Jobs I Have Done

I looked over my resume and saw that, although all the information there is accurate, it does not adequately present the full scope of my employment history.  I am now a quarter-century old, and I realize that work has been the driver for many of my experiences and adventures over the last few years.  In the interest of context, here is a list of Jobs I Have Done that don’t necessarily appear on my resume.

2011-2012: Hustler.  My mate JW came back to college from Christmas break with a great idea: he, myself, and PM would start a franchise of a textbook buyback company to compete with the bookstore.  Textbooks are heinously expensive, and basically useless after the course is complete, so there’s a significant market to buy popular textbooks in good condition and resell them at a markdown as used books the next year.  We signed ourselves up to be buyers for the Haverford branch of BT Books, and a week before finals started Sal showed up on campus to train us on the business.  If you imagine a guy named Sal who runs a textbook purchasing business covering Eastern Pennsylvania out of the trunk of a beater Toyota Camry, you can visualize him pretty well.  He showed up on campus, gave us bar code scanners, canvas bags, and a wad of $5000 in small bills, and told us to get to work and hit our quotas.  Throughout finals week we were constantly on call: people would take their finals and then call us to come, scan their books to figure out the price, and then pay cash on the spot.  Cheerfulness and flexibility were the hallmarks of this company, and at one point I was called to hike off-campus to buy a stack of economics textbooks from a lacrosse player so that he could duck into a liquor store and convert Principles of Free Markets into Beer.

The job was exhausting but we got paid a lump sum.  We signed up again to do it, and the next year Sal was driving a white Cadillac Escalade with big rims.  Halfway through finals week the Haverford bookstore, which ran its own buyback program, got wind of the fact that we were competing with them for sales.  We were summoned to meet with the director of the bookstore, who was polite yet furious; a terrifying combination.  We called up BT Books to explain the situation, and the first thing they told us was that we should keep buying—if the school tried to intervene again, they would sue.  “Look, guys, you don’t understand,” we said, “this is a small school.  We have to live here.   I gotta buy my ramen noodles and pencils at this bookstore.”   We quit after that.  I calculated afterwards that I made roughly $3.50/hour doing this job.

2011: Medical Lab Technician.  After my sophomore year of college I received a grant to go to Uganda and do good works there.  I got an internship working for a non-profit that did HIV/AIDS testing, counseling, and medical treatment.  On my first day there I was told that I would be most useful working in the medical lab: performing AIDS tests, drawing blood samples from HIV-positive patients, and making microscope slides to scan patients for malaria and tuberculosis.  I pointed out that I was 19 years old and had no medical training at all, but I was assured this wasn’t a problem.  The head doctor rolled up his sleeve, I drew a vacuum flask of blood from the crook of his arm, and I was pronounced proficient.  Clinic days were on Mondays and Wednesdays, and I estimate that I drew blood from over 700 people that summer.  On Thursdays we packed into the back of a Land Rover to do clinical outreach, and I bounced along laterite roads deep into villages to do the same work on tables wobbling on the gnarly roots of the mango trees we sheltered under.  “Hey,” I thought to myself, “How cool is this?  This might be the life for me.”

2012: Microfinance Operations Manager.  In 2012 I applied for another grant, and was sent to Senegal to work for a microfinance operation that was establishing itself in Dakar.  My only coworker was a bodybuilder from North Carolina who lectured me on the importance of maintaining proper amino acid ratios during the dry season, but didn’t give me a whole lot of insight into evaluating, monitoring, and collecting loans.  Every morning I woke, ate a greasy fried egg with bitter coffee, and hailed a beater taxi to meet with the aspiring entrepreneurs of Pikine, Parcelles Assainies, Mermoz, Yoff and Grand Dakar.  During this job I was blessed by a witch doctor, mugged on the edge of a cliff at machete point, doubled the number of borrowers subscribed to the NGO, and learned how to take care of myself.

2014-2016:  Goatherd.  In 2014 I worked on a goat farm in France on the German border, and loved the experience so much that I returned there in 2016 with my friend PM.  The two of us were backpacking through Europe, and had recently been robbed by a Hungarian taxi driver, stayed in a hostel called the Jetpak Alternativ in Berlin, attended a party of 5000 people with inflatables and strobe lights in a natural hot spring, grown appropriately scruffy beards, and climbed across an avalanche zone to a chalet perched in a col of the Swiss Alps.  The goat farm seemed like a change of pace, and we told my friend the owner, GS, that we were willing to do whatever work needed doing.  We rose at 6h30 every morning and after feeding the goats, shoving them into the milking stocks, and changing their straw we did a different assignment every day.  We drove a Bobcat to shift 500 pound haybales, used sledgehammers to sink splintery fenceposts into the mountainsides, squeezed chunks of whey into molds to make cheese, and built a trapdoor in an attic.

One day GS told us that the electric fence had shorted somewhere in the lower meadow, and we were to herd the flock of 100 goats down there, stuff them in the pen, and then fix the fence.  It took us an hour to flog the uncooperative goats down the hill and shove them into the pasture.   Neither of us had ever worked with electric fences before, and a single trailing wire touching the ground or a wet branch could damage the system.  It began to rain sideways as we checked the fence perimeter for the problem, and each of us was convulsively shocked several times.  The goats figured out that the current was flickering and began to slither under the wires, stampeding up to the barn.  PM and I were flipping out: soaked, electrocuted, and trying to control a flock of rowdy goats.   Before my eyes I saw a bleating goat fall into the root cellar of a long-abandoned over grown cottage: it was like the apocalypse, panicked livestock being pulled to the center of the earth.  I had driven a utility truck down the meadow with our fencing equipment, and the wheels spun in the mud for ten minutes before I finally got the tires to catch and the truck to churn up the hill.  We wrangled the goats back up to the barn and told GS that we’d look at the fence the next day.  His house smelled of cookies; his wife had been baking.  “Come on guys,” he chided us, “Is it really so difficult?”  For this job I was paid in pork chops and sausage, and I enjoyed myself enormously.

2015-2016: Cross-Country Ski Instructor.  I’ve always loved cross-country skiing, and I took a winter job teaching skiing at a groomed course 15 miles outside of Boston.  During the days I waxed and repaired skis, boots and poles, and when called upon I went out to teach lessons.  My students varied enormously from day-to-day, from hour-to-hour even.   I taught a pair of 5 year old Swiss twins who only spoke French.  I taught rangy young racers honing their technique to qualify for the state team and beat our perpetual foes, Vermont.  I taught tourists from India who came in groups of twelve or more and wore jeans, two parkas at a time, and no gloves.   I taught a family from New York who skied down a shallow slope, took their skis off at the bottom, and then hiked up to repeat the cycle again, leaving deep dents in the carefully groomed parallel trails.  I taught a 60 year old woman who took three breaks for hot chocolate in a one hour lesson.  I taught a weekly series with a group of kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester who had grown up in Boston but never done a winter sport before.   I loved it.

I’ve learned the most from jobs where I’ve earned very little money and worked long hours.  A lot of these positions don’t appear on my resume.  I’ve been told to present a coherent career arc that demonstrates my aptitude for my desired post; a string of continuous achievement that leads directly to the exact job I seek today.  The experiences above were all vivid and meaningful to me, and instilled me with a sense of adaptability, curiosity, and hard work.  I’ll have more jobs in the future, but I’ll always carry these jobs with me.


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