My Career Path

I recently came across this article from the Daily Mail, a tabloid-like publication based in the UK. It talked about the worst-paying jobs in the U.S., and I couldn’t say I was terribly surprised by the list:

From a shampooer in Baltimore to an usher in Atlantic City: The ten worst-paying jobs in the U.S – and they’re mostly on the coasts

The list includes fast-food cooks in CA, dishwashers in Las Vegas, and hosts/hostesses in SC. I recalled the news reports back in august, when fast-food employees conducted walkouts in nearly 60 cities, demanding an increase of pay from $7.25/hr to $15/hr.

I’ve never considered jobs like these to be a long-term career…rather something I could do as a young student with minimal skills seeking to earn some extra cash.

My first job was with the Open Space and Mountain Parks division of the City of Boulder as a Junior Ranger. My friend had already worked one summer in the program, and after acknowledging this was one of few options for a 14-year-old to work for money (silly child labor laws), I submitted my application, completed the rigorous interview process, and was accepted.

In retrospect, we looked like little delinquents—kids in juvenile detention in some sort of community service program. My uniform consisted of a brightly-colored t-shirt, some Carhartt’s (purchased at the Boulder Army Surplus Store) and my hard hat. My backpack contained a sack lunch, and 4-6 frozen water bottles which would gradually melt during the day. After our morning stretches, we grabbed either a pic or a McLeod, or a pickaxe, and started hiking to our trail. Sometimes the trail was flat, other times you set off briskly on rocky uphill paths like Sanitas.

natalie-junior-rangers-open-space-mountain-parks

I think it’s important to note that I’m not a fan of hard labor or hiking, so taking a job that encompassed both is quite comical. I worked hard for that $5/hr (after three years that increased to $5.75/hr).

But it wasn’t until I worked for a major coffee chain that I would finally rake in $7/hr as a barista, gaining $9 when I was promoted to Shift Supervisor. With the exception of the 4:30am shifts, I liked the job…it definitely gave me the push (and confidence) to purchase my own espresso machine.

After that, I realized I’d better start looking for positions that aided my long-term career goals. I wasn’t entirely sure what those were yet, but I knew that core responsibilities (like leadership, project management) would be useful in any industry. I was nearing the completion of my degree, and I knew it’d be important on my resumé.

I took a job as the Marketing Director for a small game development company. This was a time of rapid growth—I taught myself HTML, learned about various programming languages, and attended my first industry conference. I read books about SEO, and I botched my first serious Google Adwords campaign (but who hasn’t). I learned enough internet jargon to mingle with industry veterans over coffee (I wasn’t yet 21, so cocktails were out of the question). Much of the skills I learned during this time are those that I now teach to others in my current position.

Now I work in digital marketing and project management for a large (and still growing) publication & media company. Though I’ve worked for the same boss for nearly 6 years now, my role has changed quite a bit from the early days of being a part-time content manager while I attended graduate school for my MBA.

For me, I enjoy constantly learning and progressing—that’s what I feel a career should be. Something that not only holds your interest and passion, but takes you somewhere. When I spent that summer in the Disney parking lot as a college intern, there were a few folks who had already spent several of their summers driving between the Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Grumpy lots; they were the ‘old-timers,’ who never minded the job much, and came to work knowing that they’d be doing the same thing in 10 years that they were doing now.

I just can’t live like that.

I suppose the point of this post is to reflect on continually improving upon yourself. Don’t settle on your retail job as a long-term career path. Find your passion and explore it…otherwise, what is the point?