Monday, August 4, 2008

My Resume Needs a Laugh Track - Part II

This is a continuation of my previous post about my work history.

So after I got married, I went back to my last semester of college.

GEEK TRAINER - That last semester I had a less-than-full load of classes. I just needed a few classes that I hadn't quite been able to squeeze in before, so I had time to also work as a teaching assistant in the engineering computer labs for Electrical and Computer Engineering 425: Introduction to Digital Communication Theory. I spent a lot of time working in Simulink and MATLAB. It was pretty funny when we moved to Texas and M and I ran into some guys at church who had been in the class I TA'd. People would see us all talking and ask M if he knew them from college and I would chime in and clarify that I had been their TA. Somehow, I don't think anyone saw that coming... heh, heh. Sexist fools.

After I graduated with my hard-earned degree in Electrical Engineering, I couldn't find a job.

I mean, sure I could have found a job if I'd moved out of state. Never mind that M was still in school. I'm sure I could have found a job if I'd been willing to have a 1 hour or more commute each way and commit to sticking around for at least a couple years. The honest truth was that I had already decided to turn down getting a master's degree because I knew I wanted to put having a family and supporting M's career first. I wasn't about to turn around and get a job that would get in the way. I needed to find a job that was okay with me possibly leaving in as little as 4 months. If M got an offer for an internship that coming summer, I knew we'd take it. If I got pregnant, I knew I'd be a stay-at-home mom after the baby was born (and we'd decided to, you know, start letting that happen). I couldn't lie to these potential employers and say I wasn't going to leave. So finding a job that was accommodating of all that was tricky. Some of you probably think this sounds crazy. You don't have to agree with my choice, but that's just what was right for me.

However, knowing that for me it was "the right thing to do" didn't make it easy. This was quite possibly one of the hardest times of my life. It was tough not to get bummed out. Between interviews and fruitless surfing of Monster, I played a lot of PopCap games to distract myself. I also managed to gain about 10 lbs. Obviously I have a lot to show for those 2 months.

During that time, I interviewed for several jobs that were perfect. They weren't exactly full-time engineering jobs (okay, I admit they weren't even close), but they were a good fit for my needs. I kept getting turned down for being "over-qualified." They kept telling me they were worried I'd get bored, blah, blah, blah. No one ever told me when I was working my butt off in school that getting a bachelor's degree would actually make it harder to get a job...

Anyway, all these "extenuating" circumstances are necessary for understanding how on earth I ended up with the next few jobs after I graduated with my engineering degree.

FACILITATOR OF VALENTINE'S DAY STALKERS - There was a florist shop just down the street from our apartment that was looking for temporary help for Valentine's Day. I had really enjoyed my floral arranging class the previous semester in college. It was temporary, but better than sitting around all day feeling sorry for myself. Why not? Because it turns out it was mostly a job taking phone orders for flower deliveries. Blech. I hate phone jobs. The silver lining was when a guy came in to order flowers for my best friend's roommate. This roommate had already told him she wasn't really interested, but he was persisting by sending her flowers. I tried to help him pick something out that would be her style and not too overbearing. Yah, I totally rock, cuz they're married now.

CHEESY ART MATBOARD CUTTER - Just as I was almost finishing up the temp job at the florist, I found a job. It was a half hour away in a nearby town. The commute was up a steep, narrow, snowy mountain road during February in a falling rock-y canyon. The pay was half what I was hoping for. But it was a job. So I took it and for a week I had to try to juggle both jobs until the florist shop one was over. Figures that there would be a dearth of jobs followed by a scheduling conflict for two. Did I mention the new job was cutting the matboard, or rather, running the matboard cutting machine at a company that made framed art? And was it cool art? No, of course not. It was "western" art full of cowboys and cattle and deer and eagles and all that. Stuff that makes you think of either going hunting or feeding your employer to a bear. When I wasn't choosing coordinating faux leather mats for posters of sweeping western landscapes, I was working with religious art. Lots and lots of Greg Olsen. Gag! But it was okay because I got to talk to my co-workers during my mind numbing job. Co-workers who were both dorky guys with a lack of social skills. It was occasionally interesting when one of the guys explained about why he kind of had two first names. I'm glad my mother never ran off with me because of a custody dispute and changed my name to keep a low profile for most of my childhood.

I have a fabulous trophy from my days up commuting up that mountain road. Once there was some falling rock that rolled out into the road a few cars ahead of me. The tires of the car ahead of me hit one rock and it started bouncing. There was nothing I could do to avoid it and I hit the rock. When I checked for damage, I saw none and the car ran fine, so I went on my merry way. Next time M and I washed the car, we discovered that the rock had broken through the plastic grill and lodged between the grill and the radiator. Then the grill had closed itself back up again so that it was hard to notice. I am SO lucky it didn't punch a hole in the radiator. But I'd been driving around with a rock a little bigger than a softball embedded deep in the bowels of my front end!

MATH AND CHEMISTRY TASKMASTER TUTOR - When the end of the semester arrived, M and I decided to spend the summer living at my parents house. Since neither of us had a job (or at least not one worth mentioning), we figured we'd come out ahead not paying rent and flipping burgers for $12 an hour in Silicon Valley all summer. Once we got there, M and I both got jobs tutoring a couple different kids in math and science.

OVERPRICED KITCHEN STORE EMPLOYEE/PUSHY BARTENDER - M and I both looked for a little more work than simply tutoring for an hour a day. I got a job working at a certain overpriced kitchen store in the local yuppie mall. This was with a certain store with a hyphen in the name and a variety of mispronunciations out there. They brought all the confusion on themselves, really, what with the excessively awkward name. But anyway, I had been very up front during the hiring process about my availability and the very first schedule with me on it had me working on Sunday. The ONLY day of the week I had told them I couldn't work (for religious reasons). The manager was all huffy about changing it like it was my fault or something. It only got worse from there. Turns out they would schedule me in for about 4 hours a week as "on call." Which basically means not often enough to be useful. The morning of I would have to call in to see if they needed me. I couldn't make plans in case they said yes, but they almost never did. And when by some miracle they actually would have me come in to work, I would spend the whole time making and hocking samples of margarita mix. After the first two weeks, the manager chewed me out for calling to ask about my schedule for the upcoming week. I know! How dare I call them on the telephone! "The thing was, um, I didn't get called in to work at all last week, so I couldn't check the schedule while I was there..." Apparently I was supposed to drive all the way to work on a day off at the beginning of the week basically every week so I could check which 4 hours of the week I could hope and dream that I would be called in to wander around accosting customers and pouring virgin margaritas. The job didn't last long (imagine that!), but I did get an awesome serving bowl set and an oil and vinegar spout with my employee discount.

CHAIN TUTOR - Finally, things started looking up for us that summer. M got an internship and I got a job working about 30 hours a week doing advanced math tutoring and curriculum preparation for a well known tutoring chain. It was great! I got paid a decent amount and I got to help kids with math - pretty much my dream job.

CHAIN TUTOR, THE SEQUEL - Then the summer ended and we moved back to Utah. I had to take a cut in pay and hours, but I got to transfer to a different location of the same tutoring chain. Oh. MAN. This experience cemented my refusal to live in Utah long term, or worse, raise my kids there. The kids in California had been sweet, cooperative, enthusiastic, and well-behaved. I mean, occasionally the kids would get a little chatty, but that was it. In Utah, I spent most of my time dealing with behavior issues. Believe me, you can't teach much about the quadratic equation when a kid won't even stay in his seat. These kids didn't need a tutor, they needed a drill sergeant. Seriously, don't spend $40+ an hour on tutoring for your kid if what they really need is a smacked bottom. In California, the kids went and got their own books from the shelf and were allowed bathroom breaks. In Utah, I had to have TA's get the books so the kids wouldn't disappear between the desk and the bookshelf. And in Utah, I couldn't even let the kids go to the bathroom unless it was an absolute emergency. Also, I was pregnant for both tutoring experiences, so I really appreciated that I could go use the bathroom in California if nature called by just asking another teacher to watch my table while my students responsibly sat and did their work. In Utah, things were so crazy, I had to wait for the 10 minute "passing period" which was always full of me frantically scribbling in the kids' progress binders. UGH. It didn't help that in Utah there weren't enough math students to keep me busy, so they had to have me teach "study skills" which was a code word for "kids who refuse to do their work." These kids didn't need me to lecture them about writing their goals on index cards, they needed to be thrown out on the street for a few nights to fend for themselves without a high school diploma. You can only have a useful conversation for so long with a kid who tells you that he doesn't need to do well in school because he's going to be a rock star. My brain still hurts just thinking about it. Eventually our discussions degraded into a long line of jokes about government cheese and living in a van down by the river. Where, oh where did the kids trying to get ahead in math go? The boy who was trying his hand at Trig to get a jump start for the new school year? The 10 year old who was doing Algebra? Apparently they don't exist in Utah. Or maybe their parents just all had the sense to move away from Utah...

Our income taxes were really exciting that year. Between M and I we had SEVEN W2's. It was even worse than the year before when we had to file income taxes in three different states. (This time it was only two states.) It was especially exciting because the matboard company didn't send me a W2. I had to track them down and pester them and when they finally sent me my W2, parts of it were handwritten. Nothing unprofessional there, no no.

Then, Claire was born and I took on a new role:

DOMESTIC ENGINEER - Which brings us to the present. *sigh of relief* I may complain about my current employment, but really, it's my favorite so far. I'm not sure if that speaks to the quality of being a stay-at-home-mom, or the horrors of my past employment...

I know my employment history probably pales in comparison to some. What's in your repertoire? Tell me about your most off-the-wall job.


Corbett Family said...

Mine isn't quite as colorful as yours (cashier at a big box store, lots of office jobs, lots of jobs as a law clerk until I graduated, etc.), but I did have a short stint as a math tutor one summer. Since my degree was in Humanities/English, that tells you how desperate they were at Dixie College for Math tutors--but at least these were high school and college students who mostly wanted to do well.

CurtisGibby said...

Hey, I went to high school in Utah and did all of the advanced math classes possible. You make the Beehive State sound like a place where no one could add two and two to get... I know this one... five?

Your blog posts are very opinionated, but you're entitled to that. Good thing it's a blog and not television news like most of my writing. (Oh, great, now you're going to go off on TV news.)

My lifetime resume looks downright boring compared to yours:

1. Upholstery stripper/deliveryman
2. Secretary for lawyer
3. Teleprompter operator
4. Video store employee
5. Network administrator/webmaster
6. DI employee
7. Web Editor
8. News Producer

A said...

Hey G, glad you found me! I was scared to comment in case you didn't remember me .. weird I know. Those flowers are still a debate every now and then when we are remembering Valentines past...

Leann said...

LOL... I totally forgot about those flowers! That's so funny... I remember when you called to tell me, and I talked to our other roommate about it, trying to decide if we should tell her. hahahaha. Good times. Don't miss being single!

Most off the wall job? ... Let me think about it, mine were pretty boring.

Bart said...

Brain overload - too much to comment on: matchmaking, Utah's job market, Utah's kids, tutoring, overqualified job seekers, multiple W-2's, etc.

Okay, I will just say that Utah's job market artificially deflates wages due to a bunch of qualified people who won't move away for anything. We've heard Boston is the same way, so we crossed it off our list of possible places to live. If I'm going to put in the time, I want competitive compensation. Ya' know?

azufelt said...

I think my favorite off the wall job experience would have to be...

A summer job working at a mail-order collectibles company. You know, the type where you can order like Snoopy blankets and garfield accessories.

Alright, well, I GOT to open all the mail that came in and sort checks, cash and orders. (Fun, right?) We used these gigantic automated machines that sucked the envelope, cut it, opened it, and we jsut had to pluck the inards from it.

I got in trouble like every week for talking too much. They said that that I couldn't work as efficiently while talking. Except my company was a middle aged woman, another girl my age and a retired man. I was the fasted mail opener/ sorter they had ever seen! Except, I still had to go into the office from time to time to be lectured about talking too much (it's a problem that has plagued me my whole life!)

It was totally ghetto, for for $10+/her... who's complaining. It was better than the previous positiion which was photo processing at the W. Which I also semi-enjoyed but when they wouldn't give me the day off to go river rafting with the YSA, I quite. (good job etiquette, huh?)

I'll have to post my few other job experiences sometime on my site!