Picking the best work experiences I’ve had is easy. I enjoyed the work at the time and look back fondly on my memories. It’s the type of experience I hope my children have, at the least.
The first one was easy – I was a camp counselor the summer after I almost graduated (that’s another blog ;-)). Everyone I knew found this to be hilarious, and some were highly skeptical. They figured I’d teach the kids to drink & smoke. (I have to admit that’s partially true as I let some of the older kids bum cigarettes off me a couple of times.) What these peeps didn’t know is that I always enjoyed being with kids, but there’s not much opportunity for that to happen in college.
I got hired as a tennis instructor, which was a bit of a laugh since I was average at best. I practiced for 2 whole weeks before camp to fix my serve, which resulted in the best serve I’d ever had (overcoming years of lackadaisical practice). I didn’t really care about the tennis teaching – it was everything else about the job that was fun. Being with kids all day long was new but it wasn’t terrible. Some of them were extremely engaging. Some of them were complete and utter douchebags (my bunk got ALL of the bad ones). Each day was an adventure, and I dealt really well with communal living (privacy was non-existent).
I recall very clearly how I felt when I went to sleep on most nights – exhausted, yet satisfied. The money was nothing special – barely $2k for 8 weeks (not counting housing & meals), and the next year I got some $25k/yr job doing a plethora of computer stuff for a PR firm, mainly so I could party in NYC. (I obviously had my priorities straight…) I really enjoyed camp counseling but never considered it again due to the money. (ps that PR job barely lasted 6 months – and I quit that job twice)
The other great job I had was about 5 yrs later. I landed an internship doing tech support for recording music into computers. I might have actually created the internship since I called the company and asked if they needed an intern. That job rocked – it combined 2 of my main interests: music & computers. At the time, I was in the process of racking up a shitload of debt, going back to school to learn audio engineering. (that was DUMB – I could’ve interned in a studio for free and was just looking for a way to skip that)
I loved the job though, poking around computers, troubleshooting hardware and learning every music program on the planet. I got to go to trade shows and chat with other music geeks. There was nothing I didn’t like about the job – it was FUN. And interesting. They liked me too, and started paying me after awhile, and I accepted a job to work fulltime – then the company folded. And the 2nd temp job I had after that led directly to my worst job.
The lesson is simple – doing something that means little to you or doesn’t engage you is a waste of time. And the decisions to take jobs ‘just because’ were all due to a need for money, independence or whatever. That changes over time, and I’m curious to see how well I’ve learned the lesson myself.