Career goals: no heavy lifting, no ties
Do you remember your first job? How about your worst job?
Or do you catch yourself longing for your dream job? Maybe you’re still chasing it. Maybe you’re closing in. Maybe it’s long gone.
I think I was a weird kid. Well, I’m a weird adult, so why would I not have been a weird kid? Of course I was weird. While the cool kids wore denim jackets with demonically cool patches of Ozzy or Led Zeppelin, I wore beige khakis and Adidas sneakers. I idolized David Letterman instead of the rock gods of the early ’80s.
I was also weird because I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I gave our guidance counsellor fits when I did my career assessment. The dot-matrixprinted report had me going to clown college.
My “dream job” was something that didn’t involve manual labour or wearing a suit and tie.
Mission accomplished. I am, I guess, Cinderella. I work in an office and I can still wear beige khakis. No tie required.
When I was younger I may have had a dream job: National Hockey League goaltender. That’s a tough one, though, and I didn’t have the dedication to the game until later in life — when beer became a regular part of the post-game experience.
I am fortunate to have tried lots of different things, though. My first job was pretty great. I delivered the Toronto Star door-todoor. What a gig. I started by filling in for an older kid, then took over when he quit. The money was great and it felt pretty cool to sling the delivery bag over my shoulder.
Weekends were more intense. On Saturday, I needed a handmade pull cart to get around. Those papers were huge. I remember the New in Homes section arrived on Friday, and on Saturday, the rest of the paper was dumped in stacks at the end of the driveway. I had to haul the bundles inside and assemble the papers on the kitchen floor.
I’d get up early and often had to wait for those papers to arrive. I always tried to get them delivered as early as I could because every month of perfect service — with no complaints from customers — meant I’d get a prize. I lost a lot of sleep in hopes of scoring a ball cap or a personalized rubber stamp.
In high school, my buddy got me a job in a warehouse after school. It was awesome. Us idiots had the run of the place after 5 p.m., so we’d crank the music through the intercom system. My job was usually to sweep the warehouse floors for hours.
Or, some nights, I’d package stuff in boxes for shipping. They were Oki brand cellphones that the company had repaired. And I remember having only a vague concept of what a cellphone was.
From there, I springboarded to a cosmetics factory and got a job making makeup. I used to mix up huge vats of powders, bath formulas, foundations, lipsticks and perfumes.
I never bought this stuff in stores and had no idea that the volumes I was working with were worth thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands, probably.
I did get a sense of the value one night when I spilled a large pot of foundation on the floor. My bosses seemed to be taking this little mishap pretty seriously.
I’m grateful to have rounded out my pre-career career as a waiter and bartender at a hotel. Everyone should be a server at least once. It’ll teach you how to deal with the public and with sometimes difficult colleagues and managers.
As a bonus, I learned how to cut limes. Or, how not to cut limes. I cut myself open, prompting some lessons from a chef (after some first aid treatment).
The hotel bar was something else. I served lots of daytime rye and gingers, then transitioned into the evening singles dances in the lounge. Both scenes were interesting and eye-opening.
I don’t ever remember loving those jobs at the time but I am getting a little nostalgic. And, fortunately, things worked out OK, I guess. I’m still working. I’m still not lifting anything heavy. I’m still putting on my khakis every day and getting things done.