Careening through Career Changes

02 Feb


During a conversation with my Domestic CEO, I counted up how many real jobs I’ve had in my short half century plus of life. It came up to 12, not counting different jobs within the same company. That would add 8 to the total. But let’s stick with the 12 companies.

At the tender age of a baker’s dozen years I got my first paying job. I worked as a gardener for a wealthy couple who were getting long in years. They needed a strong back and a weak mind to help with their award-winning iris garden. The fact that I was only allowed in the irises when one of them was present should have told me something. But, I mowed the lawn and carried compost all summer and was paid for it. How cool was that?

A few years later I spent two summers working at a theme park in the games area. As a lead for Poppa Balloon and Lilly’s Pad, I managed others for the first time (at 16 YOA!). To this day I can recite our call-in’s: “Three balls for twenty-five cents, fifteen for a dollar. All it takes is one ball in to win here at Lilly’s Pad.” Carnival games and those who run them are an interesting lot.

Next came a cookie factory that during WWII turned out millions of crackers for the military. While I was there we made cookies filled with flavored “fig jam”. To this day I cannot eat anything that resembles these cookies. I have stories that would curl your hair.

Somewhere during college on my way to a degree in Professional Biology, I started working on ambulances. In total I worked for four companies, from small farm communities in Iowa to metro Denver, Colorado. I even did a stint as a fire dispatch supervisor.

Then the big career change came and I went from emergency medicine to finance and banking. Now how that happened is a long story! It involves a girl who was in love with a fireman, her father the vice-president of a finance company, and fire dispatch supervisor who wanted to stay married by getting a daytime job. Short version is, who you know is more important than what you know!

So, a finance company, a credit union, and two banks later, I’ve actually come full circle as my current position is in business continuity and disaster recovery. Somewhere during my first banking job, in between writing mortgage loans, I cranked out 33,000 words on an unfinished novel. That was my first real writing. I wrote two editorial pieces that I wanted to send in to the Denver Post, but decided against it as they were pretty harsh. These first few writing attempts were the crack in the dam. The crack has been widening ever since.

Getting back to the original conversation, it dawned on me how varied some of my jobs have been. Every job required me to deal with people one on one. Much of it under stress and extreme conditions. It is the variety that provides grist for the writing mill. It has been an interesting ride so far.

How many jobs have you had? Were they in your field of study? Any unusual ones that have affected you in an unexpected way?


Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Musings and Odd Thoughts


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23 responses to “Careening through Career Changes

  1. Nicolette

    February 2, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Lol, I started writing and ended up doing my own post. The short of it is: I’m catching up to you! 😉

  2. sknicholls

    February 2, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Nurses tend to burn out and move on fairly quickly. The nice thing about the profession as a career choice is the diversity in the same profession. From pediatrics to geriatrics, from ER to hospice, there is always something new and interesting, but with the same skill set.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:10 am

      That is true. I remember seeing a bumper sticker when I worked on the ambulance that read, “Starve with dignity, be a nurse.” So sad but true. Things are a little better now but out side of being an MD, slaries in the medical community are still weak.

      • sknicholls

        February 3, 2014 at 10:18 am

        When I got out of the workforce, seasoned nurses were expected to take salaries of grad nurses. Sad but true.

  3. change it up editing

    February 2, 2014 at 11:14 am

    The jobs we have before we have “real” jobs can be pretty interesting, as yours proved to be, Dennis. My first job (I was 12) was as a mother’s helper to a woman who was seven months pregnant and had a toddler; I was hired to “do whatever,” which included cleaning the bathrooms. I managed to avoid them the first few weeks by being busy doing other things, and after about three weeks, she asked me to start with cleaning the toilets each time I came. I think I lasted another four weeks before I found a less-disgusting job at the local beauty salon, where I swept the floor, cleaned brushes, filled shampoo bottles, etc. Many years later when I was seven months pregnant, I realized how frustrated that poor woman had been when I wouldn’t clean the toilets. That job made me forever respectful of people who clean houses for a living! And, as you wrote, provided some grist for the writing mill.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:13 am

      Ah, yes. Sometimes we can’t understand just how important a job is until we need it done and have to do it ourselves.

  4. Pete Denton

    February 2, 2014 at 11:57 am

    That is a varied career to say the least!

    I’ve only worked for two different employers. My current one for over 26 years. Many different jobs during that time doing a variety of things. Seems tame by comparison 🙂

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:17 am

      I didn’t include the different jobs within the individual companies. That would have double the number. I’m currently at 19 years with this company and have had seven positions as varied as you can get. I also left off a few part-time gigs like being a ‘mudman’ for a brick mason and driving a limo in Chicago. Each one was interesting and showed me something new about my self and others.

      • Pete Denton

        February 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm

        I like the ‘mudman’ title. sounds like a character from some graphic novel!

      • Dennis Langley

        February 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

        After a day of mixing and carrying mortar, it’s an apt description.

  5. robincoyle

    February 2, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Not counting my jobs as mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, I’ve had seven jobs. I’ve never stopped to count them up! That was a good question.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:19 am

      I think being a wife and mother pretty well covers every position I ever had all in one shot. It is definitely the toughest job I’ve ever seen. I salute you.

  6. 4amWriter

    February 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I rarely chose well in the job department, unfortunately. I’ve done a lot of waitressing/bartending, and I’ve worked in a medical office, and I worked in a sub shop, more waitressing. I think I was not a happy employee because I was constantly wanting to be writing instead. That’s not to say I was unreliable or a pain in the ass or disrespectful — in fact, I always got glowing recommendations and reviews — but I was so, so, so miserable. The best job I have had that has nothing to do with writing is being a mom. I chose well there. 🙂

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:21 am

      It seems like the career picked you. That’s nice to hear. Also, as I told Robin, that mother thing pretty well trumps all other jobs. 🙂

  7. char

    February 2, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Wow! You’ve been around the career merry go round. That will give you lots of info to use in writing (or to keep out of your writing…ha ha). The worst job I had was in college–cleaning bathrooms at 4am in this huge medical buliding. Creeped me out to be going floor to floor in the dark all by myself (especially when I had to go into classrooms with skeletons and cadavers in them). I always thought the boogie man would jump out at me. And then during the day I always fell asleep whenever anyone talked to me. I wasn’t sad to move on from that.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:25 am

      I have no doubt there is a story or two in that job. It’s amazing what we are willing to do to make ends meet. I too have a story or three that deal with morgues in the darkest hours of the night. But, those are for another time. 😉

  8. Matthew Wright

    February 3, 2014 at 12:00 am

    You’ve had an astonishing series of career shifts! All interesting though – and I guess that’s one of the key things to enjoying work.

    I’ve worked in all sorts of places – for a trucking company, as a presenter/actor and doing orchard work among them. The weirdest job interview I ever had was in 1983 when I fronted up to the local Forest Service office, knowing they were looking for a historian. ‘Can you do anything?’ ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘Even rip tree stumps out with a bulldozer?’ ‘Happy to tackle it.’ That got me a job (we might call it an ‘internship’ these days) as a historian/writer. Part of it involved my contributing historical data to early scientific climate studies. My geeky nature started early… 🙂

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 7:30 am

      It does not surprise me that you would have a varied list of jobs. We geeks tend to start early. The first book of any kind that I read cover to cover was not a novel, or even a story book, it was “Petersen’s Guide to North American Mammals”!

  9. shelleyhazen83

    February 3, 2014 at 8:10 am

    I haven’t had too many – since 17, I’ve been a cashier, a waitress and a cook (in college). Since college I actually worked in my chosen career field – reporter – then suffered a moment of insanity and worked as a secretary/adult babysitter for three years. I finally came to my senses last summer and now I’m back plugging at this writing thing. If I’ve learned anything it’s that we often don’t know what’s best for us, and that life is too short not to follow your dreams.

    By the way, you’ve made me very curious about what’s in that iris garden…

    • Dennis Langley

      February 3, 2014 at 8:20 am

      So true about life being too short not to chase our dreams. Go for it NOW! Don’t wait.

      The couple I worked for were growers/hybridizers. They won numerous Illinois State Championships. Very beautiful stuff. Wish I knew then what I know now.

      • shelleyhazen83

        February 3, 2014 at 8:23 am

        Oh..I thought it would much more sinister than that… Guess I have an overactive imagination. I was thinking they buried the neighbors in their iris beds to enrich the soil or something… 🙂

      • Dennis Langley

        February 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

        Sounds a little like the Secret Window and the sweet corn. *shivers*


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