What the Jobs I’ve Held Have Taught Me About Myself

I’ve held several different jobs, in different fields. Some I have liked and felt were a good fit. Others I simply tolerated but did not feel comfortable doing or enjoy. I believe my experience is pretty typical of most workers. Here I’d like to consider the reasons behind why certain jobs were “right for me” and certain jobs weren’t. I think you can learn a lot about yourself based on the kinds of jobs you do well in and those you don’t, those that inspire you and those that drain you.

I have worked as a childcare professional, as both a private babysitter and in group settings (daycare and gym kids’ club). From this line of work, I have learned that I enjoy creativity in my job. For example, I got to make up games, do crafts, and make lots of cool things with Legos with the kids. However, the chaotic, unpredictable nature of children and working in child care do not jive with my spirit but instead cause me anxiety.

I have worked as a caregiver to the elderly via a senior care agency. I enjoyed the solo nature of this work —not having any coworkers—because I worked with private clients and generally in private homes. Even when I would go to a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital, I worked one-on-one with the client. I also really enjoyed hearing my elderly clients’ stories and life experiences from past eras, as I love history, and it intrigues me. However, similar to child care, it caused me great anxiety to have someone’s life in my hands or to have to respond quickly and competently to unexpected scenarios arising, such as dementia-related outbursts or medical emergencies. I am not great “on my feet” and feel much more secure when I have gotten the chance to prepare. Driving these clients (in my own car, no less) was also risky and stressful.

I have worked as a retail manager. I enjoyed, once again, the solo nature of this work. I worked in a tiny gift shop owned by an individual with two other managers in charge of the store. I worked second shift and was the only employee in the shop during my shift. Not even the owner was around unless he happened to drop by for a few minutes to take care of some business. I had great responsibilities including ordering stock, money- counting, ensuring shop security, etc. As a result, I took great pride in my job and enjoyed not being micromanaged by anybody. However, it was stressful not having anybody around to help when the shop was very busy or when I had to deal with irate customers.

I have worked as an at-home transcriptionist. The work was legal transcription of a court reporter’s audio files. It required incredible attention to detail and constant focus. I enjoyed using my grammar and spelling strengths in this position, the lack of coworkers and micromanagement, and the ability to take breaks when needed. I could stop early for the day and wake up to do work in the middle of the night if I wanted, as long as I got the work done by the deadline. However, the work was incredibly tedious and mentally-draining.

I have worked as a patient observer. This job was a non-medical position in a hospital emergency room that required me to do room searches and personal searches of patients deemed to be homicidal or suicidal, in order to protect everybody’s safety. It required me never to take my eyes off the patient and to ensure they didn’t have anything they could hurt themselves or others with, such as pens, scissors, or sheets (they might hang themselves). I was constantly pitted between what my supervisors wanted me to do and what the nurses on the floor wanted to be done, and this actually caused me to feel much greater anxiety and insecurity than working with violent patients.

Several years ago, I worked in a major corporate pharmacy chain for a day before quitting. I was hired as a retail associate and was required to do many tasks, including both stocking and cashiering. The training was minimal, most on the computer (so not very practical), and the job was absolutely chaotic. I’d be sitting on the floor stocking something on the bottom shelf when I’d be yelled at by someone to check the front counter because a customer (who I wasn’t able to see from my vantage point) was waiting to check out.

Several years ago, I worked for a major residential cleaning company for a week before realizing that kind of physical labor wasn’t going to be something I could stand on any kind of a consistent basis, and the pay scheme was such that you didn’t actually know how much you’d be paid.

I have worked as a live-in personal assistant. This was another job that allowed me great freedom over when I did my work and how I did my work. I worked for a woman who was the president of a company headquartered in NYC who needed me to cook, clean, do laundry, run errands, make/answer phone calls, and chauffeur herself and her teenage son. I had tons of free time during the day and could run errands of my own in-between. I would say in a 12-hour day I generally had about 2 hours’ worth of actual work to do. However, I felt a little trapped not being able to go back to my own home every night and feeling pressured to do things with the family members outside of my work hours.

My most recent job, up until Covid, was working a desk job in a call center. Although I had lots of coworkers, I rarely interacted with them because I was constantly on the phone doing work at my own cubicle. I have been working this job from home now since April. I enjoy interacting with members over the phone better than in-person, as it is less stressful for me. I enjoy that it is only inbound calls that I make and that it doesn’t include having to make any sales. However, it can be stressful dealing with computers and computer systems that don’t always work, as well as having to learn new systems and software from time to time.

I have learned from my work experiences that I don’t want to do emotional labor. It brings up too many feelings and memories of my own and I feel too great a responsibility for the person. I don’t want to be micromanaged but I do want to have the support there when I need it. I don’t like feeling as though my supervisors think I’m stupid, but I also don’t like feeling as though everything ultimately lies on my shoulders and I don’t have a sounding board. I like knowing what’s expected of me and having those expectations remain consistent. I don’t like being told contradictory information. I want to make sure I’m doing my job well. I like challenges but do not like being set up for failure. I appreciate jobs that are relatively routine but allow me to express my creative side and use my own discretion. I like doing my job but then also having a life separate from that job when the work day has ended. I don’t want work life bleeding into my “real” life. What have you learned about yourself based on the jobs you’ve held?

How to Rock a Job Interview

I know there’s already a million blog posts on the web regarding what to do and not to do in job interviews, but I figured, what would one million and one hurt? So here are some tips I have found helpful at rocking a job interview.

Always be positive. Especially when being asked about why you are leaving your current company, always give a positive answer regardless of what the truth is. Never bash a former employer. Don’t say your employer was unfair or corrupt or uncaring. Don’t say you got sick of the work that you did, even if it is a different type of work. You never know the person interviewing you and what their personal history is. For example, if you say, “I just really got tired of watching children and wanted to switch out of the childcare field”, they might start considering whether the daycare workers at their own child’s daycare actually enjoy their job or whether they dislike the work they do. Remember that people tend to feel about you the way you make them feel about themselves. You never know whose toes you might be stepping on if you allow any sort of negativity to enter your narrative. Always keep it positive. “I am looking for a new challenge” is one that always works.

Learn enough about the company to give some facts about it. You should know what they do and a little about their history. You should be able to explain how your experience, skills, and talents fit the role for which the company is hiring. Remember, it’s not about what they can do for you (“These hours work great for my my schedule”) but instead what you can do for them (“I have 5 years of experience in the position you’re advertising and have certifications proving I have the technical knowledge required for the job”).

If you’ve never done the job for which you’re interviewing, consider roles and responsibilities you’ve held in other jobs that are similar. Connect the dots for the interviewer so they see that you are in fact capable of handling the job duties. Express your passion to expand your knowledge and broaden your expertise in a certain field.

Ask questions. Employers want you to ask questions. That lets them know you’re interested in the position and that you’ll be a good fit. Ask more about what the position entails, what a typical work day looks like, what the company culture is like, and, if you’re interested, how easy it is to move up in the company. Employers like hearing that candidates are interested in moving up because that lets them know you’re looking to stay somewhere for a while instead of jumping ship in six months.

Look confident and capable. Big, broad smiles. Good posture — shoulders back, back straight. Strong handshake (assuming it’s an in-person interview and it’s not the Covid Era). Build rapport with the interviewer. Most communication happens through body language, not words, and most people leave an impression of themselves within seconds of meeting a stranger. You want the interviewer to have a good feeling when they think about you. This unconscious bias can help you score the job, or, alternatively, lose the opportunity.

Answer all questions thoroughly and with detail. Many employers use the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action, and result. Describe the situation, describe what you had to achieve, describe what you did to achieve it, and describe the end result. Be creative and twist truth if need be in order to answer the question. The worst thing you can say is “That didn’t apply in my last job” or “I’ve never had a situation like that.”

These are some tips that I have found help me stand out from the crowd when interviewing for a job. I hope they help you. Please share any tips that you have found beneficial when job-hunting.

Why Job-Hopping Makes Sense

*Raises hand* “My name is WritingOne3583, and I am a job-hopper.” Job-hopping is typically defined as changing employers more often than every 1-2 years. We job-hoppers have a lot of negative stereotypes attached to us. We are assumed to be lazy, flighty, and undependable. But is this the reality? And are there any positives to job-hopping?

I’d like to start off by saying that it’s not true “Once a job-hopper, always a job-hopper”. There are many legitimate reasons for job- hopping, and people can find themselves in a position where they become a job-hopper when they’ve never been before. And they can find a dream position or employer where they end up staying the rest of their working career, although they’ve been a job-hopper in the past. In fact, most of the reasons people job-hop are due to situations outside of their control. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons workers job-hop.

People job-hop because companies no longer feel any kind of responsibility towards their employees, and corporate culture since the 80’s has been a “race to the bottom” to see just how much disrespect, abuse, and exploitation workers will take for the smallest amount of monetary compensation possible. Regulations and worker protections have been weakened and all but dismantled. Employees are no longer considered assets to a company, but instead liabilities. Pensions are only a reality in government jobs, with most Americans barely making enough to survive on, let alone being able to save for retirement, though working 40-60 hours a week. The only protections workers have nowadays are granted to those few lucky enough to work for the federal government or in unionized occupations. There are very few federal labor laws protecting private-sector employees. In most cases, employers can fire employees for any reason at all at any time except on the basis of certain federally-protected statuses (but even those protections are pretty much in name only considering it’s nearly impossible to prove when they’ve been violated). This can be a death sentence if unemployed for a while and in a state with few social safety nets. Unsurprisingly, workers who feel devalued are more likely to attempt to leave for elsewhere where they have a chance at being treated better.

We “working class heroes” (which, let’s be honest, with the disappearance of the middle class are pretty much all of us now except for the top ten percent) shouldn’t let ourselves be miserable for any length of time. This is not healthy mentally, emotionally, or physically. Working under a tyrannical boss or one who doesn’t appreciate you or who doesn’t take responsibility for their own shortcomings, will wear on you quickly. We all have one life, and if there are better opportunities available, we would be foolish not to take them.

Different roles/experiences will teach you what you enjoy and allow you to increase your skill set. By working in multiple positions, you are more likely to realize your own strengths and natural talents. Why waste years and years in a role that is a bad fit when you could be working somewhere that is more fulfilling? Developing your skill set could land you in a dream position somewhere you never thought possible.

You can make more money job-hopping. It is common knowledge nowadays that wages have not only stagnated for decades but actually fallen in some areas (especially taking inflation into account). Statistically, an employee’s wages will rise quicker and by a larger increment when that worker switches jobs than when they get a raise from their current employer. And many workers who have worked at the same place for years report not getting a raise at all or only getting a “cost of living” raise to make up for inflation. If you can immediately make more money elsewhere, perhaps even doing the same type of work, it makes good sense to “hop” on over to that new job.

There are some caveats to be aware of before making the decision to job-hop. You want to make sure you are in a position of strength when you leave your current job for a new one. Don’t be impulsive when you leave. Don’t let emotions sway you into making a rash decision. Plan. Make sure you don’t just assume the “grass is greener on the other side”. If so, circumstances might be the same at the new job and you might find yourself discontent once again. It might be wiser to apply for a different position or a promotion at your current employer than to “jump ship” completely. Of course, this probably won’t fix severe issues with communication or the ethics of a company. If the structure is rotten, it is definitely better to look for another employer, as foundational issues will infest the whole workplace at all levels, and you won’t be able to escape it. If possible, leave things amicable with your old employer. That way you can return in the future and won’t have any issues with references. Give a two-week notice.

Are you a job-hopper? If so, has it benefited you or harmed you?

Should You Pursue a Degree?

It’s an oft-asked question and controversy nowadays: Are degrees “worth it”, and, if so, who should pursue a degree, and when? With the cost of college rising, job requirements becoming stricter, and the amount of required unpaid internships, it’s important that the decision to go to college be a carefully-considered one.

Realize that most degrees do not directly lead to a career. Gone are the days where simply having a bachelors degree in any field would open up worlds to you and make employers go gaga. The degree fields nowadays that most likely will lead to a well-paying career right out of college are known as the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math. Now, the common denominator in all of these is math. Even the more science-based fields (chemistry, biology) will require a lot of math courses. Engineering degrees require a lot of advanced math. Unfortunately, the “S” for science does not include social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, and political science. It is important to first figure out what you want to do for a career and then consider which degree program will help you reach that goal instead of picking an appealing major and then trying to figure out what you’re going to do with it as you near graduation.

If you don’t go into STEM, you could go into a medical field. Degrees in pre-med, nursing, physical therapy, or respiratory technology are easily transferable to a well-paying job straight after college. However, some of these will require graduate-level degrees. For example, an MD must go to medical school after undergrad and a physical therapist must get a masters or doctorate (depending on the state). A dietetics student must complete a one-year internship (often unpaid) after their bachelors and starting in 2024, they’ll be required to have a masters degree. A job as a mental health counselor requires a masters degree and thousands of hours of post-degree supervised practice before you can even sit for a license. As well, in any of the medical sciences, you still won’t be able to get away from taking hard science, statistics, and math courses. However, if you don’t mind some science and math, there are well-paying medical fields you can enter with an associate’s degree, such as nursing, respiratory technology, dental hygiene, and physical or occupational therapy assisting. Just be aware these associate degree programs are typically highly competitive to enter and will take one full year of math and science pre-requisites before you can enter the program.

If you don’t decide on STEM or the medical field, you could get a degree in a social science, but be prepared to teach. People who get degrees in psychology, English, sociology, etc., generally have a hard time finding a job in their field straight out of college unless they pair it with an education degree or get a doctorate in order to be able to teach at the collegiate level. If you desire to work on the research side of things, you will definitely need a doctorate.

A related issue is that degrees have become highly-specialized. It’s not enough to get a business degree. It needs to be in economics, marketing, or another niche. “Everybody and their mother” now has an MBA, and a lot of schools offer 1-year MBA programs online. The ease of earning the degree is a double-sided sword, as it means more people have access to them, causing saturation in the market and more competition for jobs.

If you don’t have a passion and strong skills for anything specific, it might be more worth your while to learn a trade or earn a certificate in order to become a truck driver, paramedic, or cosmetologist/barber. People in these professions can make a livable wage but don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars and 2 or 4 years of their lives preparing them for their chosen occupation. Trades often require apprenticeships, but they are paid. And of course, you can go back for a degree at any time of your life. It’s not uncommon for middle-aged people to earn a degree. Online classes make getting an education at any age or stage of life more feasible and appealing.

Don’t pursue a degree because you’re bored or feeling stuck in life. Take up a hobby, talk with a therapist, apply to different jobs that require the qualifications you have currently. Pursuing a degree should be a logical decision, much like choosing which stocks to buy, route to take while driving, or retirement plan to get. If you’re fascinated with a subject and want to learn more, learn about it for free via the library or take a free online class or workshop. Unless, of course, you have the money and time to sacrifice getting a degree just for fun and you know you won’t ever regret giving up your time and tuition money.

Don’t tie what you do for a living to your identity. What you do for a living doesn’t necessarily say anything about who you are as a person. There are incredibly intelligent people who decide to go into a trade instead of pursuing a degree and people with a modest amount of intelligence who are strong at memorization, good test-takers, and get tutoring throughout college in order to make it through with decent grades.

I know this topic inspires a lot of different thoughts and opinions. I probably could have written an entire doctoral thesis (ironically, haha) on the topic, and I’m sure I missed a lot of good points in this blog post. What are your opinions on the topic? Do you agree with me or are there any points about which you feel otherwise?

Why I Don’t Want a Career/Salaried Position

Many Americans dream of being able to climb the corporate ladder and eventually make it to the top of the “pecking order” in their place of work. They dream of having power, authority, and a lot of money. However, I personally have no desire to have a career. Of course, considering I’m not independently wealthy, I am required to work in order to meet my needs. However, building a career is another thing entirely.

I’m not competitive. Careers typically require competition with others for credit, promotions, and raises. I don’t want to have to step on anybody else or have anybody step on me for money.

I don’t want to invest that much of myself into a job. I want to work to live, not live to work. I don’t want my job to be the focal point of my life. I don’t want my identity to be intertwined with what I do for a living. I want my work to make my life possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t want my work to matter or to be enjoyable.

I want to be paid for all my time. Most careers require you to be salaried (except for independent contracting, which comes with its own downsides). I don’t want my employer to own me to the extent they feel comfortable calling on me any day of the week, any hour of the day. If I put in more than my 40 hours, I want to be paid time-and-a-half for it. There are a lot of people in salaried positions who seem to make a high salary until you realize they routinely work 60+ hours a week.

I don’t want to manage others. Not all, but many, career positions require supervision of others. I don’t want to have to answer for anybody other than myself.

Does anybody reading feel the same way I do about having a career or have any of their own thoughts to add?