Inspired by a recent conversation with a class of first-year students about finding one’s vocation as well as a colleague’s post, I’ll list the eight jobs I held before starting graduate school in sociology. Even though I might not be able to pinpoint the exact details here, I learned something from each job alongside also ruling out jobs that I could not see myself doing for a long period. I did need to earn some money but this was also an interesting path toward ruling out vocational options – not all job trials or internships need to be “successful” in the sense of confirming something positive. Here is the list of paid positions:
- Server in the dining room of a retirement community for roughly 2.5 years. I also did some more independent work where I took food over and served it in the dining rooms of the attached assisted living facility (this position had less pleasant hours with weekend 8 hour shifts starting at 7 AM). I enjoyed a lot of the interactions with residents.
- At the end of high school, I wanted more than the part-time hours I had as a server so I started working at Target. I lasted one month but it is an interesting introduction to retail and customer service.
- Working in the college cafeteria scanning IDs of the students coming in and doing some cleaning after the meals were over. I did this for about two years.
- Working for the college radio station. It usually did not amount to many hours each week but over four years I worked in pretty much every job available at the station – disc jockey, sports play-by-play, sports studio, news writer and reader, talk show host, production manager, promotions at concerts – and enjoyed it enough to later work at the station again.
- One year as the layout editor for the college yearbook.
- One semester as the editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of the college yearbook.
- Two-plus summers in a warehouse for a book publisher. The first summer involved picking items off a line and passing them the conveyor belt. The second summer plus a few months in the fall involved moving up to packing boxes and then driving a forklift after some of the other kids went back to college.
- Two summers working at in an in-patient mental health unit, the first summer as an intern and the second as a psych counselor. An eye-opening position all-around with people doing valuable and difficult work.
This is probably not a well-worn path to becoming a professor but it did help me see a number of other fields.