To All The Jobs I’ve Had Before

Took me several past lives to figure out what I should be doing.
Photo: Trevor Holden Photography

“That was a lifetime ago!” I hear myself saying that when a friend says “Remember when I came down to visit you when you lived in West Palm Beach?” or “Remember all of us walking in our white scrubs from Esthetics school to Dunkin’ Donuts during our breaks?” I call different chunks of my life–like childhood, college, my Florida Years, etc.–my “past lives.”

Within those past lives, I have career past lives. I had seven different jobs before I opened my company and four more during the early years at AB Beauty. Other than a job at my family business–which was there whenever I wanted it for part-time work–I never stayed much longer than one year anywhere I worked. I wasn’t happy at any of my jobs, which is exactly why I started my own business.

My first job interview was at a beauty supply store (obviously). I think it was for a sales/cashier position, or it might have been for office help. I can’t remember, but I was crushed when they didn’t hire me. I was 14, and I wanted to work (and I especially wanted to work around makeup). Luckily, my father opened a real estate company soon after that, and he brought me on as his Administrative Assistant. I had zero work experience–unless you consider my smashing success playing my make believe game, “Small Business Owner,” work experience–but my boss was willing to overlook that.

 

I friggin’ LOVED these things as a little kid. I kept some in my desk and would leave my parents phone messages on them. “Nana called. She wants me to come over for dinner,” then I’d check off “Urgent.”

I learned a lot at my first job, as well as the 10 other jobs I had before I was 28. There are systems, ways of doing things, and often ways of not doing things that I still use. Those past jobs all helped me become the business owner I am today.

It’s in my nature to look back, review and see what I learned from different situations. And guess what? Today, you’re along for the ride. Buckle up, girlfriend.

 

Job: Administrative Assistant at a real estate company (that my father owned).

Length of Stint: Three years part-time during high school, and during breaks and three of the summers I was in college. So, you do the math. (Seriously, I can’t.)

What I Learned: That I absolutely did not want to be an entrepreneur. I saw how hard it was, and how you don’t get health insurance, sick time, vacation days, etc. I was there since Day One, so I witnessed what went into starting a company. Good thing I changed my mind about that…

What I Loved: Having my own desk; office supplies; organizing the office; creating tracking systems; finding listings clients might like.

What I Hated: Realtors and clients who would call and be rude or mean to me. There’s a special place in hell for people who take their anger out on the person who answers the phone (especially when she is 16, but still more professional than a 52 year old cranky sales agent.)

 

Job: Real Estate Agent.

Length of Stint: Four years, very part-time (during college breaks and three of the summers I was home from college).

What I Learned: The importance of connections and making sure everyone around me knew what I did for a career. This was in the pre-social media days so I did a lot of mailings. I also learned to do things I still do today, like always having my business cards with me and giving small gifts to those who refer people who book with my company.

What I Loved: Seeing inside people’s houses! HGTV was my favorite channel before it was popular. (Whatchu know about the original “Trading Spaces?”) I also loved being able to help make peoples’ lives better by finding them a place to live that suited their needs better than their current home, or helping them sell a property that no longer met their needs.

What I Hated: Working on commission. At that point in my life, I craved the stability of a regular paycheck. Luckily I was able to do this job in combination with part-time office work at the same company (and l didn’t have many expenses at the time anyway), but I knew that I was not cut out for a sales job.

Funny because it’s true.

Job: Weird Sales Job. (Yup, exactly what I had already learned I hated. I wasn’t what you might call “smart” in my early 20s.)

Length of Stint: One week.

What I Learned: Some jobs are legit scams. For this one, I had to stand outside grocery stores and coffee shops and try to sell people crappy kids’ toys, luring the parents over by saying we were doing free fingerprinting for missing children identification kits. I think we said the kits would be sent somewhere to be put in a database–which I doubt they were–and then we would try to sell them toys that we had out on our tables. The job I applied for sounded much different than what it actually was, and I didn’t know what I was getting into until I started. One day I made $20 total after 10 hours of work, said “Fuck this,” and quit.

What I Loved: I made friends with a coworker, Shannon, who I am still good friends with now.

What I Hated: The overall scam; being tricked into it (the owner apologized when I bumped into him a year later); making zero money. But I mean, how Early 2000s Florida was this type of job? Some of you know exactly what I mean.

 

Job: Office Manager at an environmental consulting firm.

Length of Stint: Nine months.

What I Learned: How to use Quickbooks; project management; the importance of using Outlook reminders to make sure everything got done; how to schedule appointments; how not to treat the people who work for you.

What I Loved: My coworkers. We had a really awesome group at this company (I even got Shannon a job there!).

What I Hated: That my boss was extremely hot or cold. His temper was scary, and after he punched a file cabinet next to my desk so hard it dented, I–along with 90% of the company–made my exit plan. Within three months of that terrifying incident, we had all left the company.

 

Job: Office Manager at a real estate appraisal company.

Length of Stint: Nine months.

What I Learned: How to use appraisal software; what goes into appraisals and what they are used for; how to deal with a boss who clearly did not want to own the company.

What I Loved: My commute kept me off of 95 in South Florida, so my life was no longer in jeopardy every weekday rush hour as it had been at my last job.

What I Hated: Working out of someone else’s home (oh, did I mention their home office was inside their garage?); that the owners would jet off to Miami for a couple days, leaving me to deal with phone calls from angry people who rightfully wanted their overdue appraisals; that they illegally hired me as an Independent Contractor so I wasn’t able to collect unemployment when they laid me off out of nowhere because the wife’s sister got in a car accident. (You’re right–that doesn’t make any sense!)

 

LET ME IN YOUR REAL HOUSE.

 

Job: School Secretary.

Length of Stint: 13 months.

What I Learned: Some advanced Excel skills (took a class while I was there); the importance of confidentiality (I filed student behavior reports and was privy to staffing issues); that I have impressive willpower (there was a basket of candy on my desk and I did not touch it once during a three month cleanse I did).

What I Loved: The people (both the students and the staff)! I became friends with Dan, one of the teacher’s assistants, and we are still good friends 11 years later.

What I Hated: Waking up early; how I couldn’t go to the bathroom without getting someone to sit at my desk to buzz people in and answer the phones; being bored due to lack of work.

 

Job: Office Manager at my father’s real estate company.

Length of Stint: 13 months. I did this part-time most days after leaving my School Secretary job.

What I Learned: I actually learned this early on working for my father, but I’ll put it here: I learned how to treat the people who work for you. My father has always been incredibly kind, understanding and accommodating with everyone in any company he has owned. He taught me that you have to let your team know that you recognize and appreciate their work, and you have to make sure that you are paying them fairly and not expecting them to do work outside of their job description without being compensated for it.

What I Loved: The two minute commute; being able to make my own hours; working with fun people.

What I Hated: That it was in Worcester. I really wanted to go back to Newport after my Florida Years, but I had to live at home and save up first (my parents very nicely let me live with them rent-free).

 

Job: Waitress at a small BYOB restaurant.

Length of Stint: 10 months. A good chunk of this time was during my seven months in Esthetics school. I would go to school during the day and waitress on nights and weekends.

What I Learned: The restaurant scene is too dramatic for me. Lots of coworker hookups, gossip and accusations of stealing money. And yes, hothead chefs are a very real thing. Calm down, you know? It’s just food.

What I Loved: My regulars. Because this restaurant was a small, neighborhood spot, I saw a lot of the same people every few days. They liked me, I liked them, and towards the end of my time there, when most of the rest of the servers were shitty at their jobs, my regulars used to ask me which days I was there and would only come in during my shifts.

What I Hated: For starters, I was trained for one shift, then they fired the waitress who was training me so I was left to figure things out on my own.  One of the owners called it “trial by fire,” but it was more “poor staff training.” When I started, there were three owners, and one of them was awesome (we are still friendly today). One was a complete asshole–I’ll at least give him props for showing his true colors from the start–and the other was nice at first, then really had it out for me for no reason. He eventually fired me because the waitress after me did not pass on a phone message I left for him (exactly, makes no sense) then apologized for doing that a year or two later when we bumped into each other. In the end though, my business is thriving and their’s closed down soon after I left. So, I feel good about that.

 

I bet her hair never smelled like fryolater.

 

Job: Restaurant hostess at established restaurant.

Length of Stint: Three months.

What I Learned: That I could pick up on things quickly. This was late 2008, when the job market was real bad, and even with my Bachelor’s degree and years of office experience, I couldn’t find anything for several months. I took this part-time hostessing job while I was searching for a full-time job (and getting my business up and running). I realized that even though it was a different restaurant than the first one and was run completely differently (better), I was able to catch on quickly.

What I Loved: I made friends with coworkers Gretchen and Mimi, both of whom I stayed in touch with for a few years after I left.

What I Hated: I wasn’t there long enough to hate anything!

 

Job: School Secretary. (Ding ding, Round Two! Different school, different state, a lot of similarities.)

Length of Stint: One year. I did this job while doing weddings and trials on nights and weekends.

What I Learned: I was at a Head Start and it gave me a glimpse into the lives of parents who had financial hardships, behavioral or health issues with their children and some overall tough situations. I think any job that allows you to see life through a different lens gives you the opportunity to be a more empathetic and understanding person. Those qualities have helped me a better business owner and boss, and hopefully a better person.

What I Loved: It was easy and stress-free. I became good friends with two coworkers named Jill, and later ended up sharing an office for AB Beauty with one of those Jills once we both had our own companies. I’m still friends with the other Jill too, and even got to do her wedding makeup.

What I Hated: The low pay (I qualified for many of the assistance programs offered by the community program Head Start was part of); being chained to my desk (another case of “can’t leave my desk to use the bathroom if I don’t have coverage); the hours (I’ll never love waking up at 6:00am) and the boredom. I was overqualified and consequently bored to tears at this job. It was there that I created “tapefoliation,” which what I called using pieces of Scotch tape to exfoliate my arms and hands. Another tactic I used to combat my boredom was to take huge piles of documents I had put in order to file away, then accidentally-on-purpose drop them so I would have to pick them up and re-file to kill ten minutes of time.

 

Job: Office Manager at a construction company.

Length of Stint: Ten months.

What I Learned: More Quickbooks; how to use Google calendar to run shit (I still do this); how to create order tracking systems; how to process information needed for payroll; the importance of W9s for Independent Contractors.

What I Loved: The freedom. I could leave my desk to use the bathroom, check the mail, run out to my car, etc. without first finding coverage. My boss was also great about letting me take time off to do weddings and commercials. My company really started taking off right around the time this company started closing, so the timing worked out perfectly. My boss was really great to me though and I learned a lot from him, so that meant as much to me as the freedom.

What I Hated: It was really hard to be two plus years into my career and not yet be ready to do it full time, but to watch my boss (who is a little younger than me) and my friend (who ran a salon and wedding beauty company from the second floor of the building I worked in) do it was extra hard for me. I REALLY wanted the freedom that full time entrepreneurship brings and I knew I was close, so I wouldn’t say I was jealous, but I would see them with that freedom and think “I want that! And soon!”

 

Google Calendar still rules my world. Thanks, Ralph!

My 11 career past lives taught me a lot about systems, protocols, policies, inventory, organization and basic accounting. And each boss I had ran their company or department in a different way. I took the things I thought they did well and later incorporated those things into my business. I also took note of the things they did that I didn’t think were smart, kind, fair or in some cases, legal, and stayed away from doing those things in my business. I may have dreaded Mondays, hated my boss or struggled financially when I was working some of my past jobs, but I’m glad I didn’t like them enough to stay. None of those positions were in fields I was passionate about, so although I may have had a chance to have a stress-free job that was financially comfortable enough, I know I wouldn’t have been happy.

If I had to go back and change anything about my pre-AB Beauty jobs…I wouldn’t. They taught me a ton, and they gave me the bad experiences that help me appreciate how good I have it now. If I’m annoyed with something at my company, I try to think “At least I’m not dealing with disappearing home-buying clients, asshole chefs and having to get coverage to leave my desk.”

My career path has been bumpy, painful and aggravating at times, but my past lives brought me to my current career life, and it’s the bomb. I hope you’ve got a good one too. And remember–tapefoliation is for hands and arms during times of extreme boredom only.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

 

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