Monday, October 22, 2007

Occupation: Changing Occupations

After three years of waitressing, which started when I was 38, I can no longer deny that my body can't take it. My feet are developing problems, I'm tired of the late hours and the restaurant industry itself is getting a bit stale for me. All signs indicate that the waitressing experiment is over and it's time to move on again.

Since leaving grad school in 1992, I've worked in five industries (academia, non-profit, childcare, music, corporate) and held about nineteen jobs. In the past, this inconsistent work history has made me feel like a failure who is unable to commit to a career or stick with a job for more than a couple of years. Most people change jobs regularly, but at least have a running theme in their resumes. For instance, my boyfriend has been a dishwasher, busboy, server, bartender, manager, general manager and district partner, but all those jobs have been in the restaurant industry. Another friend has worked in several industries, but she's always in human resources. See? It's usually like that.

My resume has little consistency. I have various useful abilities and lots of valuable skills and am, for the most part, an appealing employee. But five industries (now six) and nineteen jobs in fifteen years? This has been a great source of my feeling of failure in life.

But not any more because -- so what if I rarely stay anywhere for long? Yeah, I'm one of those jack-of-all-trades types, but I've got an impressive amount of life and job experience under my belt. I can talk about the challenges of teaching, the hardship of childcare, the difficulties of recording live music, the politics of academia, the pettiness of the office, the nightmare of waiting tables, the highs of musical performance and the loneliness of working for the guy at the top. I can give you my opinion -- from personal, in-the-trenches experience -- of the most stressful industries, the most physically or psychologically or intellectually demanding jobs, and the difference between situations in which people act like it's life-and-death and the situations in which it really is.

I'm more flexible than most people. With a little training, I can work just about anywhere. I accept change in my workplace with enthusiasm, while most people dread new procedures or the new computer program or the new boss. I don't fear being laid off or fired because I've bounced back so many times. Yeah, I've been laid off. And I've been fired. I've been on unemployment more than once and I'm not afraid of it. That's kind of rare and it's a powerful position to take with respect to one's job.

Because I've done so much and know I can do so much more, I'm just not afraid of job loss or job change. I will always be able to find work. I have to admit that's not just because of my job history, but partly because I have a masters degree from Cornell University. But having changed jobs and industries many times, I don't limit myself as people do who believe they are strictly support people or tech people or white collar or academic. It's really quite freeing.

So here I go, launching another job search (which industry shall I choose this time?). So it goes.

No comments: