Sometimes you have to take that $hit job. Sorry.

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. You probably weren’t either. So when people in dire financial situations with dreamy work dreams email me asking for a little career advice, I sometimes want to whack them on the head with something less luxurious than silver, like my kid’s plastic spoon.

silver spoons

There’s a Ricky Schroder joke in there somewhere.

I get it — we’re told, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” But on the road to making it as a heavenly musician, artist, writer, or whatever, sometimes you have to face hell by sucking it up and taking that $hit job to pay the bills. This holds true for careers requiring a lot of time and eduction too, such as: doctor, lawyer, engineer, computer scientist, or my psychiatrist. Going to school costs money, and many students — even mature career changers — may need to buck up and work hard in unrelated (perhaps menial) positions to pay for those degrees.

I know $hit jobs can take time away from mastering your craft. I get it that few people live for cleaning, factorying, waitressing, dish washing, flyer stuffing, call centering, pizza delivering — this list never ends, really. I understand we want our dream jobs served with a side of amazing and a paycheck to match, yesterday. But sometimes the road to awesome is paved with awful, today. You’re not too good to take a lesser job.

I’m not sorry to break this news to you. Your emails and pleas to ‘live the life’ without working for it are lost on me. If you inbox me your dream job and demand I trace your path to getting there without pain, I’m gonna tell you to go suck it up and take that $hit job. Sorry.

As a gal who sells words for a living — many of them financial-related, others IT-based — I’ve had my share of awful to get the dreamier job done. Sure, I like to think big. But over the years I’ve had to measure this fantasy against the reality of paying for my own clothing and toys as a kid, surviving as a starving journalism student, and now feeding my own kid while covering very real costs. Maybe you’ve been there too.

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I agree $hit jobs can suck. On the surface they may put you in a place you’d rather forget forever (like cleaning public toilets), but deep down these gigs can teach you a lot about yourself and force you to get past the terrible by rising up to get that better gig.

I don’t get invited on TV shows, pitched to write columns in fancy newspapers, and have a popular blog because someone just handed it to me. I had to work for it. And many of the $hit jobs I’ve sucked on over the years have made me who I am today. Go me!

So if you’re ready to stop dreaming and start doing something real to get there, here’s the very honest path I walked and the ungorgeous gigs I gagged on to become whatever I am.

I think everyone’s LinkedIn profiles should be this honest.

Pennysaver Carrier
Stuff at least 10 flyers into 144 newspaper-like things (that’s 1,440 flyers, people), then dodge mean dogs to deliver to homes spanning an 8km radius. Since the Pennysaver was just a compilation of classified ads with countless flyers, my neighbours would often reject this delivery and yell at me for cluttering their mailboxes. Fully stuffed Pennysavers were heavy to haul, and the summer I broke my shoulder playing soccer, I needed my mom’s help to finish the task. Not cool. Having money to pay for movies, clothing, and music was very cool though.

Neighbourhood Babysitter
Get whacked on the head with toy hammers, flying balls, and baby vomit. Smile like everyone’s kids were perfect little angels. Parents around my block loved my willingness to work after school and on holidays. I loved saving up the money to invest in bonds. Yes, I bought Canada Savings Bonds. Cashed them out to pay for school years later.

Tim Hortons: Donut Finisher
Pump a coagulated jelly substance into fried circular dough, dip in white powder, repeat 1,000 times, and then stack in neat rows for people to eat. The donut baker in the back of the store, a guy who worked three meters from me, was a convicted criminal — of what I have no clue. The gal selling the donuts in the front worked tricks after shifts as a prostitute — her name was Sue. I know Sue “hooked” after donut hours because she told me so on my first day, and said if I had a problem with it I should “shove off”. I worked well with Sue, mostly ’cause I liked her and she protected me from the wandering eye of the ex-con in the back. No job has ever taught me more about office politics, getting an education, and respecting others than my donut dipping days.

Soccer Referee
Summer work was a must growing up in my household. So when my father insisted I take my “passion for soccer” and turn it into “paid labour” he happily covered the cost for my referee’s course and then took the class with me. Learning the rules of the game alongside my dad and scoring higher than his best on the final exam kinda, sorta sucked. But the real test came later during a heated game when I made the ruling to red card and expel a kid for spitting on me because he didn’t like “the girl ref”. Spitting is an automatic red card in soccer, whether you have girl parts or boy parts. Being the first female referee in that little boy’s league was a harsh introduction to the realities many gals can face in the workplace.

Christmas Kiosk: Glitter Glue Specialist
My very first attempt of using a crappy job as a stepping stone, I took a seasonal gig at a kiosk over Christmas to gain “mall experience”. My job was to write names on Santa stockings using glitter glue. The problem was no one wanted to wait for the glue to dry, so people would pick up their wet socks and yell at me for getting covered in glitter. Merry Christmas, jerks.

Le Château: Sales
Bustiers were big in the 90s, so my store manager expected all sales girls to support the trend by boosting the booby look to pump sales. Being an avid athlete and a shy soccer player to boot, I wasn’t really into the Madonna-inspired look. I just wanted to hide behind the comfort of my sports bra and sell suits. Suits were big ticket items that brought home the biggest commissions, so I convinced my manager that I should dress more business-appropriate to attract the more office-oriented customer. It worked! I wore fitted blazers that covered my boobies and sold a heck of a lot of suits to guys shopping with their girlfriends or wives. Learning how speak up and advocate for myself were lessons learned for sure, but learning how to be exceptional with customers was golden.

Jazz Band, Trumpet Player
Play your heart out in some dirty bar and earn five bucks. That was my take after a long night of playing jazz with some guys I met in school. I’d been playing a horn since the age of six, so my so-called talent wasn’t natural — I had done the hours. The problem was a “girl trumpet player” was a bit of a novelty act, and I didn’t appreciate the cat calls from the crowd. I also needed to earn more than $5 to cover rent. I’m over it.

Hotel Housekeeping
Push a heavy cart stuffed with cleaning supplies into rooms once occupied by sometimes filthy people. Scrub shower stalls, rotate linens, try not to vomit removing pubic hair from toilets. The thing about cleaning hotels is the bosses time you per room, so if you land a particularly nasty floor, you’re doomed to not make quota. I hated this job, but working nights was a great way to pay for school during the day. The things I saw also proved to be awesome fodder for my journalism class assignments. I wrote many of my best school stories during cleaning breaks. This is called creative multitasking.

Tabloid Paper: Proofreader
Getting relevant career experience before graduating is always a good idea. So when the Wednesday night proofreader position opened at the local tabloid, I leaped at the opportunity before my journalism classmates caught wind of the position. (I may have eaten the job posting. Gulp.) Anyways, the job started out as fun. I’d take a marker and correct the weird spacing and typos in the draft pages before the paper went to print. Finding photos in the library when a reporter was tight on time also happened frequently. The real issue I sometimes found hiding in my stack of pages to proof! The newsroom can be a strange place, and I guess some of the staff there liked to mess with transient proofreaders a bit, so finding a pornographic photo of some chick (not a bikini-clad girlie girl) in my pages to proof was a common occurrence. At first I freaked, not sure what to do. Over time I just accepted the increasingly vile photos as “jokes” and refused to react. The images contained no text so there was nothing for me edit, after all. Keep your head down and move on was likely my motto, but in hindsight I should have recognized this as harassment.

Phone Mail: A stupid name for telemarketer
Call university graduates and ask them to donate to the Alumni Association. This was a campus job, so it worked well with my academic schedule. I learned how to cold call people and ask them for something special — their money. I once called and asked to speak with a recently deceased man, which was terribly awkward. Don’t ever try to leave a message for a dead guy.

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Technical Writer
I never wanted to be a writer-thing. After studying journalism and not feeling it, I went back to school to become a computer scientist. Science tickled my left-brain sensibilities, while writing words and sitting alone at a desk was lonely. But sometimes you have to listen to the market, and the market wanted someone who could program code and write enough words to build a sentence. With a 17K student debt hanging over my head and a sweet job offer in hand, I decided to take the seemingly sucky ‘Technical Writer’ job to pay my bills. But a funny thing happened when I discovered my amazing colleagues, enjoyed the technical challenges, and wrote manuals only programmers eyes would read — I actually liked the job! The benefits were amazing, we had free beer on Fridays, and I kinda rocked at being technical with my writing. Go figure! Give a gig a chance and it may be a career path you nearly passed over.

Blogger
Blogging is not a job, it’s an accident. Writing technical procedures for a living left the right side of my brain open for business. I needed a creative outlet and my friends wanted to know how I managed to save money. Having worked my whole life, I knew the value of a dollar. I also knew how to invest my savings and pay off debt. The idea to start a money-saving newsletter came to me while riding my bike to work one day. Riding bikes was cheaper than driving cars — my friends needed to know this! So a fluffy story about “How riding your bike is great for the butt and bank account” happened. The story was mostly silly and slung together with a little math for credibility, but my friends dug it. Almost all of my newsletter subscribers commuted to the office on two wheels that week, and many more wanted to join my money saver’s list.

Enticing my friends to follow my tips without turning them off was a tough balance to strike, so I did my best to make the stories fun. I’d email a new frugal financial tale every Friday while chugging my free beer, and then wait for the newsletter’s responses. After a few months of this routine, the list got too big to handle with replies and questions, so I started one of those blog things to serve up my stories.

Anonymous to start (I didn’t want my employer to know), I bought the domain Squawkfox.com because it was weird, sounded financial like a Squawk Box, and “squawking” some money sense made me smile. A year of writing in the evenings while working days as a technical writer paid off — I got a mention in The Globe and Mail and HarperCollins Canada offered me a book deal. That’s how my book 397 Ways to Save Money happened.

So where am I going with this?

I shared my 12 worst jobs to prove that paying the bills can trump pride. Taking that $hit job may stink at the outset, but you may be surprised by the lessons learned and the skills earned while making enough money to cover your expenses.

So before pressing “send” on that email asking me how to land that lofty dream job without the cash to cover your current costs, get in the know of where I stand from my own (sometimes unsavoury) jobs of past.

So please stop complaining with that silver spoon stuck in your mouth — sometimes you have to suck it up and take that $hit job. And I’m not sorry.

Love,
Kerry

Your Turn: What’s the worst job you had to take to pay the bills?

Your two cents:

  1. Brenton Williams June 21st, 2013

    Great post….

  2. Elizabeth June 21st, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your list! I’ve had some similar jobs, and learned a lot from all of them! I think it’s important to make the most of what you’re doing — work hard, learn all you can and keep up your personal skills.

  3. Barb June 21st, 2013

    Worst job: working at ######bank (named after a popular east coast province). I did that for 11 years because I was a slow learner, and because I had a large family to feed. Crap job with crap pay but I’m over it and love my current job, with its good pay and good people.

  4. Brent Eamer June 21st, 2013

    Bricklayers helper in 1981-82 (I was 18). $5 bucks an hour in 33c heat working for two miserable frenchmen from Magog Quebec. Full steel toe boots, safety hat. And a song by Luba “Every time I see your picture I cry”. But my version was (working with cement) “Everytime I see a mixer I cry”

  5. Shar June 21st, 2013

    My worst job ended up being my best paid one. At the age of 48 and overweight, I started working at a big box store. I had come from a library job that got cut so there I was – packing groceries, collecting garbage, on my feet for 7 hours straight and pushing carts through rain, ice and snow. It was a hard slog but I stuck it out and retired 3 years ago at top hourly rate and in the best position for hours and benefits.

    Sometimes you just do what you have to do to put roof over head and food on table.

  6. Anne June 21st, 2013

    Very well put. I’ve worked a lot of crap jobs, and I too always looked for a lesson in each one. The lesson doesn’t have to be lofty either: being able to fold a fitted sheet efficiently as a result of working in a hotel laundry is valuable too! Pizza deliverer, shirt presser, and tax form auditor were never high on my list of things to do, but they were a means to a paycheck. I’ve been temping off and on over the years too, and I recommend it for learning opportunities and keeping afloat.

  7. Andrew June 21st, 2013

    Probably the most $hit job I ever had was peeling logs by hand during spring break in Grade 12. I learned that after several hours of bending over logs holding a double-handled scraper, your lower back begins to seriously rebel! Also, I found out that sitting on a half-peeled Douglas Fir is a good way to dye the seat of your pants a vivid $hit colour, and finally, I learned that you CAN get a sunburn (especially on the aforementioned lower back) in March, in BC, in Canada!

  8. Deb June 21st, 2013

    Loved this article! Thank you for sharing your views with us. I too have done several jobs, at one time I had 5 at the same time. I did what it took! Put myself through college and become debt free with my husband retiring early. I have a sister who thinks I was stupid for working so much. She can’t find anyone to hire her! I turn down extra jobs all the time!

    There’s a great place to go with your poor, TOO WORK!

  9. Gail Johnson June 21st, 2013

    Love this post, Kerry. I agree with everything you’ve said, and you say it so well.
    One of my many crappy jobs: rolling posters and stuffing envelopes with a sweaty older lady hovering over me and telling me to go faster.

  10. Krissy June 21st, 2013

    Great post. Can work in reverse. How? Retired from the corporate world, tired, burnt out. Took local paper delivery job once a week, collating and delivering. Met my neighbours finally and established friendly relationships, walk my dog at the same time, fresh air and great exercise, extreme weather doesn’t bother me anymore and I have the proverbial “egg money” that my grandmother earned with her hens. No going to the ATM machine. I am 60 years old and totally content with a simple job. I feel I have gained an attitude of gratitude. Define your goals and work in the “moment” and no job is too demeaning unless it is illegal or hurting someone.

  11. Sarah June 21st, 2013

    It’s all a matter of perspective. My worst job was my best paying. I was a legal assistant for two attorneys. One treated me like I was incompetent. The other expected me to find things to do even after I completely redid the entire filing system because there was nothing else to do. My best job was receptionist at a disability law firm where I was so busy I went in two hours early (off the clock) just to catch up. It also paid significantly less than the other job. But I loved the people I worked with, even if I had issues with home office.

    Right now I’m mostly unemployed, caring for a sick husband and two year old and taking temp jobs And write for content sites. I’m able to do this because we’ve reduced our bills, not quite to the bare minimum, but enough that we are comfortable with what I do make for now. Don’t discount reducing expenses to reduce the number of hours spent at the crap job.

  12. summe rbeachman June 21st, 2013

    Aaahh but the good joe jobs I’ve had, bartender, waiter, camp school bus driver, member of a band, keystone cop to advertise a fair, travelling actor, money raiser for a charity (paid position) organizing a bike-a-thon and a celebrity dinner.

  13. orangejuice June 21st, 2013

    I know people who are too proud to take crap jobs, some people either could not be bothered or feel that they deserve more. I myself still work at a crap job because I have bills to pay. I figure, because not everyone wants to do it, it is still a fact of life, its a job that needs to be done. Every job has its ups and downs. Its amazing how much I have learned with this economy, some people will learn and I think some people never will.

  14. Phaedra June 21st, 2013

    My worst job was cleaning houseboats for a summer in the shuswap. People take them out for 3-7 days and make it their mission to party so hard that they cant remember their time away. Cleaning footprints off the ceiling and finding many unmentionable items at a young age (15) taught me to respect others property and to not leave evidence you dont want an entire small town chatting about.

  15. Lornna June 21st, 2013

    Love the fact that I’ve done some of your worse jobs. The worse for me was delivering Yellow Pages- my Post Lady had to comfort me as I stood in the street crying!! I hated it so much that I begged them at the pop-up distribution center to let me work there. I ended up doing it three years in a row-really good way to meet the weirdest people imaginable!!

  16. darlene June 21st, 2013

    Never had a s*@*% job, just s!@%$ bosses and coworkers. Way too much social and personal business activity on the job especially now with internet connection and cell phones. You can be busting a hump for the employer while your coworker is paying their bills online or posting on Facebook! Go figure you get choked and leave, willingly or not. All the words you can think of written in a personnel policy are blowing in the wind when managements / owners refuse to stand up to this type of behaviour.

  17. Brenda June 21st, 2013

    Great article, Kerry

    Someone needed to say it. I get so tired of all the no-jobs-available whining you hear.

    For goodness sake, take a degree in something that HAS a future, if you’re determined to waste your $$ on education.

    Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – no job is ‘beneath’ you if you want to pay your bills, get out of debt, get ahead….

    p.s. – you need a proofreader!!! :D :D :D

  18. Lili@creativesavv June 21st, 2013

    My two daughters just graduated high school and are looking for summer jobs this week. I told them what my father told me, “an honest day’s work is something to be proud of”.

    So the job may not be glamorous, so what? As a stay-at-home mom, cleaning the toilets and washing everyone’s dirty laundry isn’t exactly glam either. Work is work, and it has to get done.

    Sometimes, it’s just a matter of changing your perspective. Even in the crummiest of jobs that I held when I was younger, I still always found something about the job that I enjoyed.

  19. Natalia June 21st, 2013

    One of my bad jobs was telemarketing, I had to eat in university and they offered flexible hours. Because of jobs like this I got interview experience, learned to work with all types, made my biggest mistakes when it didn’t matter, learned to manage my money and most importantly living within my means. My friends who refused to work in school are still complaining that their dream job doesn’t pay enough. But the worst is, someone is always there to bail them out, how fair is that?

  20. Carla June 21st, 2013

    What a great post! I hear how “lucky” I am that people like & buy my handmade creations and i’m able to make some good $$, from friends who don’t work hard enough to improve their skills. They “wish” they could do the same, but then don’t/won’t put in the time or effort to get any better. Go figure!?

  21. Nikki June 21st, 2013

    Kerry, this was a good article….I had to laugh at all your jobs…I myself have worked 27 jobs since age 15 and appreciate each and every one of them….I hate to hear people complain there are no jobs…there are plenty of jobs….people just dont want to do the grit work….thanks for this article.

  22. Melissa June 21st, 2013

    My worst job, though only a few days long, was also my best. How? Well, it taught me about the type of job that I really didn’t want, and motivated me to get a good education. It was the summer of 1991, and it was a hot prairie summer. A friend called me up and asked if I wanted to do a few days’ worth of work for a local jack-of-all-trades. As this particular man usually did landscaping, I thought that working outside would give me a great tan, just in time for my final year of high school. So I showed up at the indicated time and location, thinking that the railyard usually didn’t require landscaping. What was the job, you ask? Think of the iron plates used on rail lines. My job was to allocate certain quantities of iron plates, sitting in one open rail car, to other nearby rail cars. By quantities, I mean 5000 into one, 7000 into another, etc, all done by throwing these rather heavy plates four at a time in 30C+ heat. My friend quit after day one; I wanted the money, which was more than twice minimum wage, and so I finished the job myself, thereby earning my wage and his! Although I made quite a lot of money for a few days’ (hard) work, I really learned that I didn’t want this type of career!

  23. Ruth Cooke June 21st, 2013

    My worst job was sorting people’s garbage. But it made me really aware of how much folks throw away, and how much money we waste on stuff we don’t need or want.

    Best job so far: Delivering papers. :) Really. Not only do I top up an inadequate income with an extra $250 a month, I save on fees for gyms I never go to, and on fees for weight loss programs, and I was able to stop taking mega-painkillers that were costing me a fifty cents a pill by the end of my first two weeks. And because it’s the daily paper, people are actually glad to see me, unlike the poor Pennysaver carriers. (Been there, done that one too…)

    Great post, Kerry!

  24. Karen June 21st, 2013

    I worked my way through university cleaning barns — the ultimate, actual $hit job. Low pay, but low stress and flexible, and it left my brain free to roam. I came up with some good papers, and the bad ones I blame on what I was standing in….

  25. Carol June 21st, 2013

    Wow! Great posts! My worst job was as a transcriber. I love working with people and being stuck in an office for 7 1/2 hours a day with a computer (and my pretty tea cup and saucer!) for 14 months…I was (truly!) suicidal! I applied for other jobs within the same organization and finally got a customer service/data entry job where I stayed for over 4 years. While happy with the work, another job came up and I now work as a seamstress within the same organization which is a no-brainer for me as most of it I could probably do with my eyes closed. And believe it or not, I did part time transcribing for about 10 years to earn extra money but had to give it up because of Tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Lessons to be learned all over the place!
    I worked for years in many other jobs (did some part time clowning for about 15 years), anything from hotel housekeeping to middle management in the communications industry. And because I wasn’t that good with my money, I may find myself working past 65 (two years from now!) but who’s to say… Thanks Kerry!

  26. Janet Batten June 21st, 2013

    My worst job was, also, in the end, my very best. I worked in a hospital as a Nurses’ Aide, for five years. Emptying bed pans, cleaning up patients with tubes coming out everywhere, changing beds with 300lbs+ patients in them and sterilizing everything, everywhere was no picnic, but, thirty-five years later, I recalled it as my best job. Because, at the same time I did the menial, I had held the hands and comforted the dying, rubbed the backs of those in excruciating pain, made laugh those whose prognosis were bleak and generally made everyone I was near, feel like they were the most important people in the world. And, to me they were. It’s really how I look at it. I think there is something of value in everything we do for others, be it subtle or incidental. It may be monumental to another, you may never know.
    I think you are the most amazing writer, Kerry!!! Thank you so much for sending me your material. You must feel incredibly proud….You are truly brilliant!!

  27. SHandysides June 21st, 2013

    Stuffed envelopes, mowed lawns, shoveled sidewalks, called alumni for money, wiped butts of full grown adults in the hospital, entered data, been there done that. Looking back I’m so glad I worked through high school and college.

    My friends who did not work, now have a lot harder time dealing with realities in life. They don’t believe its possible to be debt free and think I’m ridiculous for even trying. But now I am debt free, about to buy a house, landed a fun, secure job where my husband works as well. Am very blessed.

  28. mitch June 21st, 2013

    See a lot of sexism at work in your examples. Makes me realize even more how awesome women are for taking on $hit jobs (and even well-paid ones) and having to deal with this, just to get the bills paid. And, bravo for those examples of helping make the workplace less sexist. :)

  29. Kerry June 21st, 2013

    @Mitch This was not my experience working in the software industry.

  30. Jessica June 21st, 2013

    Great post. I think the worst job I ever had was when I worked at a telemarketing company right out of high school. It started out promising–I’d been hired to take inbound calls in Spanish, but when those calls weren’t as high in volume as expected, they put me on outbound calls for Philip Morris, surveying people about their smoking habits. These people had all given Philip Morris their contact info in the past, but of course none of them remembered doing so and hated me for bugging them. The worst call was when I asked for someone who had died of lung cancer…

    I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was actually pretty good at it. I’d figured out how to make it *not* sound like I was a telemarketer when people picked up, and then they were sucked in and felt like the couldn’t hang up. My numbers were good enough that my supervisor was surprised when I asked to be taken off the project (not a big fan of smoking). But surprisingly, he complied.

  31. shirleen browne June 21st, 2013

    Hi Kerry
    Fantastic. Totally agree. Life’s true lessons are learnt on the road to our destination – our dream plan is really not the education we need or is going to be our making. God Bless. Shirleen.

  32. Jennifer Zickerman June 21st, 2013

    Whew – when I read the heading, I worried that I might be on the list of perpetrators of terrible jobs. :) So cool that your technical writing experience turned out to be enjoyable and valuable.

    “…I kinda rocked at being technical with my writing…”

    You sure as hell did. You rocked big time.

  33. Ruth June 21st, 2013

    I think the worst job I’ve ever had was working in a restaurant, First afternoon I was given a humongous bowl of snails, snail shells and garlic herb butter. Push the snails in the shell, scoop and cover with garlic herb butter…again and again and again…arrrgghhhhh! I quit within 2 weeks. Shudder!

    Currently I have my own wee business cleaning houses. I call myself a Domestic Goddess. I go the extra kilometre for my clients including personal organizing. ;-) For example, I reorganized one client’s clothes cupboard. They were thrilled to bits! Tips, especially at Christmas, are great, I have their keys, they provide all the cleaning products, and pay me $22.50(weekly jobs) to $25 an hour. I make people very happy every day. Talk about job satisfaction!

  34. TK June 22nd, 2013

    You nailed it. I am 43, going to school and am I going to the school I wanted to attend? No, I am going to the school I can afford. I have a good job but want more. If you go through life never struggling with money, I don’t believe that you really appreciate what you have and what you have gone through to get where you are. I have worked my share of crappy second shift jobs so I could get resumes out and go on interviews in the morning.
    Great article and do not apologize. This country needs a swift kick in the ass and great article to initiate the conversation.
    Thanks Kerry!

  35. Terri June 22nd, 2013

    A great read Kerry! (I too know how to save money and squeeze my pennies until they scream! I am finding that I love your writing and humor… and so, I keep reading your blog. Keep up the good work, and I love that I have more of your background story and appreciate your blog even more). :)

  36. happyland June 22nd, 2013

    Re: TK,

    Like yourself I have worked hard and understand the value of it but there are many out there who see the idea of hard work as shameful and are too happy to sit back and watch someone else work hard while they sit around. I myself know of management who have this opinion, they congratulate others on working hard but they seem to get moody when presented with challenges. I know of others too who just could not be bothered to work, especially in the past few years with the recession. Hard work does make you appreciate things more. However, I also find it distressing that with the cost living so high many employers do not want to pay people decently. Its sad when people have to work so hard just to maintain a decent standard of living.

  37. Robb June 22nd, 2013

    I think I’ll post this outside my office at the University for all the soon-to-be graduates to read.

  38. Kim June 22nd, 2013

    I’m there with ya on the Tim Horton’s front! Remember cleaning the glazer? UGH!!! Had sugar in my armpit hair! Its the only job that left me scarred too – I fell carrying plates after mopping the floor and the ceramic broke open on my arm – first ride in an ambulance. Now I am a nurse – hmmmmmmmm……..

  39. Dennis June 23rd, 2013

    Great post. “Doing what you love” is a delusion many people fall for,m while in fact doing what you love and waiting for it to boom is like throwing feces at the wall hoping something sticks. The right way to go about a job and a business is “doing what helps people solve problems”. Help a million people and ask them one dollar each in return.

  40. John June 24th, 2013

    Thanks, Kerry… thanks for sharing… some great experiences, to be sure. In the summer of ’79, prior to my 17th birthday, I worked in Florida on the grounds crew at a cemetery… that was actually pretty cool, even learned how to operate a backhoe. In the fall of 1990, I worked for a friend of my dad tagging pigs (clipping metal tags onto their ears as they were being prepared for auction). Now THAT was quite literally a $hit job! I took ownership of my work, and my dad’s friend was very complimentary of my “tagging” skills as a newbie. Six months later I was hired in CA to my current position as administrative services manager for an office of about 200 employees… after 22 years, I still love what I do… I even look forward to Mondays! (My coworkers consider me a freak of nature…)

    Have a great day… and thaanks again for sharing!

  41. Robin June 25th, 2013

    Got my first job at 15, packing groceries at the Hudson’s Bay grocery store in a small Manitoba town. I remember catching an older kid shoplifting, and had to report him to my manager who called the police. Was a bit worried that I might be committing suicide, but nothing happened. I suspect the shame of the whole thing prevented me being beaten to a pulp in the schoolyard. Toughest summer job was roofing. Hot, dangerous dirty work. Paid well though. Worst job was slinging beer at an old bar in ‘uptown’ Waterloo, where I was going to school. This was in the early seventies and the place was pretty rough.
    One night, the university football team came in to drink after a game. They got pretty drunk and started a contest to see who could tear apart steel chairs with their bare hands. The bar owner instructed me to go and tell them they were cut off. I weighed about 140lbs, looked like a hippie and was scared to death, so carefully considered my options. My solution was to write a note asking them to leave, drop it on the table and run like hell. Actually, my ploy worked and they left with a minimum of fuss. Go figure.

  42. summe rbeachman June 25th, 2013

    Robin, my bartending was done at the Waterloo Hotel in the 70′s. Put me through 3 university degrees and I loved the job. Sure the Laurier and Univ. of Waterloo football teams could be pretty wild after their games but never too much of a problem. I actually ended up working at Laurier for most of my life. Were you at the Kent or City hotels?

  43. Carrie June 25th, 2013

    Nude modeling for a figure art drawing group. At $80/3 hr session, I’ll choose to put gas in my car over freezing my ass off waiting for public transit any day. It’s not the greatest job, but actually, waitressing was worse. This one’s just funnier.

  44. gigi July 3rd, 2013

    Loved this post! I also shared many of the same jobs as you did but was never smart enough to manage my money until recently. From the time I was 13 I did the following: babysat a 6 and 4 year old boy 4 days a week, delivering “ad mail”, cooked and cleaned at a donair fast food stand at the mall, waitressed at an old folks home, telemarketer (at 15!), sales associate at a discount “fashion outlet”, slinging underwear at the Bay, worked summer housekeeping at my university, worked front desk at the summer “hotel” at my university, taught at night school where I was younger than all but one student, hostessed at a fine dining seafood restaurant. None of them really sucked but I really do appreciate my job these days!

  45. David McKenna July 14th, 2013

    “You’re not too good to take a lesser job.”

    I absolutely agree with you. One of the best bad jobs I ever had was a 100% commission, door-to-door sales for a natural gas company. Albeit it was a shady industry, I was honest and learned a lot about being able to sell and talk to people.

    I just read your EBook, which was great by-the-way.

  46. Boma August 5th, 2013

    Kerry, I love Squawkfox!

    and Janet Batten you bring happy tears to my eyes :)

  47. Sharon September 12th, 2013

    Great post. It out to be required reading for some folks. I took a minimum wage job as an unarmed rent-a-cop. The hours sucked, the uniform was itchy, hot and generally uncomfortable and people treated you like crap. I quit after I got held up at gunpoint but I did make my rent that month. It was a valuable lesson .

  48. Sunk September 23rd, 2013

    My worst job is my current one. At first it was pretty decent. But then the founder retired and the company was sold to a bunch of lawyers who proceeded to tear it apart to make it more attractive to a buyer. Then a sucker company bought it, and wondered why morale, productivity and profits were so low (or in the case of the last, non-existent). It tried to fix things, but it’s frankly out of its league when it comes to the kind of work my company does. Now the sucker company has moved my division to a drafty warehouse with concrete floors, a vile smell, ceilings so high that heating the place during a Midwestern winter will be a nightmare, and veiled threats that if we don’t follow a certain production model, even though it doesn’t work in practice, we’ll all be fired. Basically, we’re a manufacturing plant whose employees are all being paid retail-level wages. Where do I work? FedEx Office, CPC. My solution:

    1. Buy the gun
    2. Buy the bullet
    3. Aim at forehead, pull trigger.

  49. Lisa October 3rd, 2013

    Thanks this article was fun to read and quite inspiring! I enjoyed most of the comments as well.
    Well this is not a job I’ve ever had, but about 20 years ago I read an article about the job, however the glossy magazine article said it all (picture worth a thousand words) a lady in a lab coat going down the line of seemingly middle aged chubby dudes with their arms in the air… She was smelling their pits! Now I’m thinking that would be a ‘stinky’ way to pay the bills! Maybe she was checking the potency of the antiperspirant? YUK.

  50. Brad October 24th, 2013

    I DO refuse to work any low-paying job, no matter how much decency would suggest that I should take a job instead of being unemployed. That decision is solely driven by the punitive way that many American corporations determine compensation for new hires.

    Some companies will base new pay off your most recent paycheck, even if that paycheck is from a $h17 job you took just to tide you over to your next “real” job. Even if you were trying to simply avoid taking unemployment, they will punish you for it. I suggest that you DO NOT take that low-paying job to tide you over and contribute a little society. Trust me, I’ve experienced both possible outcomes and I was punished for working and later rewarded for NOT working.

    Also, don’t expect you can get a raise in the future to make up for it once you’ve “proved” yourself. Any raises will be starting from a lower base than if the company had paid what you were worth from the beginning. You’ll ALWAYS being making less once you take that cruddy job. That is all thanks to managers who can’t think for themselves.

    Again – don’t take that job if you want to work in corporate America. Wait it out.

  51. Thomas November 11th, 2013

    I went to an temporary work agent for a summer job whilst studying. I think they saw me coming and wanted to knock me down a peg or two. Cut a long story short, I ended up spending all summer gardening, trimming bushes and strimming….in a graveyard.

  52. Underground Man November 19th, 2013

    My all-time favourite $hit job was, literally, shoveling $hit in a kennel. I have also cut grass, raked leaves, washed dishes (alongside a self-professed pedophile who frequently urged me to visit Taiwan and who urinated on the plates and cutlery). That was while I completed a master’s degree in English literature that qualified me to do precisely nothing. I did, however, eventually translate those awful experiences and my education into a very lousy-paying position as a technical writer. Which slowly (excruciatingly so) led to other opportunities and, ultimately, to the enjoyable marketing career I have today.

    Career paths are never so linear, or so lucky. When my kids tell me that I “have it easy” as a tail-end Baby Boomer, my usual reply is to suck it up, buttercup. Unless you’re blessed, most every career includes a helping of dog$hit, a mountain of dirty dishes, and at least one or two criminally maladjusted work mates.

  53. Linda November 28th, 2013

    The worse job for me was cleaning bird shit off walls in a pet shop.

  54. Jim December 2nd, 2013

    Nice blog! However, from my experience I’ve been working almost 40 years and to tell you the truth, I’ve yet to land a job that pays me a livable wage. You know greed plays a huge roll in the financial situation that this country is in today. Many if not all employers will look to legally short-change you if you decide to settle for that s#*t job. Me, and others that I work with are living paycheck to paycheck because they can barely pay the rent and then put food on the table. The math just doesn’t add up. $8 per hour to pay a $1,200 rent in NYC and that’s considered cheap. Then put food on the table? Even buying at your local Costco won’t help much with such a low salary. Forget about cable, and telephone service. That is completely out of reach. Lets face it, the cost of living today and low paying jobs simply do not match. Most of my co-workers live with roommates in order to survive and have enough money left over for food. I’m single and I still feel the burn in my bank account. Sorry for sounding so Grim, but these are the facts. It’s truly a crumby way to live.

  55. Boo December 14th, 2013

    One of my favorite jobs was as an office temp. I was sent to many types of companies for different types of jobs. I experienced being a legal secretary, a medical biller, and many other skills I refined and learned new. A lot of these companies offered to hire me full time. This is a good way to get the foot in the door if you don’t have a ‘plan’. I did, I just needed 2 weeks a month. Temp services have jobs to fit your time schedule if you have some skills.

    This also had in it the worst job. I was told it was Customer Service. The employers yelled at everyone. The job was to answer angry calls from customers that were duped out of some item, and the ‘customer service’ reps were to lie to them about the situation. I left within 2 hours, and called the temporary service. They sent me somewhere else, and after investigating – cancelled the company’s contract.

    Another lesson learned for me. Finding my voice (I’m was shy).

    And for Jim – I’ve worked 2 and 3 jobs at a time – to pay for rent and food, and all my needs, since I was 16 years old. I’ve had fun at work, and after. We pick our priorities. I would not choose to live in a place for 1200 if I could not have jobs to support it. I’ve lived in a tent out in the wilderness at times, making jewelry to sell online and at craft fairs. This was way fun, took not much of my time, and beautiful scenery. I’ve also been a tech writer and beta tester, which one can do from anywhere – including on a river bank, in a hammock, at home, at a coffee shop in a nice comfy couch.

    I could say I was ‘homeless’ since I did not live in a ‘house built of stone or whatever’. Instead, I would not call it anything. It was fun, and I travelled a lot, met awesome people and found the most cool place to finally settle down to. I now write on survival blogs – I have much experience in that now too :). Half full or half empty. You live in a cool city – sweeeet!

    Awesome site! Love the honesty :)

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