non-profit focused on land conservation. Obviously those in charge were just so intrigued by my background as to give me a shot at a job I at first glance probably lacked qualifications for, but have since made my own.
I’ve actually had it suggested to me that employers “look down” on such a resume. Needless to say, I disagree, and not just because this suggestion came from someone who has had only a couple of jobs, all in the same area and who has had very few experiences that have introduced them to life outside of their comfort zone. The result has been a rigidity and close-mindedness, which to me is worse than having skipped around a bunch of jobs.
Mine may seem like a random trajectory, but as I said above, it truly was all relative. It has made me who I am today, both personally and professionally, and the result is extremely valuable. So this one’s for you, odd-jobbers! May everyone recognize the value of a life full of varied, and odd, experiences!
Jen Aniston flair photo from Hello Giggles