This will make more than twenty occupational changes since graduating high school, or roughly one every two years. During my checkered career I have cleaned bathroom stalls, driven heavy machinery, poured over payroll records and flown in helicopters. And looking back I can count on one hand the number of jobs I actually enjoyed, while still having enough fingers left over to maintain a proper bowling grip.
Occupation, profession, vocation – I try not to get too hung up on semantics. Rather I like to think of my work history as a colorful mosaic of character-building life experiences. That’s the best I can come up with on short notice, anyway. Busboy, cook, busboy again, dish washer (an alleged promotion), gas station attendant, lawn care technician (for one day), pizza delivery driver, motor home delivery driver, factory worker, gas station manager, automobile painter, radio announcer (at several different stations), accountant, inventory and purchasing manager, media representative, airborne traffic reporter, industrial facility salesman, broadcast journalist, a couple of stints as marketing coordinator, newspaper columnist, and television news producer.
There may have been a few more in there somewhere, but I think the point is made. And so much for keeping the resume to one page.
Why the revolving door? Probably that whole “pursuit of happiness” thing. Let’s face it – most workplaces are not nearly as fun as the beer commercials make them out to be. And life really is too short to spend 40 hours of every week grinding the enamel off your molars. There’s an old Elvis Costello tune where he sings derisively of the 9-to-5 world, “…I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.” I guess that pretty much sums it up for me.
I don’t mean to complain, though, because in this economy, simply having a job is a bonus. I know. I’ve been trying to find one for a couple of years now. These days liking your job may be asking too much.
And yet my “diverse background” stems from the notion, perhaps misguided, that all of us have a calling – something we were born to do. The thing is, most people seem to have a pretty good handle on that right from the get-go, whereas I’ve been pinning my hopes on the process of elimination.
In the early days I dabbled in employment the way others might dabble in real estate or the stock market, dipping a toe in a variety of occupational waters. A few weeks here, a couple of months there, trying various professions on for size. Usually it was just long enough to realize that “entry-level” actually meant “everything runs downhill and welcome to the bottom of the hill.” These were the types of jobs where the middle finger served in place of resignation letters. Jobs with a low bullshit quotient – you know, that number you get when you compare your paycheck to the amount of excrement you have to wade through. The wider the gap, the less likely you’ll be sticking around long enough to pick up that gold watch.
Radio was my first attempt at an actual career, for no other reasons than it didn’t involve heavy lifting and might possibly attract females. But after almost twenty off-and-on years in the business I can say with some certainty that the vast majority of women are not impressed with guys who sleep in their cars and smell like government cheese.
Eventually, family life dictated that I “buckle down” and accept an unsavory degree of stability. This led to a series of “real” jobs, each more responsible than the last. One of those was Marketing Coordinator for an engineering firm, where I tried my best to make the company look, well, desirable. My job description actually defied description, other than to say that it was very much like Bullwinkle forever trying to pull a rabbit from his hat. And when compared to my broadcasting background, this position was – as the guys in Monty Python used to say – something completely different. Put simply, engineers design bridges and radio people live under them, which is as close as the two should ever get to each other. They are the equivalent of matter and anti-matter – it’s a wonder I didn’t simply burst into flames one morning as I was walking into the office.
Radio work was pretty cut and dried. You played the music, talked between the songs and ran commercials when the schedule told you to. Not running the commercials or forgetting to talk was bad. No one required a great deal of direction – if it was quiet, you probably weren’t doing your job. But in the business world there are Mission Statements and Vision Statements and Core Principles should you lose your way. While they may not necessarily guide you on your path up the corporate ladder, if you keep repeating them like a mantra they should at least distract you from the fact that the hamster wheel is stuck on auto-pilot.
And when it comes to what I was born to do, I guess I still haven’t figured that out yet. Right now I’d settle for a job that keeps my bills paid and doesn’t make me want to run screaming from the building at five o’clock.
Are you starting to see my problem?