Sometime last week I started idly remembering jobs I’d had and how unusual some of them seemed, at least in retrospect. And even more, how many of them there were. Once I realized I was counting, I got to twenty almost immediately, estimating I could probably get to 50 if I put my mind to it.
I assumed I’d have to be pretty specific, itemizing assignments I’d had while doing staff work. But no, I didn’t. I got to 50 – in fact I got over 50 – without having to itemize anything. At all.
More than 50 distinct jobs for more than 50 distinct companies/bosses/locations.
Is this unusual? Does everyone have a rap sheet like this?
I doubt it. I look at my brother, he’s had one job for almost his entire adult career. Three different companies have paid him but it was all for the same job; his company was bought by IBM and later traded to AT&T. So … one job, in one place, for three companies, in 30 years.
And then there’s me. And my list. My long, very long, painfully detailed list. Did I mention how long it is?
- Oak Stake Sharpener, Lakewood CO – totally unsafe, I was a 14-year old kid jamming pieces of oak into an unprotected, bladed chuck on a spinning lathe.
- Groundskeeper Trainee, Denver CO – helping a world-famous heart surgeon keep up with his urban and mountain estates.
- School Custodian, Denver CO – cleaning the private high school I attended after hours to help pay for my tuition. We were poor.
- Fast Food worker (McDonalds) Denver CO – I learned to smoke 100’s here. Regular cigarettes would burn out before I could get back to them.
- Fast Food worker (Burger King) Lakewood CO – I had to work the fryer once when I was really sick. The smell of onion rings still makes me nauseous.
- Warehouseman, Denver CO – I knocked a support pillar down with the forklift. No worries, apparently everyone did, once.
- Non-stick Cookware Demonstrator, Aurora CO – I’d cook eggs and cheese melts while repeating a memorized pitch and “bantering”.
- Beefpacker, Denver CO – carrying huge pieces of meat from truck to butcher. I’d get home at 5pm and go straight to bed.
- Lawn Mower Salesman, Commerce City, CO – for a florist, in a floral warehouse. Meaning, no one ever came in to buy lawn mowers.
- Rental Car Clerk, Denver CO – they actually let us take a car home every night! If they only knew what we did with them.
- Cashier, 7-11, Denver CO – I was fired because I would not work eight hours at night without a break.
- Pizza Delivery Driver, Denver CO – Never do this with a good car. My poor custom Pinto (with a 302 V8!) was never the same.
- Fast Food Assistant Manager (Arby’s), Denver CO – One of the friends I made here would later introduce me to my first wife
- Pizza restaurant Assistant Manager, Ft. Collins CO – there was a Galaga machine that we used to completely dominate
- Pizza restaurant Assistant Manager, Laramie, WY – I learned to never do mushrooms until AFTER the store had been closed and the money counted.
- Graveyard shift Waiter (Dennys), Ft Collins CO – I carried card tricks to try and increase my tips. I convinced myself that it helped.
- Short Order Cook (Dennys), Denver CO – I was never fast enough to run breakfast by myself. But I could handle dinner.
- Professional Sports Marketing, Denver, CO – I sold tickets for the Colorado Rockies NHL team, who were very bad and also moving to NJ. None sold.
- Collection Agency Bill Collector, Denver CO – One of my Arby’s friends convinced me to try this. It was decent money, too.
- Collection Agency Bill Collector, Denver CO – Do not sleep with the office administrator. Or if you do, do it more than once.
- Mobile Home Finance Collector, Denver CO – This was awful, trying to collect from people who couldn’t afford their home. I lasted one month.
- Collection Agency Bill Collector, Denver CO – When the boss says be here at 8:30, he means 8:30 sharp. Also, he’s going to turn out to be an ass.
- Bad Check Collector, Denver CO – This was the worst. Generally speaking, people bounce grocery store checks because they have to. I didn’t stay a full week.
- Credit Card Collector, Englewood CO – My Arby’s friend got me in here too. This was way better than agency work. Way better. And I got married.
- Apartment Managers, Denver CO – my wife and I ran a small apartment building for free rent.
- House Painter Trainee, Phila PA – They would only let me clean and prep. Brushwork was for veterans.
- Accounts Receivable Clerk, Cherry Hill NJ – they told me I was the manager, but not to tell anyone else. I expect we were all “the manager”
- Collection Agency Bill Collector, Mt Laurel NJ – I was up to three kids now, no more dicking around. Needed something stable even if icky.
- Collection Agency Supervisor, Mt Laurel NJ – Promotion! And I got to do all the spreadsheet programming.
- Collection Agency Manager, Denver CO – They closed owing me wages. But it paid off because I could use this reference on my resume to be anything.
- Cable TV commercial schedule programmer, Englewood CO – my first programming job. I lied my ass off to get it (thank you closed job).
- Staff programmer, Denver CO – my first programming job with a real software company. My resume was still full of lies.
- Warehouse and production programmer, Denver CO – I literally counted beans for this agricultural company. Bean counter. Literally.
- Office Supply programmer, Broomfield CO – by now I had actually done everything my resume said I had. Phew.
- Medical Device Manufacturing programmer, Lakewood CO – Nothing funny happened here. Maybe this is why I stayed three years.
- Staff Provider Owner, Aurora CO – my wife and I convinced ourselves that I was running a company, and I was, except I was the main employee too.
- Development Staff Manager, Greenwood Village CO – times were so crazy in the late 90’s that I could make my billing rate anything I wanted.
- Pizza Delivery Driver, Aurora CO – Suddenly programming jobs dried up. One does what one must.
- Programmer, Reno NV – programming Bingo machines for Bingo parlors. Bingo. This was a bit of a setback. Times had changed.
- Energy Market Programmer, Raleigh NC – Buy! Sell! Buy some more! I built a trading floor dashboard. It was kind of cool.
- Pharmaceutical Programmer, Raleigh NC – This should have been fun but they never actually started the project I was hired to do. It was weird.
- Meter Reading Programmer, Raleigh NC – I was hired to design architecture but was instead put to fixing bugs in boring code. Bleh.
- System Engineer, Norfolk VA – A govt contractor who worked for the Navy while providing software to the USMC. It turns out Marines are awesome!
- HR Recruiting Programmer, Raleigh NC – As boring as it sounds. Recruiting, except software. Bleh.
- Mortgage Servicing Programmer, Durham NC – A division of IBM, I had three bosses at once and none of them gave me work to do. For 18 months.
- Medical Record Programmer, Raleigh NC – an awesome job that encouraged me to learn and apply new skills – until the money ran out.
- Military Inventory Programmer, Louisburg NC – a terrible job with a terrible co-worker and one redeeming value – working from home.
- ERP Reporting Programmer, Raleigh NC – Just like the medical records job, this was a fun job with fun work. Until they closed down the project.
- Scrum Master, Raleigh NC – Being a full time Scrum Master is like professional cat herding. Except the cats are nasty. At least at this job.
- Ethics & Compliance Programmer, Denver CO – I am working on software that will help Corporate America behave more ethically. How cool is that?
I feel like I am missing jobs. Not as in “I wish I had them again”, oh hell no, some of these jobs were the very bottom of the barrel. Most of them. But I feel like there ought to be more. If I think of them, I’ll update the list.
It was never my fault when I left: I was never fired, I never left just to get more money. There was always a reason to move on. Sometimes I moved to another state but usually it was bad faith by the boss, bad faith by the company, or the like.
So, not my fault. But then you look at the list. 52? And some of these jobs lasted for years, meaning that the rest of them are even more short-term than they appear.
When I was in my early twenties, I started to feel badly about all this. When yet another collection agency failed to work out, I decided to coast for awhile and collect unemployment. I’d never done that, never even filed for it, I’d always get another job as soon as I started looking. But this time, I figured I’d earned it, and went ahead with the unemployment application. Except I quickly got a call from another agency, someone I’d worked with before was at a new agency and wanted me to join them. I wasn’t looking for a job but one found me nonetheless. I took it.
Meanwhile, I am getting envelopes from the Department of Labor. I don’t open them, I figure they’re checks, and if I cash them I’ll just have to pay it back. I have a job, I’m good. Safer to just leave them in the envelope. Much later, I am moving, and I come across this huge pile of unopened envelopes. It must be safe to open them now, I think, checks are only good for six months. I open the envelopes.
They were not checks after all. It seems that the Department of Labor pays for your unemployment by contacting your previous employers and tapping their unemployment insurance accounts. One of my previous employers protested, saying I had quit of my own volition, and therefore was not due unemployment.
All of the envelopes were notices and findings related to that claim.
There had even been a hearing. I didn’t attend, obviously, seeing as how I didn’t even know about it. But I won anyway.
The DoL caseworker investigated my last eight jobs. In every case, I’d been let go for no fault of my own, or had quit but for reasons that are valid. For instance, I was once promised a raise I never received. In another, I was promised a promotion I’d never received.
One unlikely story after another. Eight jobs in two years, and in every case I was found not at fault.
Victory, and more important, vindication. I wasn’t a shiftless bum. I had been shafted, over and over, in ways that were proven in a hearing to be not my fault.
That was a long time ago. I still attract the shaft, I still do, including four more times just in the last five years.
Nothing one can do about it except to keep plugging along. I do pretty well, considering. And I really like the job I have now. Quite a lot. Maybe this will be the one where I get to stay as long as I like, doing fun work for a company that values my contributions.
It seems to be going quite well so far.
Wouldn’t that be something? After all this time, finally finding The One Job?
A man has to have hope, right?
🙂 😀 🙂