It’s kind of a cliché for writers to have had a long string of odd jobs. It’s sort of held up as a banner of wide experience, in support of that old maxim, “write what you know.” Personally, I think it just means that we’re flighty.
At any rate, I have had a lot of odd jobs through the years, many of which don’t make it onto my professional resume because they don’t directly contribute to my intended career path. I decided to make a list of them here and (to make it a little more interesting) to try to determine one constructive lesson I’ve carried away from each job. In fact, I have listed them in order of “most useful”—at least as far as I got. Towards the bottom of the list it got darn near impossible to come up with anything practical I learned.
- presser at dry cleaner – how to properly iron a shirt or pair of pants
- card store clerk – how to do the tissue right in a gift bag
- babysitter – basic kid care (this might be higher, except that I never took care of babies, so was clueless when it came to diapers, etc.)
- cafeteria food worker/dishwasher – how to cut up a tomato
- day camp counselor – more basic kid care, plus CPR/first aid basics, plus butt ball
- slide projectionist – the value of thank you gifts
- university extension office admin – the value of a good work environment
- heraldry salesperson – how to make a sales pitch (even if I’m not very good at it still)
- amusement park photographer – tell people, don’t ask; don’t give them the opportunity to say no*
- bookstore clerk – how to be pleasant even when they’re not
- film company intern – why the hell would anyone want to work in Hollywood?
- amusement park ride operator – thank god this was only a summer job
- probation department transcriptionist – the importance of ergonomics
- library assistant (various locations) – um, Dewey Decimal vs. Library of Congress?
- census worker – I’ve got nothing
- public guardian office receptionist – …
- corporate admin assistant (various locations) – nope, nothing
- mall office receptionist – I don’t even remember what I did here
- Jaguar dealership service secretary – I still like Jaguars**
- video store clerk – yup, nothing
So that’s me, going back before high school even. What about you? What odd jobs have you had, and what lessons have they taught? Share!
* Actually, I could stand to ponder the extension of this lesson into other realms more thoroughly.
** Not a practical lesson at all.