Jack of All Trades and Master of ……Quite a Few


A recent Blog entry by Steven DiMaio struck home for me personally because I have a wide variety of skill sets and a large number of work experiences. This is usually a  very good thing because I can usually make connections between disparate tasks and industries striking to the heart of issue quickly providing resolution to an issue and it also shortens ramp up time when learning new things. But it can be a bad thing when you are trying to concisely present yourself to a prospective employer or client or even take advantage of a networking opportunity.

Because of my background with skills and expertise in multiple areas: military experience, IT management experience, technology sales experience, Consulting experience, relationship management experience, an MBA focusing on Entrepreneurship, Photojournalism experience and even more obscure job experiences which I no longer highlight but are still very useful such as: substitute teacher; radio DJ on two different radio stations; bouncer; bartender; waiter; the token caucasian employee in Japanese restaurant; QA inspector in an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog Factory; and even six months as a Kelly Girl back when Kelly Services still referred to their temporary staffers as Kelly Girls because I could type over 40 words a minute. 

Part of the reason for the large number of jobs and career fields is that I’ve worked since I was 14 and I worked throughout college covering most of my expenses with gradually diminishing help from my parents so that my final year of school was completely paid for by myself.  Finishing school during the early 90’s recession meant work was hard to come by and you did what you could where you could. Some weeks you could only get one shift so you had to have a 2nd and 3rd job simultaneously and juggle them along with schoolwork in order to make rent and have a little pocket change for the weekend.

But I learned something from each job so here are two things I learned from two very different jobs. I’ll add more lessons learned periodically.

1. Learn about where you live. As a freshman studying the usual liberal arts I worked as a pizza delivery driver for several months when I first arrived in Columbia, MO at perhaps the finest pizza place in America – Shakespeare’s.  

A T-shirt suitable for all occasions and one I wore for all my deliveries

A T-shirt suitable for all occasions and one I wore for all my deliveries

Although I was a student, I also had to cover my expenses hence the need to work . Since my ’77 Rabbit was fairly reliable and Shakespeare’s was two blocks from my dorm it was a natural place for me to work. Of course this was before Google Maps and GPS devices so you would get handed a pie with an address and you’d go to the large map on the wall and find the address, trace a route and then hope the house numbers were visible. It was a good job – minimum wage plus payment for each delivery plus tips. And pizza at the end of the shift with all the fountain coke you could drink. I typically cleared $30-40 for 5 hours work complete with a meal. And the lesson I quickly learned was that knowing how to get around had an immediate financial impact and saved you time. If you wasted 10 minutes trying to find an address, it meant somebody else got to deliver the next pie ahead of you and you made less money at the end of the night.

2. Pay attention to the details. As a Kelly services staffer working as a QA inspector at an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog Factory my responsibility was to conduct periodic inspections of the hot dog packaging. I was issued a micrometer and my job was to grab sample packages of hot dogs and rip them open putting the dogs back into the packaging machine to be repackaged. I would then take the now-empty package to a microscope and with a micrometer measure each of the three layers comprising the plastic. I had to do this because all plastic packaging was extruded onsite and each of the package’s three layers had minimum thickness to meet or the hotdogs would have to be repackaged.  

A windup version of the famous Oscar Mayer Weinermobile

A windup version of the famous Oscar Mayer Weinermobile

Imagine it’s your business. Would you give a temporary worker with a minimum of training the power to recall your entire product line? It was a decision I reluctantly made often enough because the data was irrefutable. One night I had to recall an entire shift’s production run of hot dogs  because the extrusion machines just weren’t working properly and none of the packaging met the minimum standards. It wasn’t a fun night in the break room with all the other workers or in the morning when the factory manager came in and demanded to see my logs. But he inspected them and after he was finished while he said good job, he wasn’t exactly happy with me. So I learned that being off by just a tenth of a millimeter is a problem and could cost a lot of money. Paying attention to the details meant I did good work and prevented small problems from becoming bigger problems. Which ultimately saved money and protected consumers.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from your past jobs? -t

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