I had had several jobs before my recent decent into freelancedom.
The reason why I had several jobs is because like most early twenty-somethings I decided that the career path I was on, the career I went to college for, was not right for me.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
I went to college for screenwriting, but ended up in Los Angeles as a personal assistant to famous people. I had completely lost sight of any goals or dreams while working that job. Actually, I really had no idea what my goals and dreams were, but the stress of my job prevented me from thinking about anything other than if my boss was taken care of and if I would die a sad, lonely spinster.
After many years of drinking myself to sleep, it finally dawned on me how miserable I was and I left my career. Finding myself now 25 years old and absolutely clueless as to what to do next, I worked a series of jobs that I thought would interest me (they didn’t) OR just plain ol’ paid the bills (hence my resentment towards children supported by their parents). That time period, or what I like to call “The Time I Talked A Lot About Myself In Order to Feel Some Sort of Validation From Others”, ” propelled my spontaneous move to Austin, Texas.
The career-type jobs I typically kept for 1-2 years. Moving from job to job every year or so was stressful, but the unhappiness I felt at each job would become too much.
“What the f am I doing here?” I’d ask myself in the bathroom mirror, a ritual I began after realizing that the bathroom was way more interesting than any desk I ever sat at. I would look at my friends who were already 4-6 years into their job and wonder why I couldn’t be that way, why I couldn’t just settle down to a nice corporate job with benefits and 2 weeks vacation and decent pay.
It was because it wasn’t right for me. Even before I knew that, my subconscious did.
It took me 28 years to finally listen to myself and realize what the hell I wanted to do with my life. I’m still broke as shit, but at least I love what I’m doing.
Because I jumped around between jobs, I learned a lot. I learned what fields I don’t want to work in (law, fashion, fashion law), I learned what not to wear (OP shorts) and I learned what not to say to your boss (“You’re mentally abusive!”- but he kind of deserved that). For you twenty-somethings still figuring out what the hell you want to do with your life and find yourselves jumping around from job to job like I did, here are some pointers on what to do and what not to do:
1.) Act Like Your Last Two Weeks Are NOT Your Last Two Weeks
Once you give your two weeks notice to a job, it’s difficult to give a shit about it, right? You half-ass your work, come in late or leave early and sit at your desk pantless. I learned the hard way that this is a big no-no. I actually gave a month notice to one job, but spent that last month mostly surfing the Internet. I did my basic duties, but didn’t go beyond that. When the time came to leave and I asked one of my superiors to write me a letter of recommendation she said she couldn’t because of my behavior the last month I was there. Half of this was because she was a high-strung snob and I was able to get my other superior to write me a recommendation. It did teach me a valuable lesson though, always be professional and work hard your last two weeks. You don’t want your last two weeks to overshadow all the other work you did there.
2.) Don’t Wear Tan Bodysuits
Even though I live in Austin, Texas, “The City Of Dudes Wearing Leopard Print Thongs”, I’ve learned that there are clothing items that shouldn’t be worn to work. One job pulled me aside and had a talk with me about my tan bodysuit. It was too distracting. They thought I walked into the office with no shirt on. Considering I don’t have nipples drawn on my bodysuit, they should have realized that I am not made of plastic and was indeed wearing a top. I also was lectured about wearing high-waisted OP-style shorts. I’m guessing this was more out of concern for my fashion sense than anything else. Lesson learned- don’t wear anything from American Apparel to work.
3.) That When You Have to Go to Therapy For a Job, Maybe It’s Time to Find a New One
When I was a personal assistant in LA, I became so stressed out I sought a counselor to help me through it. I respected the massive confidentiality agreements I had signed, so I did not have the normal outlet of venting to friends and family about work. Plus, my job was so specific that complaining to a friend that, “the co-dependency I’m developing with my needy boss is beginning to make me go insane” just didn’t seem like something they’d understand. If you have to see a therapist because of your job, it’s probably a good indicator that it is not right for you. I was so young and so determined to make my job work that I didn’t realize I should leave. Therapy didn’t make me leave my job, but learning more about myself helped me to make the decision to leave two years later.
4.) If You Don’t Like Your Career, Don’t Do It
I know this is easier said than done, but my biggest fear was waking up one day at forty stuck in a career I hated and waiting for Death to take me. We only have one shot at this life and why not enjoy it? As I mentioned earlier, I’m broke as fuck, but right now I’m living the life I want to live and that is worth its weight in gold (cut to me at sixty with no retirement package and eating out of dumpsters). Though going the freelance route has been scary, thinking about my days as a cubicle monkey makes me shudder. I hope I never have to go back there. I will if I have to, but I will not like it, dammit! *Note- though I am not making amazing money, I am paying for health care for myself and planning on starting an IRA soon. You can be responsible even when you’re not making a lot of money.
5.) Any Job is Better Than No Job
There have been a few jobs I’ve not been excited about, but I needed them to pay the bills while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve had many friends who milked unemployment while they DIDN’T look for a job and DIDN’T do anything constructive or creative in that time we were paying for them to do nothing with their lives. F’ em. I have way more respect for someone working at McDonald’s or Walmart than not doing anything at all. I have debts and I have bills and no one pays them other than me, bitch.