Jobs I’ve had. Ranked from Please Never Make Me Do That Again to Eh, That Probably Wasn’t As bad As I Remember

Sometimes I wish I lived in the 1870’s where I would be like “What do I wanna do with my liiifffeeeeee?” and someone would be like “You’re a coal miner! Your dad and granddad were coal miners so stop complaining and start mining some coal or the Indians will get us!”

But then I would probably die of rickets or black lung at 29 without ever *really* figuring out my real potential (full disclosure, I may not know anything about diseases you get from coal mining or history in general.) But it’s not 1874, it’s 2014 and that means I can drag you guys on the journey to find out MY DESTINY.

So here’s a list I made of jobs I have done (non-writing) to see what I’ve liked and what I haven’t. What I could possibly go back to if I don’t get rich and famous from self-indulgently writing about myself on a blog.

It ranges from Oh-God-Please-Never-Make-Me-Do-That-Again to Hm-That-Probably-Wasnt-As-Bad-As-I-Remember.

6. Working With Children 

group of happy youth club or summer camp kids

I was a camp counselor for exactly 2 years – the summer after 8th grade and the summer after 12th. I was a counselor for 8 year old boys and 10 year old girls. And hated working with kids. Children don’t understand sarcasm, pretty much my only tone. They like running around instead of sitting in the shade with me eating snacks. They ask rude questions like “why don’t you have a boyfriend?” and “why are your arms so hairy?”

I wasn’t a great child-dealer-with because I never wanted 8 year old girls to act like 8 year old girls. I wanted them to *understand* that it was illogical to throw a tantrum over the fact that another girl had copied the same color-pattern that she was making for her lanyard bracelet in art. I also wanted them to not cry when I told them that was a dumb thing to get upset about.

If I had to rank myself somewhere on the kid-friendliness scale it would have to be Jack Black at the beginning of School of Rock. Recess all day and no one gets stars. So, kids are out. Also, if you were thinking about asking me to be your kid’s godmother. Don’t.

5. Events Crew at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center


A job I had in college. I signed up for it because I felt bad making my parents pay for my copious amounts of alcohol on top of tuition. The job had a bunch of different facets including: setting up for musical performance by taping up the stage, setting up the “risers” or seating which left you with pinches and scars all along your arms, opening and closing doors for artists during their concerts, mopping the black box theater floors.

I liked working in the theater because you could do your homework while you waited in the dark until you had open a door. You could watch performances for free (except I never got to see literally anything except for this awful Native American drum circles which I saw like 4 times) and the rest of the crew was pretty cool.

But it was a lot of physical labor (like moving terrifyingly expensive pianos). And also one time we were taping up the stage for a show when a GIANT metal hook fell from the catwalk where they were setting up and missed my head by about 4 inches. I looked up and the stage crew manager went “Oops!” So, I obviously stayed at this job for a year and a half.

4. Retail: Bath and Body Works / Judaica Shop


I worked at Bath Body Works for exactly two days during their busy Christmas season in 2009. My job was to stand by bottle displays and make sure no one stole anything. I’m not sure how exactly I was supposed to react if I did see someone stealing but it never happened for the two shifts I was there so, whew.

I was also forced to watch a 3 hour video about the history and protocols of B&BW (which didn’t include what to do if someone was stealing near you), take a quiz on the information and fill out a workbook about it. It’s brutal. Also, fun fact: if you stay in Bath and Body Works for more than 30 min, you actually lose your ability to discern between scents. Which is rough when you’re supposed to be helping teenage girls and older dudes find gifts for their secretaries and housekeepers.

On the plus, you got a lot of free stuff when you start working there. And a pretty sweet discount.

I worked at Judaica shop senior year of high school. I was the only employee this rabbi/owner had hired. And he wasn’t that great at talking to me. When he felt my clothing was not acceptable for his staff he called my mom to tell her talk to me. He didn’t like, know her before or anything, he somehow found her number and decided to call her.

I spent my days peeling stickers off items he had bought from other stores and slapping on marked-up price tags.

I got no discount, but I did get paid in cash so ka-ching. This store has since closed.

3. Working in a Coffee Shop


I worked in a coffee shop in the summer of 2012. I had zero food service experience. I was hired because it was a Kosher cafe and they needed someone Jewish to be there to make the food while also serving customers, washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms.

Basically training was “Here’s the mixer! Here’s the basement! Here’s the stepladder! Figure it out!” Did I mention that the coffee shop was at a train station? In New York City? In the boiling hot summer? People would come in and bark “My train is coming in 6 minutes! I need an iced medium caramel upside-down macchiato!” And since I wasn’t trained on the espresso machine I’d have to yell “Umm…Jenn…?!” and then inform the customer that we only had smalls and large, not mediums while they cartoonishly tapped their feet and looked at their watch.

When it was slow it was awesome, I’d say “Oh, one small iced coffee? Thank God for you sir! Coming in at 10 a.m. and in no hurry at all while you work on your novel! I love you!” But if it was busy I’d literally freeze – paralyzed in fear that I’d give a customer a sesame seed bagel in lieu of an herbal matcha tea.

Working in a coffee shop taught me that in order to survive in stressful situations you have to have just the right mixture of “I don’t give a shit attitude” and “I like people and I want to do a good job.” And less, “What did you want? A decaf latte? I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET. SOMEONE KILL ME.”

2. Secretary


Another college job, this one was golden. Consistent shifts, OK pay and no one, absolutely no one ever came in to the Art and Learning Center at the UMD student union. No one knew what it was. It provided cheap classes like ballet and ceramics to students/community/staff.

It would have been perfect if not for the manager who hated me for no reason (if you count fucking up almost every rare task that was assigned to me – such as destroying expensive paper when I was supposed to be cutting up cheap construction paper for the spin-art. Or creating a giant calendar for her wall that was missing December.  Oops.)

It was in this office that I learned that I should probably never be any position of power, that I am really good at answering phones and I have a fondness for decorating any space I am in.

My strongest memory from the Art and Learning Center was one time the ballet teacher Nick, came in to get his boombox. I was like “Sure thing chicken wing!” and got up to reach it.

“So do you have plans for Valentine’s Day?” He asked.

I was caught off guard. “Umm…not really,” then smiling. “Why?” (Did I mention I was chronically single during college?)

He gave me a confused look and then pointed to his ear and an previously-unseen blue-tooth. “Ah…I’m on the phone…”

I did get to take free belly-dancing class there. But was sadly, fired.

1. Photographer 


I know there’s a lot of different kinds of photography, I’ve had experience with mostly photojournalism. But this one was child photography. I know I said I was bad with children earlier (nice job paying attention!) but I really liked being a photographer for a camp that was meant for children with autism and their families. I was photographer for two years for them. I didn’t know anything about autism when I started (I was 17).

For the whole session, I was a fly on the wall. Taking pictures of children who (some) couldn’t really communicate effectively as they happily colored, swam or played a tambourine with their helpers, which really meant something to their parents. Parents who couldn’t get their kids to smile during school photos or family pictures now had great keepsakes; photos of their children smiling as they made friends or quietly watched a puppet show. I would say that that was probably the most rewarding job I ever had.

And when I did have to interact with a child they mostly wanted to just touch my camera.

   Conclusion: None of these jobs are as hard as coal mining, and they’ve all made me grow as a person blah blah blah. In conclusion, I miss my Bath and Body Works discount. What was your worst/favorite job? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS to see if mine were better.


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