Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Great Employment Journey

I've done just about everything. Factory, where I envied the shipping clerk for seemingly never having to do anything. Restaurant, which was supposed to be a part-time gig to supplement my income as a freelance photographer and turned into a long adventure in management and how not to do things. Retail shipping, where I spent most of the day doing data entry and mail sorting. UPS, where I did just about everything, because I could. Shipping/Receiving, where I discovered that it was more work than it looked like, with lots of data entry and headaches. Back to retail at a couple gigs, just until I got something better. Farming, which I should have done from the beginning, where I did just about everything imaginable and a few things nobody wants to think about. Temping at a pumpkin patch and a tree lot. One of those two actually made me money. Now back to UPS and trying to figure out which way I want to go for a second job.

It's funny how things fall together. As you can see, I've done almost every possible career in shipping without piloting a plane or sitting in an office tracking inbound and outbound.

I've discovered that I'm too high-energy for a desk job. I tried being a file clerk for all of about five minutes. That one I ran screaming from when I discovered I couldn't stay awake at my desk.

When I was a kid, my dad told me if I wanted any more "critters," that I'd have to go work on a farm. It took until my 30's, but I knocked that off the list. Before my grandfather passed, he told me to "get a good union job." I quit my job as an assistant manager at The UPS Store to go work for UPS because of his advice and because when you work at a UPS Store, you meet a lot of UPS drivers... who are all bad influences, by the way! My mom was the photography lover in the family before me.

I went to school for agriculture and now I'm questioning if I ever want to go back into the industry. I was good at it. Very good. Of course, I've been good at every job I've ever had. I hope that's not too egotistical of me to say, but years of experience builds self-confidence. The last two jobs I've gotten, I just walked in and took. This current one, there was a little doubt because they lay a lot of people off after the busy season, but I knew the job was there for the taking if only I managed to get above the cutoff number.

I was reflecting on this the past few days since the busy season is over at UPS and I'm still standing. I ended up doing something completely different than either of the chosen careers I had in high school. I did something completely different than the jobs others had that I envied in my youth. I'm doing something completely different than what I went to college for and like it so much that I'm questioning whether or not I want to go back into the "chosen" industry after being burned with a layoff earlier this year.

I just keep thinking, "I'm good here. I fit here." It's good to feel like you belong in your place of employment. That was not the case the first time I worked for UPS. Not at first, but after about a year, people started to regard me as a thorn in their sides and I went from the superstar who would do whatever was asked of her to the blacklisted employee they couldn't fire because of the union.

It wasn't all their fault. Most of the managers there knew me and my work ethic and wouldn't give me crap just based on who I associated with. It was my fault after all, I was dating one of their drivers and socialized with many more of them. I came into the job knowing the game and continued to learn more and more about the business by simply watching the management. People don't realize how much you can learn by watching and listening when nobody notices you're there. Not that I was spying, but management didn't go to lengths to hide their discussions, they'd just stop on the load line and unload on each other, thinking the employees were too busy to notice or care.

After a while, it didn't matter that I was doing one of the most highly-skilled jobs on our shift. It didn't matter that I always volunteered for extra work, always showed up on time and only once took a vacation in three and a half years. At some point, the managers who knew me and appreciated me started retiring and the replacements weren't warm and fuzzy on my existence. I was a reminder of things they'd rather forget... and I wonder if the married pair of drivers I worked with went through the same thing. They started upping my production quotas, even knowing that I was clerking my own packages and nobody else in the building could do so. They didn't like that I knew the management lingo and I'd use their terminology in conversations better than some of them did. They didn't like that I had the personal cell phone number of the hazmat responder (who was also a thorn in their side) and would call for leaker response rather than having to track down a manager to do it.

To their credit, they tolerated my warped sense of humor. I showed up in a hazmat placard shirt that read "spontaneously combustible" on it and would proclaim to my coworkers in the prework meetings that occurred halfway through the shift that if they saw me, they needed to evacuate the building. They weren't amused when I showed up in a shirt that read, "I'm bringing sexy back, there was nobody there to sign for it." They really didn't appreciate when I showed up in a FedEx jacket on Halloween one year. They didn't like it when I gave the union shop steward rides home from work. But I was one of them, I did my job, did it well and rarely complained. I was on every employee committee that existed.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave. I didn't think I was going to be allowed to transfer and we were planning a move. There are good and bad aspects to that. I got to farm for three and a half years, but I also had to wait years to get an interview with UPS here. When I did, I had weeks of waiting, a week of on-call and 7 weeks of waiting to find out if I was going to be kept beyond temp season.

It's nice to be able to start over with a group of people that don't think less of me for being married to a former driver. It's nice to be able to be a part of the group where there's not a single person in management that's an uncontrollable screamer when things go sideways. It's nice to be a part of a group again, even if I am still trying to establish myself in the social circles of the group, especially considering I'm not 21 like many of the people in my job classification. I'm not saying that the job is easier, or more relaxed or less stressful, but good company makes any job better. People actually appreciate my snark and humor. These people I work with... they're the best, not the "leastbest."

I know where I plan on going with UPS. Now I just need to decide where I'm going with my days.

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