In 8th grade these were my optometrists. My enthusiasm led them to offer me a part-time job after school. The work was boring but I loved the people. Having a job made me feel important and gave me money that was my own. For Christmas one year they even gave me a pair of green contact lenses since they knew I'd always wanted green eyes.
Lessons learned: The friends you make are more important than the work you do. If you're reconciling columns of figures always check your answers twice. Money provides choices.
2. Counter Clerk, Sausalito Gift Shop
Sat behind counter and sold stuff. Made earrings from twisted wire and beads to sell in the shop.
Hole-in-the-wall shop on the waterfront was stuffed with scented candles and soaps plus oodles of touristy junk. The smells from the fish and chips joint next door wafted into the tiny space, mixed with the soap and candle scents, and practically gagged me. All the tourists who came in would exclaim about how great it smelled.
Lessons learned: Tourists can be really dumb. The skills I learned making those silly little earrings put food on the table later when I was strapped for cash.
3. File Clerk, San Francisco Insurance Company
Having any freedom meant I needed money of my own so I left college and took the first job I was offered. I lived at home, commuted by bus to San Francisco and saved everything. I wanted to travel to Europe. Every day the bus driver would have to wake me up at the end of the bus ride. This entire insurance office was grey-green, from the floors, walls, and desks to the inverted ice cube tray lights and the faces of the people who worked there. I did make one good friend and stayed longer than I should have because of it. This job was so deadly dull that I started getting migraine headaches just to be sent home. At first they would disappear the minute I left the office but then they became a pattern. I was plagued by migraines for years.
Lessons learned: Don't stay in a horrible job just for friendship. My body will do whatever it takes to extricate me from a harmful situation, but there may be a price. Don't automatically take the first job you're offered. I hate to file.
4. File Clerk, UC Davis Personnel Office
When my husband and I applied for financial aid we were told one of us would have to work while the other went to school. Never looking at my husband, they turned to me and asked if I wanted to work as a lab helper or a file clerk.
Lessons learned: Men count. Women are just support systems. The last two sentences are a lie -- fight for your dreams! I REALLY hate to file.
5. Receptionist and Pre-interview Screener, UC Davis Personnel Office
I made a good impression as a work-study file clerk and they created a full-time job for me.
Lessons learned: Given lemons, you can make lemonade if you're resourceful. And sweet.
6. Secretary to the Associate Dean, UC Davis College of Engineering
Having never even typed a letter, I practiced, gave myself a typing test (in my role of "Pre-interview Screener") and passed. I talked my way into a new job where I typed correspondence and research grant proposals (complete with scientific formulae which I understood not a wit) and created budgets for proposals. During my interview I told the Dean that I'd never created budgets. (I didn't mention the typing.) He looked me over, winked and said, "A smart girl like you won't have any trouble picking this up."
Lessons learned: The Dean was right. But if you're looking for a job it doesn't hurt to be young and pretty.
7. Secretary, UC Santa Cruz, University Relations and Alumni Office
My altruistic task of putting my husband through school (and then law school) was over. I was now getting a divorce and a new life. I wanted to be an artist but my artwork was filled with horizontal lines from living in the flatlands of Davis. I yearned for more diagonals. On a lark, while visiting a friend at UC Santa Cruz, I popped into the Personnel Office, went on an interview and was hired on the spot.
Lessons learned: When looking for a change of scenery, take a chance. It can do wonders for your art.