A career path rarely follows straight lines. Before landing in public relations, I worked a number of seemingly odd jobs, among them:
- Dishwasher. I picked up garbage on the grounds of a US Army base, too. Extremely taxing work. All due respect to those who do this for a living. I’ve been grateful for the privilege of working in an office environment ever since.
- Slide sorter at a commercial photo archive. I spent all day sorting beautiful images by professional photographers. I learned something about assessing and organizing visual information.
- Opera singer agent’s assistant. I observed the delicate dance involved in guiding the careers of highly accomplished artists, from counseling them on repertoire to negotiating appearance fees with venues.
- Real estate apartment shower. I gave tours of luxury apartments to prospective tenants, including David Letterman’s band leader Paul Shaffer and actor Judd Hirsch of Ordinary People and Taxi. I learned how to step back and give people space to form their own impressions when pursuing a sale.
A flash poll of the team at Momentum revealed these other nuggets:
- I worked at the front desk of a 21-room luxury beach-side hotel in Maine. The guests were fun but could be pretty high-maintenance. Once a guest called me into her room to fix a light she couldn’t get to turn on. She had just turned the dimmer down really low, but I pretended I fixed it and she gave me a $20 tip.
- I worked in the stock room at the Gap. I had to be at the store by 4 AM to open up new shipments of clothes (soooooo many jeans) and put them in the stock room.
- I was busser/table prep/caterer for a 20th anniversary university commencement. I got to serve beef fillet and green beans to Carter Bays, co-creator/writer/exec producer of How I Met Your Mother. The job was not interesting or memorable, but the circumstances were!
- My very first internship was in the Dr. Oz Publicity Department. I would trim clips for use on commercials and talk shows, construct daily news round ups for every time Dr. Oz was mentioned in the news in the past 24 hours and draft press releases for upcoming shows.
- I worked admissions at an indoor kid’s jungle gym in my local mall. I still use a lot of the customer service skills I learned in my role today.
- I worked in communications for a nonprofit based in Lusaka, Zambia. I spent most of my days in the poorest communities with orphaned or vulnerable children, gathering stories for donors and potential donors. When I wasn’t working, it was typical for me to play soccer with the kids. Often the ball was wadded together plastic bags. I always admired how resourceful the kids were!
Each step on a career path contributes something different to your understanding and approach to work. I hope yours is as full of varied experiences as ours.