Tomorrow I go back to working a normal office job for the first time in over two and a half years. I’ve worked ‘normal’ jobs, it’s just been a long time since I’ve had to be somewhere at a set time in real pants for five days in a row. The last several months I’ve been freelancing on my own and before that I was working my job from home.
Going back to real work has me thinking a lot about my very first real job. In the fall of 2006, I was sixteen and worked as a pickle girl at the Kansas City Renaissance Faire. Sometimes I worked at the sausage on a stick booth, but eventually they gave me my own pickle cart to manage. All things considered it was an incredible first job experience. I got to wear a costume, speak in an accent, and hang out with people who liked dragons all day. The fucking geek girl dream, right?
It never doesn’t amaze me how wonderfully the things I learned at that job have translated to every job I’ve had since. I mean some things pretty much only had the one purpose like knowing which cast members would tip you if you put extra meatballs on their sandwiches, but other things had a lasting impact on the person I am in the workplace.
Dress for the job you have.
Don’t “dress for the job you want,” dress for the job you’re doing. When I worked at the Ren Faire I had a collection of peasant tops I would shuffle between, a burnt-orange, velvety skirt, and a corset I stole from my high school’s prop room. I loved being in costume (also, if you didn’t dress up you had to work doing food prep instead of taking orders and hells yeah I would’ve rather been in a corset for ten hours selling pickles than warming meatballs any day). So, don’t wear a three piece suit if you can wear jeans and a comic book shirt. Don’t wear yoga pants to a board meeting unless you work at Lululemon. All you do by overdressing/underdressing for your job is make everyone around you uncomfortable and allow them to assume you’re an asshole.
It’s probably someone else’s fault but you should fix anyway.
Even if you were dressed up sometimes you’d still have to work in the kitchen to help make food. However, I can count change correctly and talk in a terrible Old-English accent while doing it so I never had to hang in the kitchens for long until I went back to taking orders. 100% of the time when I was taking over for whoever was working the front before me I would find the that we’d be out of all the good sodas and whoever had been working in the front before hadn’t asked the stockers to bring more. We were making minimum wage-I had no ill-will to those less enthusiastic people but it did mean that I would have to sort out their problems so that business could get back to flowing smoothly again. I was always polite to the neighboring booths who would lend me their Pepsi’s and Aquafina’s until I could get a runner to restock my drinks. There’s no time for blame or needlessly getting too upset over someone else’s work ethic. You can’t change people only politely be better at your job then them. Same goes for fixing the errors in someone elses’s CSS code. Sure, it’s not your fault that the nested div tags are acting ridiculous, but if you don’t fix the code it’s only going to make your life miserable as you try to update the site.
Work smarter not harder.
Not to be confused with “cut corners as often as possible.” If you can’t carry three cases of lasagna up a hill in your arms by yourself put those three cases of lasagna on a tarp and drag the tarp up the hill. If you have to create 45 unique pieces of art iTunes for 5 different shows-use show one to make a template with good grid lines so the following 180 graphics are easier to make.
Be kind to everyone-you never know who has access to the booze and ice cream.
First, there’s never a reason to be rude. Even if someone is being rude to you-kill that asshole with kindness. You never know who has keys to the freezer with the ice cream you like or the fridge with the weird hard cider 16-year-old you was really into or, in the outside world, you never know who knows which floor always has free food or is in charge of the sharpies or gets cool promotional shit from outside companies.
Men in the workplace are the worst.
Sometimes the patriarchy acts in an lot of weird ways like asking you to tie bows on gift baskets because you’re good at that sort of thing or like when it talks about how it’s sure that the attractive rep from a visiting company probably didn’t even need to have a resume to get her job, or like when you’re selling pickles to men who are cool with talking in old English accents about their cod pieces to a very naive and shy 16 year old girl. Thousands of years of unchecked privlidge make working with some men unbearable and even the most capital-F-feminist male ally can be difficult to endure at times and not even working for myself made it something I could escape from.
Work like you need the money.
“Work like you don’t need the money” is the single dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. If I didn’t need the money I would split my time between reading, watching Netflix, getting a million more degrees in things like mechanical engineering and 17th century embroidery, and traveling this world relentlessly. Work like you need the fucking money because you do. When I was 16, I worked so I could save for college and afford gas to drive anywhere I wanted. When I was 21, I worked so I could buy books and pencils and my Audi 90 and party on the weekends. Now, I work so I can travel anywhere on this big blue planet I want to go (and pay rent and my phone bill and electric bill and internet and buy lenses). There’s a lot of different types of currencies in the world but only the one can fill a tank with gas and keep the lights on.
Share your gum.
This sounds like bribery-but it’s more about making yourself invaluable. Figure out how to make people be unable to function without you and then reinforce it at every opportunity. At the Ren Fest I always shared my gum. It was a Pavlovian response basically. People saw me and wanted gum and people like gum so they liked me. I was a pretty quiet teenager and had a terrible time with connecting with new people. Gum helped me. At K-State I kept every type of candy imaginable at my desk. People wanted candy so they came to see me. People like candy and I liked hearing about all the different things going on in different parts of campus. I live in LA, which is the largest altar to the church of ‘networking’ in the world. Have cool business cards, clever things to say, a special talent, and don’t be too annoying and people will want more of you in their life. They’ll want to hire you for jobs and invite you to their parties and find ways to collaborate with you. If people like working with you-they’ll want to keep working with you. Put good vibes/gum/starbursts out into the universe-get good back.