Friday, March 25, 2011

My Work Life, in a Nutshell

Minus the names, dates and locations, here’s the essence of my CV.

Newsboy. Delivered the morning paper—sometimes in the snow. I learned: How to use an alarm clock, that the job must be done—regardless of the weather, collecting and handling money.

Car Detailer. Washed and detailed our neighbor’s car. I learned: How to take the time to do a job right (it leads to satisfaction—and repeat business).

Dishwasher and Busboy. My first fulltime job before college, in a busy downtown lunch place. I learned: Efficiency, organization, routine, commuting and how to polish silverware to perfection.

Bike Messenger. Delivered packages downtown. I learned: Show up daily and work hard and you’ll rise to the top, the layout of the downtown street grid, why they put multiple gears on bicycles and not to overinflate your tires.

Learned from from the previous two jobs: The value of a college education.

College Student. Started in the Music department but ended up with an English degree (summa cum laude). Learned: To support myself (part-time dishwashing, office work), turn in assignments on time, balance work and study, write quickly and clearly. Published a book review.

Kibbutznik. In the middle of college, spent almost a year in Israel feeding animals, driving tractors and learning Hebrew. I learned: A second language, work planning, the ups and downs of farm life, international travel, effective hitchhiking.

Antiquarian Bookseller. After college, worked for a leading rare book dealer. I learned: To wear a suit, tie a tie, work in a team, assist customers and a lot about old books and prints.

Antiquarian Bookseller Startup Staff. Worked for a fellow former employee of above. I learned: How to run an office, relocate an office, set up and use a pc, write book descriptions, design and produce catalogs, manage a mailing list, wrap and ship packages, use a hand truck and a postage meter.

Telephone Salesman. Sold phones, phone systems and answering machines. I learned: How to serve customers with expertise, structure my time and sell on the phone and in person.

Sports Marketing Employee. Worked for an NBA franchise. Started with mailing tickets, but moved on to network administration, ombudsman, editor and publisher. I learned: The power of organized teamwork, top notch customer service, magazine editing and writing, effective interviewing, how to manage people who didn’t report to me.

Automotive Journalist. During this time, I started a weekly newspaper column. Tested cars and wrote about them. Still doing this today. I learned how to work with weekly deadlines, write the essence of a subject quickly, interview experts and network with auto manufacturers, fleet managers and publications. Co-founded the Western Automotive Journalists.

Sports Startup Marketer. I was jack-of-all-writing-trades for a startup hockey team. I learned: To wear many hats, inflate a 60-foot tall mascot, program a freeway-visible electric sign, how the Zamboni machine works.

Newspaper Advertising—Outside Salesperson. Sold ads for the local paper. I learned: To manage a territory, prospect, follow up, more about deadlines, even more about customer service, how not to take rejection personally, that small community newspapers pay less but are much nicer to work for.

Auto Textbook Editor. Edited the work of tech writers. I learned: Enhanced computer skills, coordinating work with writers, how to job search in a pinch.

Technical Writer I. Produced documentation and online help for major software company as a member of a writing team. I learned: How to jump in the deep end of the pool and swim; work effectively with engineers, product managers and quality assurance people; manage constant change; understand and use documentation software of various kinds; how to move to single sourcing; the salvation of “the next release.”

Employee Communications Manager. Wrote and managed stories for a biotech company’s intranet and email. I learned: How to select and refine a story, place it on an intranet site, and edit HTML.

Technical Writer II. Returned to this role for a small company as a sole writer. I learned: How to select and implement a single sourcing program for online help.

What’s next?


CathyB said...

Love this. I could comment on several of them, maybe later. (Okay - Zamboni? Wow.)

Recently I made a list of jobs and volunteer experiences and noted what "lit me up" about each one. That was useful also.

Steve Schaefer said...

I was planning to "test drive" the Zamboni but it never happened. I'd love to hear your comments. If I talked about being "lit up" it would include blogging and performing music, both of which I am doing today essentially for free. Thanks.