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Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Starting at the Bottom

One of the things that young people often fail to understand is that the vast majority of (in my case moderately) successful people have to do their share of washing dishes, sweeping floors and mowing lawns in their lifetime.

For good or bad, as we move up the ladder in our chosen professions, these jobs fall off our resumes and are replaced by more recent (and hopefully more prestigious) positions.

I think it would be really helpful to those just starting out, if people fully disclosed every job they ever had. People don't just start out being bank presidents... or television producers... or white house aides; they work their way up to those positions. I am very interested in learning more about the journey that people take to the top (or in my case, the bottom middle) of their professions. Most everyone, I would bet, starts at or near the very bottom.

For what it is worth, here is mine:

High School

High school work study program -- helped clean bathrooms, sweep floors at St. Francis High School to pay for tuition.

Summer work crew, Town of Cheektowaga, NY. (Built wooden bridges and trails in Losson Park).

Diswasher and busboy, Ponderosa Steak House; Taco maker and cashier, Mighty Taco.


Parked cars at a restaurant part time.

Tacos again. Elmwood Taco and Sub. Taco maker and cashier. Worked 6 to 7 days a week, with shifts sometimes as long as 20 hours a stretch (I wish I were exagerating) to pay for college.

Work-study, Audio-visual department (set up VCRs). Only lasted a week -- I changed over to another position.

Work-study, Student Activities Office. 10-20 hours a week.

Stockperson, Campus Bookstore during school breaks.

Bartender, Campus Food Service (for catering events & weddings). I did this off and on another 3 years.

Stockperson, big food market chain, Buffalo, New York. I unloaded trucks (which was not bad) and stocked produce (which was not so good).

Mail delivery guy - delivered mail to an off campus apartment for residence life, earning a few bucks here and there.

Phone call center - I worked for about three weeks at a call center, calling people who didn't pay their bills. For some reason, Fingerhut (a mail order store, I think) was a main client. My fake name was "Chuck Brady," the lost Brady brother (but no perm). I quit (along with two friends who started the job with me) when we realized that the people who succeed in that business are the lowest form of human life.

Night Shift Cleaner - Worked for a buddy who opened a business cleaning Buffet restaurants at night... we would clean 3-4 restaurants a night, with shifts running from 11 pm to 3 or 4 am. One of the worst jobs I ever had because...

Summer Maintenance Crew - Worked with campus facilities to handle landscaping and general maintenance/cleanup. I worked this at the same time as the cleaning job -- I would get home around 4 am and have to be at work at 6am for maintenance. Despite the lack of sleep, this was one of the best jobs I ever had.

Security Guard, Buffalo Zoo. 1 night. The strangest experience of my life. There was about 1,000 keys on a gigantic ring, a gauntlet of potentially life-threatening animals, and a crazy indian maintenance guy who liked to sneak around the zoo at night.

Production line, Niagara Candy. We had a mini production line set up in a mostly abandoned, asbestos filled factory outside of the airport. We took pre-packaged candy and put it into boxes for shipping. I did this one break.

Grad School (I)

Teaching Assistant -- I finagled a half-time position during the second semester of grad school.

Pizza maker, dishwasher, delivery guy - At a pizza place.

Early Career (Washington, DC)

Another one day job: waiter at a gay restaurant (I can hear the jokes now -- one of which being, how can a restaurant be gay?). I knew the owners were gay (and as I have articulated here before, that doesn't bother me), but I was given the understanding that the customer base was "diverse". Unfortunately, I found out that by diversity they meant drag queens, and leather. I YMCA'd myself out of there pretty quickly -- though I did finish my shift. On the positive side, I found out that the restaurant had a sandwich named for Skip, though I never really learned why.

Maintenance guy -- cleaned out rooms at checkout for washington internship program in exchange for free room.

GOP Phone Bank -- called people to hit them up for donations to "the cause."

There are probably some others, but that is what I remember right now. I also worked several unpaid internships, 1 in college with Jack Kemp and another during my DC days working for a member of the House Republican leadership in DC.

I consider myself lucky. From this point on -- age 23 or so -- I was able to stay pretty much in the political world -- bouncing from teaching to politics and then back and back again.

I'm not sure why this interests me, but it does. I guess the prospect of having to return to this world if things go poorly in my own chosen profession have made me think more about it.

Please feel free to share your own experiences in the comments.

NOTE: Since posting, I have edited for clarity and appearance.

You forgot your stint as a masseuse at Club Bananas.

Best tips you ever made.

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