I started a part-time job recently and it has me thinking about all of my previous jobs. For the last year or so I’ve really been searching for a career. There are many things I like to do, and because of that, I never truly settled on one thing. Instead, I followed a random path of a string of somewhat-unrelated jobs.
Here’s where I could bore you with statistics about college loans, recessions, equal pay, and the fact that I’ve made at least $1 less per hour in every position since I left my highest paying job in 2007, meaning I’ve been working backwards. This fact alone is the main reason I’m living with my parents right now. With this pay decline almost every year (with the exception of a year or two in Austin), I’m now making the same amount at my part-time job that I made in my high school part-time job. Or put another way, I’m making exactly $10 less an hour than I made in my first professional job after college. Let that marinate for a minute.
Before you start thinking I’m a terrible employee, this isn’t based on performance. I’ve never been fired from any job, and with three of my temp positions, I was hired full-time. I have glowing reviews and letters of recommendation from almost every company, but the circumstances surrounding each job have left me with a series of difficult choices, ultimately bringing me to this moment in my life.
What I’m starting to realize is that there’s no wrong choice. Yes, I have regrets, but if I’m honest with myself, I’ve learned something from just about every position I’ve had. There are practical skills I’ve gained: I wouldn’t know how to use the dashboard and other applications in WordPress without a temp job that used an almost identical format, and working at an art magazine gave me a sense of aesthetics, as well as ways to display and curate content. Of course, there’s also life experience and people skills that come from working in any office, no matter the size or number of employees. All jobs, regardless of what they are, teach you something–even if you can’t see it in the moment, and feel you’ve diverged from your original path.
Where I was once regretful over several of these jobs, I’m now grateful. I’m even okay with where I am right now. I hope it leads to bigger and better, but I know what I’m doing now is the right fit for this time in my life, while I’m seeking answers on what to do next.
If you’re like me and trying to find your career mojo again, I have a few movies that always inspire:
Working Girl – “I’ve got a head for business and a bod for sin.” It’s impossible not to feel like you can conquer the world by the time Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” plays at the end. When you know you have more to offer, and just can’t seem to move up, or over, on your own, you long for the right connections or a great opportunity to come along.
9 To 5 – As someone who’s worked in an Administrative Assistant role many times over the years (aka, Secretary), I have a soft spot for this comedy classic. Even in today’s work environment, I’ve had older male clients and colleagues walk into the office and treat me as if all I could handle was answering phones and making coffee, so this one is nice when you need a little revenge escapism. As relevant today as it was in the ’80s.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding – This is a rom-com at heart, but one of the things that inspires me the most from this film is the transformation. Tired of just working in her family’s restaurant, Toula takes some college courses, which gives her confidence and makes it easier to ask for a different job. She puts more effort into her appearance, again building confidence, and improves her life in various ways.
The Devil Wears Prada – Sometimes you don’t have the dream job, but it can still teach you things (as mentioned above). It can help you figure out what you’re capable of, or it can physically and emotionally drain you, showing you what you’re willing to put up with and when you’ve reached your limit. When a job starts making you feel like the worst version of yourself, its time to cut your losses and move on. Andy makes sacrifices, as we all have at times, but ultimately finds her way back to herself. How many times have you taken a job you didn’t really care about at first, only to find a year or two later that you’re working the hardest you’ve ever worked and making yourself miserable to fit in?
Shopgirl – I love this movie for so many reasons. Again, this is one that’s really about transformation, not just work. Mirabelle is bored, working in the glove department of a department store, and doing her artwork in her spare time. A love triangle ensues and she has more ups and downs, but she finally leaves the department store and starts working in an art gallery as a receptionist. It’s not a huge career move, but it’s an authentic one, and it gives her the opportunity to showcase her own art work there eventually.
I hope these films will give you a little motivation, inspiration, and some good laughs if you’re also struggling in your career right now. Good luck!