This past week I was thinking about all of the different jobs and work experience I’ve had. I think that what inspired my mind to wander down that rabbit hole was when someone I work with asked me how I ended up here in Florida, with no family or friend connections down here. That question, coupled with me explaining that I was actually quite a bit older than I appear got me thinking about how long I have been working, as well as the wide variety of work related experiences and positions I have had.
So I decided to attempt a compilation of the different jobs I’ve had. So here we go – jobs I’ve had since I started working. I’m trying to only add jobs that are not one time gigs, and that I actually consider jobs. I’m trying to go in chronological order if possible, but there is lots of overlap that makes it somewhat difficult:
Wendy’s: Grillmaster. Ok, they didn’t actually call me a “grillmaster” at Wendy’s, but I did work the grill there for a handful of months. And I did master the art of the “four corner press” which is the method that Wendy’s teaches for grilling their hamburger patties on the flat top grill. I also did spend the vast majority of my time on the grill while working there. I also worked the fryers, helped make the chili, and did whatever else I was told. I never worked the register or the front of the house, but mostly everything else I had a hand in at some point.
Short order cook. One of my close friends’ mom ran a concession stand during the summer, and I worked in the kitchen. [She also had a small diner and did catering as well.] This was not a typical concession stand of just nachos and candy bars. This was a little shack with a fully equipped kitchen. It was at a local park that was a pretty big stop for horse shows and rodeos from people all over the midwest. We served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with snacks and other treats. Biscuits and gravy (homemade), eggs any way you order them, burgers, grilled chicken, Philly cheese steaks (my favorite!), nachos, spaghetti dinners, and homemade lemon shakeups to name a few. It wasn’t gourmet, but it was on par with a little diner. There were some days where we would start at 5:45am and go until 7-8pm. They were long days, and it got pretty hot at times (the building didn’t have air conditioning for a long time), but we got free food, and I got to work with people I liked (my friend and his family) doing stuff I liked (cooking). The was off and on throughout summers in high school, on the weekends and whenever the horse shows were going on.
Hauling straw/stable boy? Related to above. I don’t even know how to accurately describe this other than to say that for some of the horse shows, we were hired off and on to cart straw and other supplies to the different participants. The fun part about this was that we had access to the little Gator ATVs to make our deliveries, which we enjoyed buzzing around on.
Detasseling corn. Yes, I grew up in Indiana, and yes, there is plenty of corn in Indiana. Detasseling is actually a very difficult and tiring job physically. You ride 2-4 people in a little metal basket (think what an electrician might be in to get to the top of a telephone pole), and pick the tops off of the corn as you are slowly driven forward. [There is typically a “wing” that comes out of each side of a tractor that has several of these baskets attached, spaced to fit into each row of the corn.] I was actually pretty lucky, and after about a week of detasseling, I was put on a “rogue-ing crew.” This was a group of 8-12 of us and we went from field to field and walked every row looking for “rogue” plants/corn and then cutting them down. It was a lot of walking and work that lasted all day, but I still am very glad that I got selected to do that instead of riding in the baskets detasseling. I did this for one summer (and the season really only lasts a little over a month).
Lifeguarding. For three years, I lifeguarded at the local public pool and also the high school pool. This actually requires a bit of skill and training. When I was going through the class, it was approximately 3 weeks of training and learning, with an additional few days for CPR training. Lifeguarding should be a job requiring and cultivating a fair amount of responsibility (of course, this is not the case for all lifeguards), which I think is probably a good thing for teens (and people) to learn. It should be more than just high schoolers hanging out in the sun to get a great tan (though a nice benefit on the side) because you are actually a first responder in case anything goes wrong. In the 3 years I was a lifeguard, I was glad that I never had anything too serious happen – I jumped in to pluck little kids out of the water a handful of times, and had to call an ambulance one time for a deep cut. Otherwise, clean record.
Swimming lessons teacher. The three summers that I was a lifeguard, I also taught swimming lessons in the morning. I taught swimming lessons to kids ages 3-13. Their abilities ranged from kids who were terrified and would scream as soon as they saw the water, to kids who were swimming well and really didn’t need to be there (aside from some extra practice on their form). I always really enjoyed this job and working with the kids. Except that I was always cold! I was a pretty skinny guy as a high schooler and spending a few hours in the pool first thing in the morning (usually 8am-11am then to lifeguard at noon), really got my teeth chattering. In fact, I used to leave the pool where I taught swimming lessons and get into my car that had been baking in the sun and TURN ON THE HEAT while I was making the short drive to the other pool to lifeguard. That’s just silly looking back at it.
Accident reconstruction. My dad has been doing accident reconstruction for a long time; he received training while he was with the State Police, and he ran with it, furthering his training and then doing it on his own. Whenever there was a big accident, he was often called. And that meant that I was often going along with him to help out in any number of ways. It’s actually pretty interesting to see how this line of work has advanced as technology has gotten better and better. Initially everything was hand measured (me running across and along interstates with huge rulers and marking sticks) and he would hand diagram everything to scale. Then software came out and he could input our measurements and that would help generate diagrams. Then he upgraded to a laser measuring system (which still involved me running along interstates quite a bit, but a little less with the huge measuring sticks). I was helping out quite a bit right up until I moved down to Florida. Luckily, right before I moved, he upgraded again to some new software that is able to turn digital photographs into diagrams while using reference points. This was just in time since he lost his handy assistant right at that time (me). I did this for probably a stretch of about 12 years.
Kappa Waiter. This was a waiter-ing gig that I had throughout college at the sorority next door (Kappa). There was a group of 7 of my good friends and I who were hired as the waiters. Essentially, we put out the food and then cleaned up and did the dishes for lunch and dinner each weekday and brunch on the weekends. It was a pretty good gig because I worked with some of my best friends and got to eat the food they had (which was nearly always better than our food at the fraternity!). Plus, every Friday we had a little pre-dinner soiree, where we invited a few lucky ladies from the sorority over to join us for some pre-dinner cocktails. And these soirees were often themed. With short shorts. Jean short shorts. Enough said.
Indiana Ice. I had an internship here the summer after my freshman year of college. It’s a premier hockey league for 15-18 year olds, many of whom are looking for college scholarship opportunities or even a spot in the NHL. I worked mostly within the marketing department doing lots of event promotion, but the office was small enough that I definitely did a little bit of everything. I wrote a couple of Kids’ Club newsletters and press releases, updated advertising contracts, did promo events at the Indy 500, the State Fair, and many other events. I think that the most memorable experience was when I dressed up as the mascot , Bigg-E Foot, and walked around for a 4th of July parade. It was an intensely hot experience. Those mascot suits are extremely extremely hot, and I was a sweaty sweaty guy. Overall the internship was a lot of fun, and I will not forget my one stint as a mascot.
Painting fraternity rooms. This was a side job one summer while I was living on campus. A couple of guys who were also living on campus and I cleaned out and repainted our entire fraternity house. This was another hot job – the house was empty and there was no air conditioning which made for a very hot and stuffy house.
NCAA Basketball. I had this internship working at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis for the Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Championships. You might know it better as March Madness. It was pretty neat; I did a lot of work helping to ensure that it went as smoothly as possible. I was also (mostly) in charge of analyzing the first ever public release of the RPI rankings for teams. The neatest part about this internship was that I got a special invite back to work behind the scenes of the Final Four (held in Indy that year). This included them putting me up at a nice hotel and providing me with some nice tickets to the Final Four and Championship games.
OLAB. This was my longest running job (other than accident reconstruction) spanning about 10 summers. Opportunities to Learn About Business (OLAB) is a week long summer camp for high school seniors designed to teach them business concepts. Over the (many) years that I hung around as a counselor, I got pretty involved with many facets of the program. I was one of the head counselors in charge of organizing the counseling staff, I helped teach/coach some of the business concepts, organized and put on different team building activities, got to DJ a couple of dances (high school dances are the best!), and also had a lot of fun with the counseling staff making faux news programs!
Government. One year I applied for the “governor’s intern program” or something along those lines. I never actually worked for the governor. Somewhat ironically, I worked for the Division of Aging (far and away the youngest person there) and worked to coordinate a “clean-up” of the medicaid waiting list with sixteen area agencies across the state. The waiting list was clogged with people who were already receiving services, some who had passed away (but were never taken off the list), and some who weren’t even eligible; thus, pushing back even further those who were legitimately waiting on services.
Lawyer. I was not a lawyer. However, I did work for one and helped archive and file legal documents. I also did some translating for Spanish speaking clients.
Government. This was round two with the Division of Aging. I went back for a second summer (I skipped a summer in between) and worked on the Money Follows the Person MFP program. This was a program designed to give elderly individuals more options when deciding on nursing homes and assisted living. Again, I was the young guy working in the Division of Aging on a project for elderly people.
Graduate Assistant / TA. With some of the above experiences I had had, I decided that I might like a college teaching gig, so I applied to PhD programs in sociology. I was accepted and decided to go. [Side note: The goal of many graduate programs is not to produce teaching professors.] My first role was a graduate assistant which was the prequel to teaching your own course and spanned my first two years of graduate school. This entailed helping a professor with a class in whatever ways they asked – taking attendance, grading, running review sessions, and sometimes even guest lectures. It was a good way to ease into teaching and thinking about some of the things that I wanted to do running my own class. [I was also taking graduate courses and working on my master’s thesis full time while doing this.]
Survey Interviewing. I spent two different summers doing “computer assisted telephone surveys” for academic research at the university center for survey research. This involved me cold calling randomly selected phone numbers from across the country (from a computer) and asking people to take part in a survey. No, I was NOT a telemarketer! And when people told me they were on the “no call list” I always explained to them that since this was important university research, that list did not apply to us. I was still hung up on way more often than not. But occasionally I got some people to actually take the interview. And every now and then I got some real characters who really chatted me up about the surveys and seemed to get a kick out of it. They knew that the completion rate was extremely low and that being on the phone wears on you, so we were only scheduled for four hour blocks (usually in the evenings) which made for an interesting work schedule with a lot of free time during the day.
Bartending. One summer, I took a two week bartending or “mixology” class with my sister. I probably would not have done this on my own, but she was moving to NYC at the time and thought this would be good at helping her get a job as a waitress. I decided to go along with her for the ride. We spent a lot of time memorizing mnemonic devices to remember drink recipes, most of which I have since forgotten. Examples: “Sex on the Beach” – only have sex on the beach if the person is Very Pretty Or Cute (Vodka, Peach schnapps, Orange juice, Cranberry juice). “Blue Hawaiian” – Hawaii is the Little Blue Paradise State (Lite/clear rum, Blue curacao, Pineapple juice, Soda water). It was pretty interesting to learn some of the ins and outs of mixing drinks. All of our practice was done with colored water. We worked a few different events that summer, like the Indy 500, and made our money back. I haven’t done much else since then, but my sister is still working and using a lot of her skills, so it really did pan out for her.
Research. While in graduate school, you are expected to develop a “research agenda” and start working toward that. This was not my favorite part of graduate school, as I never truly enjoyed this research aspect. Unfortunately for me, this aspect was more valued and important than teaching in terms of moving forward in the program. I never fully jumped on board the academic research train, even though I did write a few full research papers and plenty of other papers detailing research outlines. I do remember a speech from our Director of Graduate Studies during orientation where she said, “You are now transitioning from consumers of knowledge into producers of knowledge.” I thought that was pretty neat and kind of inspiring, though I never really caught the academic research bug.
Teaching. Finally my own class – the main reason I was interested in graduate school! I was in charge of everything that a regular full time college professor would do with respect to teaching. Creating course policies, choosing readings, writing a syllabus, designing assignments, writing exams, giving lectures, grading, holding office hours, and even writing letters of recommendation for students. I really enjoyed working with students and getting some interesting class discussions going about stuff that I felt was important. And a good bit of it seemed to catch their interest as well which was a really rewarding feeling.
Lifeguarding (round two). This was round two of lifeguarding, revisited nearly 10 years later. When we first moved down to Florida and I was waiting to start my “real” job, I accepted a summer position as a lifeguard at Seaworld’s waterpark, Aquatica. It was a fun throwback job to relearn some of those lifeguarding and CPR skills. It was also a very different experience to work at such a large waterpark (top 5 in the world). It also came with a bunch of fun little perks and activities that we tried to take advantage of – free laser tag, trip to Gatorland, a soccer game at the Citrus Bowl, entry to Seaworld and Aquatica, and several other things. It was a fleeting, but fun summer at Aquatica.
Mortgage Loan Review Analyst. Going into the mortgage industry was not necessarily something I had been dreaming about since I was a young lad; in fact, it was an opportunity that came out of left field. When we moved down to Florida, I found out about this opportunity and got into a program called the “FASTLane” which takes capable individuals without mortgage specific experience and puts them on an accelerated track. Within just a couple of months, I found myself working proficiently as a forensic underwriter, or loan review analyst. Essentially, I was re-underwriting loans to ensure that there was no misrepresentation or fraud that was going on, and that everything was properly disclosed and calculated and that all guidelines were met. [I mention some of this here.]
Master Puppeteer. Okay, I was certainly not a master puppeteer, but I did go into the library and help put on puppet shows for kids for a period of time. I was not compensated, but this along with a lot of other volunteer activities on a very regular basis at the library qualify for the list. I knew what I was signing up for when I asked a children’s librarian to marry me.
Mortgage Loan processing. After being on the forensic, or back end of the mortgage loan process for a bit, I transferred to the origination, or front end. Instead of reviewing files that have already funded, I am now working to process the mortgage loan so that it can get to funding. It truly is the opposite end of what I was doing above. Hopefully, the mortgages that I am working on are done well enough that there is nothing for loan review analysts to find wrong with them!
So I’m not exactly sure what all of this means, except that I’ve had a pretty broad range of job experiences, even though I’m still fairly young. Perhaps this makes me something of a Jack of all Trades. I’ve had several jobs that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, but one thing I would say that I’ve found in many of my jobs is that (for me at least) I often find the people around me to be equally important as the job when it comes to whether I enjoy myself or not. For example, I would say that the hardest job I had on this list was probably detasseling/rogue-ing corn; however, I really liked the people on the rogue-ing crew that I worked with, and I really enjoyed myself doing that job. Lots of different opportunities, lots of different experiences.