A History of Labour – Part I

I once heard that: life is the sum of the decisions we make.  Which does hold a certain amount of truth when I look back at my career at least.  My current job is very much the sum of everything I have previous done and learned.  So I thought in the interest of sharing a bit of history of my jobs over the years might be useful on what worked and where I screwed up to help me along my path to early retirement.  Yet because I believe I am now on job number 12 or 13 (my count is most likely wrong) since I got my degree, I won’t just be writing this for the next few months.  Instead I’ll try to provide a new episode each week and we we eventually get around to my current job.  I will caution many of these posts will be very long, because it really just takes that long to tell the tale.

To start, we will skip past my various odd jobs growing up and my teenager years and instead jump right to the beginning of my career.

Year 0 AD (AD = After Degree)

I learned at and early age I tended to be further ahead of most of the people I know in life experience. So while every else just got their degree in the spring of 2000, I also was planning to be married that fall.  Which does makes sense in the respect I met my future wife for my first day at university in 1996, so after four years of dating. (Which by the way dating an engineer while getting their degree is like dog years…honestly we are shitty boyfriends as we tend to have horrible schedules with just 40 hours of week of lecture and lab time and then homework on top of that.  My wife likes to say she earned her engagement ring and it is basically true.)

Anyway the odd part of getting married was I wasn’t looking too hard for a career job at that point in my life.  I didn’t particularly want to move to Alberta as many of my classmates were at that time, but I wasn’t going to be supported by my parents anymore, so I fell back on my old skill set and got a job at a local pub in the kitchen.  The pay suck and I was grossly over qualified for it, but as I explained to the kitchen manager I needed to pay rent.  He decided to take a chance I won’t be around long.

It worked out well for him.  I could already cook because my mother insisted we learn that skill (god bless her foresight on that one) so I learned the menu in like two weeks.  Perhaps the only real downside to the job in general was I worked the evening shift so I started late afternoon and didn’t finish until after midnight. Beyond that I actually like my boss and co-workers overall.  Nice people for the most part which was just about required to deal with our weekly hell: wing night.

Normally cooking an order or two of wings on any given night wasn’t a big deal.  Yet this particular pub they had a wing night and a cheaper beer night on the same day, so in an university town your business tended to be outright nuts on those nights.  We literally went through  tens of thousands of wings those nights in several hundred orders.  The entire thing was a stress inducing hell hole of work which to this day provides me with a measure of respect to serving and cooking staff in restaurants.  Getting slammed sucks, but doing it for three hours straight ever week is just insanity.

Yet during my basic training at that job, I started to make a few changes just to help me do the work.  I started a closing checklist as I could never keep all 26 steps straight in my head.  I helped reorganize a few things around the kitchen to make the work go a bit smoother.  Then by chance about six months in the night shift kitchen manager quit and I was offered the job.  Despite being one of the newest guys on staff (yes this pissed off a few of the more senior kitchen staff members).

I initially said: no.  The job did pay an extra buck an hour which was nice, but I was concerned I would be settling in here which when I still hadn’t even started my career yet was freaking me out.  In the end after a few weeks of realize I did half the job already anyway.  So I ended up training the new staff and getting used to managing people around who were mainly older than I was.  Oddly I realized early on that if you treat people as well people, they don’t give a crap if you are ten years their junior.

All in all the job ended out working just fine to help us pay our bills until after we got married.  But for an additional complication I was also trying to stay in Saskatchewan…mainly because all our family was around either Saskatoon or Regina.  But I was rapidly finding that wasn’t going to be possible.  So just when I got my head around starting to apply for jobs in Alberta then I got a interview out of the blue for a job that I didn’t even apply for.

Summary

Lessons Learned

  • Do a good job regardless if it isn’t hard.
  • Learn to cope with stress or go insane.
  • Being competent is a good way to earn more.
  • Make things better where you can.
  • Service level work is an excellent motivator for getting an education…thinking of doing wing nights for the next forty years was an excellent motivation to keep applying for jobs in my field.

Financial Progress – Almost none.  I covered expenses and made minimum payments on our $60,000 in student debt that my wife and I had.