The 5 Worst Jobs I’ve Had (so far)

A few weeks ago I had a tweet go mildly viral.

I don’t tweet much, I only have about 100 followers and only interact with my girlfriend and one or two friends. My mum’s always good for a like though – what else are mums for?

This was the tweet that got all the attention:

“I’ve had six different jobs in the last seven months. What a world”

3 replies, 12 retweets, 12 likes, 3,375 impressions. I’m sure you saw it in your feed.

To be fair, the kind of jobs I want aren’t that common in Brisbane (a creative enough city, sure, but not really teeming with artistic opportunity). And some of the work I’ve had has been ongoing for awhile now, but just not enough to live on.

I found a good job recently though and I love it. It has regular hours, is challenging without taking over my life and still allows me time to work on creative projects (though I’m still working on finding the right balance here. And by that I mean, forcing myself to write when I get home, not just play Xbox and hang out with Sam).

Most importantly, this new job also lets me work my other two jobs. In turn, that means I’ve been able to kick the mum-and-dad-sending-me-money habit*, and also last week finally cancel Centrelink for good.

In honour of this wonderful news, I am taking a trip down memory lane to the Worst Jobs I’ve Ever Had (so far).

1. Retail

I guess this job wasn’t so bad, especially as a first “real” job goes. I helped people find DVDs and CDs, basically. Not a bad way to spend your Thursday night and Saturday morning for a few weeks in the lead up to Christmas.

I wasn’t great at it. I wasn’t even that good really. My KPIs were atrocious. I was consistently in the bottom ten of the weekly sales competition tables. If I remember correctly (and to be truthful, I didn’t really take much notice) upselling headphones and DVD cleaner kits was weighted more heavily in the KPIs and I could never really convince anyone to take the leap. I also figured the people just want their Michael Bublé Christmas CD, they don’t really care about the headphones.

While I wasn’t a sales whiz or ever really confident dealing with cash (my personal Achilles heel), I am happy that I did my best to help everyone who came into the store.

Especially the people I told to go to JB Hi-Fi, if we didn’t have what they wanted.

Which was a lot.

2. Photography Instructor

If you don’t know me, you might not know that that I’m a hustler.

If you do know me, you’ll full well know that I’m not actually a hustler at all.

In my last year of my undergraduate degree I was looking for work, any work. Hustle hustle hustle. I found this job on an online uni job board and it seemed fine. Saturday mornings, couple hours, walk around South Bank talk to people about taking photos.

Look, in theory that’s great.

In practice, you sign up and then go in for a few “trial” runs and unpaid “assistant” sessions, then over the next six months or so end up only doing one or two paid shifts. And then that pay takes forever to come through as well.

But you do get a few company t-shirts.

The work was fine. I suppose. I love South Bank so I’ll never say no to going there. The people were okay. The one session I remember clearly (possibly the only one I was actually paid for?) was a smart phone photography class. Essentially teaching oldies to use the rule of thirds and colour correct their photos with an app. $60 well spent presumably, though I’d probably prefer my Saturday mornings.

Again, I don’t think I was a great instructor. I was probably resentful that they never gave me work and that the gig was so poorly organised. I’m not saying I didn’t try hard when I did work, because I always do.

But my heart wasn’t in it, and if there’s anything I’m finding looking back at these jobs, it’s that if I don’t really care for something, it’s not something I’ll do well at.

Which is, I mean, not the worst quality to have, but also not something I’d recommend.

3. Online Tutor

Another one from my hustling days at the end of uni. I was trying to parlay any sort of tutoring work into a sweet gig at a university after I graduated.

So in that sense I was successful. In most other senses, I was not.

Again, I couldn’t get any shifts and the work I did get was dodgy. The majority of it was set up in an online chat scenario but I could never book in times to do so. Could have been the system, could have been my computer, could have just been my stupidity.

My life was a bit up in the air at this time and not long after joining up did I land that sweet university gig, so really calling this a job is generous. I did some work checking assignment drafts though and that was fine.

Plenty of worse ways to trade your labour for money, but not really a career.

4. Funeral Home Multimedia Assistant

Now we’re into the good stuff.

Since leaving uni I’ve been searching for what I have dubbed inside my head as the “Girlboss” job. It’s a reference to the poorly received Netflix drama (which, while I didn’t think was superb, had some positive points, mainly Britt Robertson). A couple episodes in Sophia gets a job working the front desk at a university. She uses this pretty cushy job to support herself as she chases her dreams.

Short of someone giving me a few hundred million bucks to make a movie, this is what I’ve always wanted (and happy to say I have recently found). But it did take some time.

This is another one of those jobs that sounded cool on paper. Unfortunately it turned out to be toilet paper.

Nominally, I was supposed to be helping edit photos and create memorial presentation for funeral services. In practice I edited photos once, made a few slideshows and spent the rest of the time… doing nothing.

I unpacked a few boxes of paper. I sat around. Two whole shifts were spent driving around Brisbane while other people delivered photo packages to different funeral homes. I was there for a few months and never had a computer, desk or even a chair. I wonder if they needed me there at all. And to think I needed to pee in the same room as a stranger for this!

(As part of the pre-employment medical, not a creepy initiation ritual)

I found other work quite soon, so, selfishly, I was able to leave without too much drama for me. It might have caused some concern on their end, but also, it might not have considering they didn’t have anything for me to do anyway.

But I doubt I could have spent much longer there anyway. Dealing with funerals, staring at photos of dead people might be okay for some people but it wasn’t good for me. I’m comfortable with the thought of death – it’s coming, you can’t stop it, try to have a good time while you’re here – but I also think it’s not something a young person should be around constantly.

Especially as a young creative person who wants to make things, do things, live life, travel around the world, rescue and home every Jack Russell Terrier in the world, I found this job to be quite bleak. It was nice being able to help make a sad day a bit better… but not enough for me to want to do it long term. Or short term.

Again, personal circumstances weren’t spectacular around this time. I was working two other jobs while also starting an ill-fated Masters degree (a topic for another “worst of” list for sure). Makes me seem like I’m making excuses, but it’s still a factor. It wasn’t a Girlboss job. It was barely a job.

The job, which replaced this, was almost the total opposite – Santa Photographer! Not without its own challenges, but, as you can see, it’s not on this list. I’d rather spend all day with Santa than all day at a funeral.

5. School Photographer

I firmly believe no little kid grows up wanting to be a school photographer. I also firmly believe, having been a school photographer, that every little kid is right.

Again, partly in search of the Girlboss job (though mainly due to Centrelink obligations) I applied to be a school photographer. Again, as a theoretical exercise it seemed sound – I’m something of a photographer (Santa’s favourite, though he probably told everyone that) and I find schools fascinating.

Again, I was let down by a theory.

This job was the absolute worst thing I’ve ever done. Super early starts, long hours, no breaks, poor pay, unreliable schedule. All things that some people love (except perhaps the poor pay) but I’m not some people. It put me in a bad mood for months.

I hated having to get up so early. When you’re getting up at 5AM or earlier, you can’t have a proper breakfast. You can’t read Twitter for an hour. You can’t slowly adjust to the horror that is being awake.

No, you’re up and you have to go and before you know it you’re driving to the Sunshine Coast wearing the most ghastly uniform a person could ever design. I still can’t believe the bosses picked that colour. Perhaps they lost a bet with a demon – free shirts but they have to be the colour of alien poo. It’s the only explanation.

I maintain that I don’t really mind early starts – if they’re worth it. An early flight? Sure. I’m driving to the Gold Coast to film State of Origin training sessions? Sign me up. Shooting a movie? The earlier the better.

What I don’t bloody want is an early start then a long drive followed by 90 minutes of setting up. This was the worst part of all. Getting gear from the van, setting up a backdrop, mucking around with a table, putting up lights. Every morning. Packing up every afternoon.

Again, I’m sure I seem like an ungrateful little shit. Plenty of people who don’t have jobs out there, should be happy to do anything, everyone’s got to start somewhere, who are you, thinking you’re too good or something, little punk?

And to that I say… Yeah. Good points. I agree. I was happier working a shit job than being unemployed. But it can still be a shit job.

And if being a photographer, especially a school photographer, was something I wanted to do, then yes, I shouldn’t complain. But it’s not. Not for me.

Actually taking the photos was fine. Interacting with the kids and staff was even fun sometimes. The younger kids were the best, as they would just stand and smile without a hint of self-consciousness. And 95% of people were nice, they’d take the photos without any drama.

I can only clearly remember one or two students who would refuse to smile. One was a high school girl who was pulling a ridiculous face and pretending she wasn’ (although, I shudder to think, maybe that was just her face…)

Another was a girl, probably around Year 5 who was going through issues a humble school photographer like me couldn’t cope with. But we got there in the end.

My favourite day of work was also the saddest. It was a huge high school. There were five photo stations set up and I was a floater, helping out wherever. This ended up taking the form of tying ties. I would have tied more than a hundred for these young blokes.

And while I was grateful for the work for sure, it wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d be after five years of university. Not exactly where I ever thought I’d be. It was better than nothing – but it doesn’t take much to beat that.

I’d come home every day exhausted, miserable. I was planning an escape route as soon as I started.

The bosses didn’t like me. They knew I was bad. I wasn’t as fast as the other photographers, my images not as precise.

Again, I never gave less than my best effort, but no doubt they picked up that I wasn’t happy. Considering they progressively gave me fewer and fewer shifts each week, I’m sure they weren’t sad to see me go.

So I’m glad my new job came along. I’m working nice Girlboss job at a university. It’s not glamorous or that creative, but it’s on the right track. Leading me somewhere better. I get to wear nice clothes. I have set hours and a definite destination every day. I can get up at a reasonable hour. I interact with interesting people. I kind of have an office and I have my own computer. I’m not making much money, but it’s more than I ever have in the past.

I’m not in charge of my own production company, writing and directing award-winning films and rescuing stray cats and dogs. Not even close. But that job is coming up.

Hopefully the worst is behind me.

*Parents I may still need money in the future, so you’re not off the hook completely. When my career takes off I’ll book you a cruise as a big thank you.

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