30 Under 30: All My Jobs
by Heather Sundell
Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had a thirst for labor. My parents instilled in me that if I wanted something, I had to work for it, and I quickly learned to associate manual labor with material reward, and self-satisfaction. Really though, I think that’s what you call independence, and I’m an addict. Whether it was making my bed for a week, doing the dishes, or cleaning my room, I was compensated for my efforts in a small way. I don’t think my parents had any idea that teaching me the value of a dollar would breed an adult workaholic. My father used to tell people I was an immigrant because I was always jugging jobs. I had eight W-2s across two states when I did my tax return for 2009.
I made a list of all my jobs, and I have had 30 of them, before 30 (I’m 27.) This list only includes jobs where I filled out a W-4 and/or showed up at a physical location. If I included freelance projects or gigs, the list would possibly tip the scales around the 50 mark. (50 under 30 just doesn’t have the same appeal.)
So here are my 30 jobs under 30. Grab a snack; it’s a long list.
1. Ruby’s Diner, Hostess, 2000–2001, Seal Beach, Calif.
I had to apply for a work permit to work as a hostess/fountain girl at Ruby’s, a 1940’s inspired diner at the end of the Seal Beach pier, because I was only fifteen years old. It was required to hem my dress four inches above my knee and wear pantyhose. Someone once asked me to unironically make them a mustard shake.
2. Finbar’s Italian Kitchen, Hostess, Summer 2001, Seal Beach, Calif.
I was sixteen and had a mad crush on the 26-year-old bartender named Scott. In retrospect, he flirted with me A LOT, which is very disturbing. Even more disturbing to think about is that he’s now 38.
3. Steve Madden, Sales Associate, 2002–2003, Costa Mesa, Calif.
I took this job at South Coast Plaza, Orange County’s premier shopping experience. I worked here during my senior year of high school, driving almost a half hour each way. They made us all wear the merchandise during our shift, which sounds great NOW, but in 2002/2003 the shoes were hideous. I had a closet full of platform flip flops.
4. Abercrombie, Nighttime Troll, 2003, Costa Mesa, Calif.
I actually only worked here for about two weeks, right before I left for college (to get the discount!) I wasn’t conventionally cute enough to work during the day, so I was relegated to the nighttime troll patrol, folding all the clothes and cleaning up while the beautiful people went home.
5. McKenna’s on the Bay, Hostess, Summer 2004, Seal Beach, Calif.
The head hostess hated me because Scott the bartender (YES, the one from Finbars) was flirtatious with me. This is the only job from which I was fired. I threw tantrum about how unprofessional it was. I was 18.
6. The Coffee Bean Bakery, Barista, Sumer 2004, Seal Beach, Calif.
After being fired, I picked up a gig at as a barista at a local coffee shop. All I did during the day this summer was ride my bike to work, learn to drink coffee, eat bagels, break off the edges of all the scones, and go to the gym. Somehow I came back to school larger.
7. Nordstrom , Bra Sales Woman, Winter 2004, Cerritos, Calif.
I started working at Nordstrom during my sophomore winter break. I worked my ass off for a month straight in the lingerie section, making crazy commission on holiday shopping from clueless men. I went back to school before my paycheck could be docked with returns. I was taught how to eyeball anyone’s bra size, and learned that they make bras with cup sizes bigger than my head. I also realized that I was really a 32D, even though I was totally wearing a 34C (life-changing).
8. Production Company, Intern, 2005, Santa Monica, Calif.
Honestly, I can’t remember the name of the company or really what I did there. I think I watched TV movie dailies and filed things. Wonderful learning experience, clearly.
9. Jamba Juice, Juicer Person, Spring 2005, Westwood, Calif.
Ugh, you’ve been to one, so you know how disgusting it is. On my first day I was told to live something called, “the Jamba lifestyle.” It was insanely sticky, but working there for a few months paid for a trip to London.
10. Silver Lake Weirdos With a Publishing Company, “Intern,” Spring 2005, Silver Lake, Calif.
Literally, the only thing I remember was showing up at their apartment while this too-cool couple talked about publishing poetry, smoked cigarettes, and drank hot tea in 90-degree weather. They handed me a stack of books to distribute at one point. In retrospect, they were probably only a couple years older than me, but I was intimidated.
11. City Search, Intern, Summer 2005, Los Angeles, Calif.
I wrote one restaurant synopsis of a Brazilian barbeque with my name on it. It was the first thing I ever had written that was Googleable. I interned here for a couple weeks, but quit because I didn’t like working at an internet company. Surprise! I would later make my career off The Internets.
12. La Brea Bakery, Barista, Summer 2005, Los Angeles, Calif.
Here was another barista position, where I gained a breadth of knowledge in the world of fine cheeses. Horrible blonde women in desperate need of a sandwich were persuaded by me to indulge in the “low-cal” cherry tart (it has 2,000 calories). I also had to wear a dumb hat.
13. The Charlotte Gusay Literary Agency, Intern, Summer 2005, Los Angeles, Calif.
As an intern, I read novel specs in the guesthouse of a redheaded literary agent lady for a summer, while she vacationed in Greece for two months.
14. The Greek Escape, Store Helper/Sweatshirt Sweatshop Worker, 2005–2006, Los Angeles, Calif.
After I crashed my car, I found the only job that I could within walking distance — helping out at the local sorority and fraternity paraphernalia store restocking tchotchkes, making Greek letter sweatshirts, and watching a lot of daytime TV.
15. Movie Extra, STAR, Summer 2006, Los Angeles, Calif.
I spent a month being an extra. My first gig was the first day of shooting for Knocked Up. I am a very prominently featured extra in the club scene, and the DVD menu loop. So, I’m basically like, famous.
16. Sun Label, No title, Summer 2006, Burbank, Calif.
I worked for my dad’s printing company for a summer making deliveries, organizing invoices, and defending my dad’s eccentric behavior to customers.
17. Chin Chin (Brentwood/Beverly Hills Locations), Hostess/Take Out/Waitress, 2006–2007, Los Angeles, Calif.
This is a P.F. Changs-esque eatery. I smelled like wontons all the time,and had my greatest celebrity encounter when I served Mel Brooks. During the day I would do the lunch shift at the Beverly Hills location, and then pick up the dinner shift at the Brentwood restaurant. I was addicted to tips, which I spent exclusively on clothes I no longer own.
18, Rabineau Wachter Sanford Harris Literary Agency, Intern, Spring 2007, Santa Monica, Calif.
All I did here was read bad scripts, run errands, and drink coffee from Whole Foods before running out in the afternoon to hang out with my boyfriend.
19, The Crab Pot, Cocktail Waitress, Summer 2007, Long Beach, Calif.
I worked as a cocktail waitress right after I graduated college. It was glorious. I hooked up with the bartender (I have a thing for bartenders, so sue me), ate a lot of sourdough bread, and my co-workers taught me how to be a drunk.
20. Maverick Internet Ventures, Jr. Copywriter, 2007–2008, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
For my first real job out of college, I was hired as a Jr. Copywriter at a small internet company. I learned super shady SEO practices by writing fake blogs all day. I also met my mentor.
21. Oak Something Restaurant, Waitress, 2008, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
I cannot remember the name of this restaurant I waitressed at for a couple months while holding my day job. I hated the chef because he yelled at me over a chicken breast.
22. ZOI Greek Directory, Online Marketing and Development Coordinator, 2008–2009, Brentwood, Calif.
I managed a broken college Greek lifestyle website’s editorial, watched a lot of Hulu, cried a lot from being yelled at by my manager, and was later let go due to a restructure.
23. Chin Chin (Sunset), Waitress, Spring 2009, West Hollywood, Calif.
After I was let go of my job, I begged the general manager to take me back. I began pushing orange chicken at a third location.
24. Buttercake Bakery, Sales Associate/Cupcake Froster, Spring 2009, West Hollywood, Calif.
A new bakery opened up next to the Sunset Chin Chin, so I obviously picked up a second job because I needed to pay rent. I learned how to properly frost a cupcake though!
25. Cru Wine Bar, Waitress, Spring 2009, Denver, Colo.
I moved to Denver and immediately got a waitressing job at a wine bar where I went through two weeks of rigorous training and then quit to run a hot dog stand.
26. Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs, Assistant Manager, 2009, Denver, Colo.
Really. I was hired as the assistant manager of a stupid hot dog stand for $25K a year. I was required to do at least a 50 hour work week, 12 hour days, change the fryer oil, and literally never stop moving. It was the worst job I have ever had, and my skin thought so, too.
27. Wystone’s World Teas, Waitress, 2009–2010, Denver, Colo.
Waitressing at this tea shop/cafe was one of the most enjoyable and easiest jobs I ever had. It also made me a tea snob.
28. Colorado Ballet, PR/Marketing Intern, Fall/Winter 2009, Denver, Colo.
I became an unpaid intern again at 24 because the economy was so bad. It was awesome because I got to take free ballet classes and go see the Nutcracker. It was not awesome because I was an unpaid intern at 24.
29. Brand Iron, Intern/Executive Assistant, 2010, Denver, Colo.
ANOTHER unpaid internship at a branding agency that turned into a full time job that paid $24K a year. BIG MONEY.
30. The Search Agency, SEO Content/Marketing Manager, 2010–2013, Los Angeles, Calif.
I moved back to LA for an amazing job as an SEO content specialist at a great online marketing agency. I have since been promoted to the Marketing Manager of the company. By far, the best job yet.
31. I’m actually about to embark on my 31st job at a PR Agency. I’m planning on hanging on to 31 until 31.
Heather Sundell lives in Los Angeles.
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