Hard Lessons

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Found on ruinmyweek.com, from Twitter handles freeyourmindkid & MegMcA

In 1997, a few months after my 16th birthday, a new movie theatre was being built in my hometown. My best friend, at the time, mentioned to me that they were accepting resumes; she would be starting there mid-May when she turned 16. I begged my parents to drive me over to the office trailer where the manager was stationed so I could also put in my resume.

I arrived after school in early May, wearing a sweet little dress, and was hired on the spot.

I later found out that the Assistant Manager had been in charge of hiring and had already selected the thirty-odd staff. I happened to walk in minutes before he came to let the general manager know. Within four years, through hard work and a good attitude, I moved up from concession to projectionist and finally to management. 

In 2002, after my parents lost their home and we were all three basically homeless (living in cheap motels or with friends of friends), I was a newly-made college dropout, and the transfer I had been promised to a movie theatre in Dallas had fallen through. One day, hungry but not yet penniless, we went into Dave & Buster’s for lunch. I noticed a sign on the door that they were looking for a Front Desk Clerk.

I requested a job application and filled it out while Dad and I ate a plate of fries between us. When I took it to the desk, the HR Manager happened to be standing there. He read it on the spot; his eyes lit up.

“You have management experience? We have a position that just opened up. You’d be perfect for it.”

He invited me to an interview that afternoon and hired me the very next day.

I worked in the cash office, a secure room where the safe doors were a foot thick and weighed a ton. I counted the money coming in, reconciled credit card receipts, ordered office supplies. After a year of hard work, I became the assistant to the Business Manager, running payroll and doing accounts payable. After 3 years, the Business Manager had changed three times and each time I was passed up for a promotion, despite doing the work, so I started looking for another job.

By 2005, the concept of taking your resume door-to-door had ceased to exist. Online applications had replaced physical ones, and there was no more face-to-face interaction before the interview. The climate had changed completely. It became even moreso about who you knew, than what you knew.

As luck would have it, I met my (now) husband and moved to Australia in 2006. I studied for a year and gained my Diploma of Business, thanks to said husband, and after a year, I was ready to rejoin the workforce. But the truth was the same as in the U.S., qualifications and experience were needed for basic office work, and the idea of dropping your resume in at a store or restaurant was unheard of. Online applications were the only way to get in a job.

I snagged a management position at a tech store, Dick Smith Electronics (basically Radio Shack), in 2007. Unsatisfied, I moved from company to company until 2013 when I took a position at a telecommunications company. After 5 1/2 years, I moved from answering phones to case management to project management and ultimately quality management.

After being made redundant, I won a role in another company. The hiring manager was looking for someone with strong computer skills, a willingness to learn systems, and the right attitude towards change. While the experience and qualifications to do the role were stated, they were secondary to the soft skills. It was a rare opportunity. If I had been made redundant even three months later, the role would have been gone.

In these 23 years, I have learned one thing: timing – and to a greater extent, luck – has more to do with success than actual hard work. Sure, at the telecommunications company I spent years “growing my brand” and being tenacious to a fault (read: passionate and annoying). That helped, but mostly it was right place, right time (and right race – a discussion for someone smarter than me). Unfortunately, that also means I have no good advice for the younger generation. All I know is that the mindset espoused by some people – grit, determination, taking resumes door-to-door – are all a relic of a past long gone. Career experiences are not universal, so stop treating it like they are.

14 thoughts on “Hard Lessons

  1. What you’ve described here is, essentially, exactly how I left my dead-end retail job for a career in a field that excites me. My only argument would be to say that grit and determination are still valid traits, if applied correctly.

    Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Aaron! You’re absolutely right. They are great traits to have and will help a bit. But they also are sometimes expected or simply overlooked.

      I’m so glad you found your perfect job! It’s been a long road and you deserved to get your slice of happiness. 😍

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  2. I am even less qualified to give advice. I joined my company after university and 33 years and two months later…

    I might be able to give advice about how to survive telecommunications company constant restructuring :-). Although not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing

    Not that my current company resembles what I joined, although the job is a direct evolution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pete, I bet for a fact that there are people out there that would love advice to survive telco changes. It seems to happen more than it doesn’t. haha I imagine there’s a bit of timing, luck, and people having no idea what you do involved, though. haha

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  3. Time and luck play an important part in everything in life. My first job s a school teacher (after I got married) was due to sheer luck. I happened to hear from someone that if I needed a job I needed to call up the schools in my neighborhood and inquire if they had a vacancy. I did and they called me and I was made to read a lesson and explain it in a class full of noisy kids. Thanks to my genes (my mom is a teacher!), I landed the job and joined the school the next day! But as you said, things have changed so much in the past two decades, or so. I don’t think anyone will even entertain me if I were to just make a call and ask if they have any vacancies at their place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! You were, indeed, very lucky! There’s a bigger piece here about how timing and luck do play a part in other things in life. I’ve seen it so much in interviews with writers and actors, too.

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  4. You make some really strong points about how the nature of job-seeking has changed, Mel. I like the way you take the reader through the changes as you experienced them. You also had some really important commentary early in the essay (perhaps not entirely intentionally?) about the tenuousness of life when you’re homeless, about food insecurity, about how fragile the comfortable lives we build really are. It’d be cool to explore some of those themes in future essays too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Asha! There’s other lessons to be pulled here too, like age, class, race, sexuality, play parts in the “luck” factor, but I couldn’t even really show those in the word count. I’m also not clever enough to discuss them. I haven’t had the guts yet to write about the few months I was technically homeless, but there definitely is a story there when I do gather the courage to explore it more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was titled so perfectly. I do think your timing was lucky, but I also think you probably did the right things to take advantage of that luck. Your work ethic kept you on. I’m glad you found your current position and that you managed the new market.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a thorough exploration of how much job hunting has changed over the years. Having been laid off several times over the past decade or two, I concur! To this day, I hear people suggesting that job seekers go out and “pound the pavement”. It sounds incredibly out of touch; absolutely everything is online. I’m not sure I’d agree that timing and luck contribute to success more than hard work. When you do the hard work of putting yourself out there, sending more job applications, etc., you create more opportunities for good fortune to find you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is certainly the case a lot of the time, but I also have a friend that was made redundant 3 months after me, had more experience and skills, worked as hard as I did, and even now, 12 months later, she still hasn’t found full time work.

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