I’ve worked in windowless cubes, shared desk space, worked at home, on airplanes, and in a private office from which I could just glimpse the tip of the Washington Monument. I’ve learned from, been intimidated by, commiserated and collaborated with men and women of varying ages, ethnicities and experiences. I’ve dated a coworker. I’ve commuted by foot, bike, car and public transit.
Some jobs and colleagues I’ve forgotten.
Others are unforgettable.
The definition of career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.
A job is a paid position of regular employment.
Like many people, I’ve had both.
In my second job post-college, an attractive, middle-aged African American academic from North Carolina interviewed me for forty-five grueling minutes. The position was that of Staff Assistant, a lowly and low-paying job that introduced me to the world of international development and HIV/AIDS prevention. There I met people who traveled the world for a living, joked in French, Spanish and Arabic, and cared about issues unfamiliar yet compelling to me — public health, poverty and prevention. Within a few days I was sold.
I am grateful to this day that this woman chose to hire me.
A year later I was accepted into graduate school. I studied public health in New Orleans — no unsmall task considering competing activities that included parade-watching, throw-catching and Hurricane-drinking. There, too, I met like-minded people who shared my hope to help – somehow.
Professionally I find myself today in an unusual place. I’m not working, at least not in the sense that I receive a regular paycheck and attend painful staff meetings. I no longer report to anyone other than myself. I am an organization of one. Sort of.
As my eldest begins kindergarten this week, I daydream about him starting out someday. My first job was putting away books at the local library. I was fourteen years old and I longed to check the books out, but reception required far more experienced librarians. I could alphabetize and knew my numbers, so the Dewey Decimal System welcomed me. I also babysat, pulled weeds at a local farm, and lifeguarded at our neighborhood pool. I don’t think I ever made more than five dollars an hour.
It’s such a thing, isn’t it?
Intern, college-student, graduate student, volunteer, entry-level professional, mid-level-manager, supervisor, supervisee, on-maternity-leave, unemployed, laid-off, consultant, writer, blogger, stay-at-home mom.
It’s been a journey.