Week #30 – Employment. Describe your first job. What did you do? Were you saving for something in particular, or just trying to make a living? Did that first job provide skills and make an impact on your life today?
I worked for my DaD before I ever worked for any kind of corporation. My very first job was an assistant disk jockey to him for his business, Rainbow Music. He was a DJ for weddings and special events throughout central Michigan. I earned a significant amount of money as a young girl in middle and high school helping him out. I knew it was a lot of money but I didn’t realize just how lucky I was that he was sharing the earnings with me until years later. He didn’t have to split the money but he did. I think it was his way of buying my attendance so he could spend some time with me and keep me out of trouble. It worked! He usually gave me $100-$150 per weekend/gig, which was a whole lot of money for a kid in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. After the cost of travel, promotion, records and equipment, my DaD was in the red, I’m sure of it.
Another venture DaD began was called Data/Graphics. He hired me to input data into a spreadsheet program and paid me by the hour for the work I did. I kept a meticulous log to the minute of all the time I spent entering data into the spreadsheet. I think he paid me about $4.00/hr which was good money for the work I was doing.
My first actual job outside the home was at a salon on State Street in Saginaw. I only lasted about a week before I decided that sweeping hair and taking phone calls wasn’t for me. I don’t even think they ever paid me for my time.
My second job was at Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers on State Street, just a few doors down from the salon. I started in the back kitchen washing dishes, preparing the baked potatoes and toasting the hamburger buns. I also learned how to make the breadsticks. I learned quickly that you better pay attention to what the manager is telling you. I punched in 10 minutes early once and got screamed at! I thought being early was a good thing, but I guess it’s not good when they are paying you by the minute. I think I was earning about $4.25/hr at Wendy’s.
I got the job to help me pay for gas for the car my DaD gave me when I turned 16. I think I lasted about 2 or 3 months at Wendy’s over the summer of 1994 before I got a better opportunity at Dow Corning Corporation in Hemlock as a school internship. I believe I received quite a raise, too – somewhere around $5.15/hr if I remember correctly!
Just as school was starting, I met with my counselor who told me about an internship opportunity exclusively for seniors. Seniors who had enough credits could apply for a part time job in the afternoons as part of a work study program. She helped me write my very first resume, fill out the application, and I went in for my first true job interview. (Wendy’s wasn’t for me, anyway.) In fact, I applied for three internships and was offered all three – something that shocked my counselor because students were rarely accepted by even one company.
This was also an important exercise in politics for me. I went in to interview for an administrative assistant position at the front desk. The woman who interviewed me, Kay Michael, was dating the head of Computer Services named Bill Thompson. When I told her I had extensive experience with computers, she got the smart idea in her head to help out her boyfriend by assigning me to his department. Since they were going to put me to work with computers and the other two companies wanted me answering phones, I chose Dow Corning. The Medical Products Plant was famous for making breast and penile silicone implants and got a lot of lawsuits due to broken implants. My friend Angie Grunow worked in the legal department filing paperwork about the lawsuits.
I accepted the job offer, and became the “Junior Network Administrator” for Dow Corning Corporation’s Medical Products Plan in Hemlock, Michigan. I worked there every afternoon during senior year. I had what was known as “open lunch” and could leave campus while everyone else went to lunch. It was a privilege few kids had and lots of them tried to sneak off campus by hitching a ride with me, but I had to get to work so I never let them. I ate at Long John Silver’s on State Street every day on my way to work.
I was hired on September 12, 1994. My official job description was “Managing, maintaining, and backing up a Novell Netware LAN Server; technical support of end users on a local area network; using Microsoft Office productivity applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.” At my job I did things like helping the employees fix problems with their computers, and installing Microsoft Office from 27 3.5” disks – one at a time! I taught classes to the employees on how to use the Microsoft Office products. I was also in charge of changing the backup tape for the LAN Server every day – a job which I took very, very seriously.
This was 1994, and computer networks were just starting to pop up at the largest companies in the world. Dow was ahead of the game, and I learned how to run a ring network with physical cables that formed a complete circle around the building. If one computer went off the network, it affected connectivity of all of the other computers. Since we were in a factory environment with clean rooms, I had to wear steel toed boots and got my forklift license. When I had to go into the assembly line clean room, I had to strip down into my undies and put on blue garb and bootie covers with a hair net. Then I had to be blown off with air before I could go into the clean room and help someone with their computer. It was a bizarre environment but taught me a whole lot about work ethic and responsibility.
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