My No-Bullshit Hiring History: Kitchens, Concert Halls, Banks and More
by Evan DeSimone
Child of Middle-Class Parents 1986–2000
I was one of those kids who received an allowance without really doing anything. Or maybe I did do something? The terms were unclear. Starting around age 10 I received $5 per week which was not explicitly tied to any chores or tasks as far as I can remember. Rather than a strict quid-pro-quo arrangement my parents used this allowance to teach me about the harsh coercive powers of money. My mother presented me with a crisp $5 bill every Thursday afternoon. Thursday was new comic book day and as a friendless, vaguely weird looking, ginger kid I was investing heavily in Spider Man at the time. I wasn’t ever told to do anything to earn this money, but I was reminded that the money existed, and was totally subject to my parents will, at critical moments. “Oh you don’t want to go to piano lessons? I wonder if that will affect your allowance?” “You’re not eating your broccoli … by the way, do you like getting an allowance?” My parents were master manipulators and I was a soul-weary capitalist wage slave before I started shaving.
Kitchen Assistant 2000–2004
The summer I turned 14 I was abruptly taken off the parental dole and told to find a job. The only condition was that my new place of employment could be no more than 15 minutes from my very rural home, so my mom wouldn’t have far to drive. I was still 13 until July so I also needed to find an employer who wasn’t concerned with niceties like child labor laws. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) I found a summer camp that perfectly fit the bill. It was ten minutes from home and it was run by the sort of people that live at a camp ground because they can’t be properly reintegrated into normal society. They agreed to pay me in cash until I was old enough to get working papers and I began my career as a junior scullery maid.
My main job was to wash pots and pans, many of which I could easily fit inside, and occasionally to set up lines of chafing dishes or cut 100 baguettes into 3000 slices for garlic bread. Industrial scale food service, presumably due to its low skill threshold, attracts a lot of interesting characters. It was during my time at camp that I met my first heroin addict, witnessed my first fist fight, and learned how to roll a “special cigarette.” Most of the people I worked with had criminal records of one kind or another, a fact that my mother objected to strenuously until it became evident that any other job I could find would require her to drive an additional 30 minutes. I still consider this my formative work experience. I learned how to plan a meal for 300, how to use an industrial meat slicer, and how to hide in the stock room and nap amongst the giant cans of USDA “meat.”
Concert Hall Usher 2004–2006
In an ironic twist, the only official work-study job I was offered after starting college was a position in the college dining hall. Having already had my “goodbye to all that” moment the previous summer I decided that I could probably do better. A music major friend put me in touch with the college arts director who offered me a job as an usher in the college concert hall. This was probably the best job a college student could have. My responsibility was to show up 30 minutes before any show wearing a white button-down shirt and black pants, stand around aimlessly until the program started, and then dispense programs at the door. At the end of every show we picked up those self-same programs, rearranged the stage panels, and headed home. Usher duty never started before 6:30 pm and was always concluded before 10 pm Thursday-Sunday. This meant that I was able to work in the optimal zone between dinner and whenever any weekend social activities would kick off. I also received free admission to every musical performance on campus.
Office Assistant 2004–2006 (Summers)
Due to lack of planning on my part I returned home for my first two college summers with no job arranged. Out of desperation I returned to the camp to plead my case. They offered me the option of working as an “office assistant.” As far as I can tell this wasn’t a real position because all I really did was gossip with the camp receptionist and registrar, answer phone calls from confused parents, and occasionally teach a gang of older campers how to play ultimate Frisbee. My primary job skills during this time were a sharp sense of humor and “tallness,” which was used to retrieve files from a lofted storage area without searching out the perpetually missing step ladder.
Concert Hall House Manager 2006–2008
After two years of working as an usher, I received an unexpected upgrade when one of the student house managers decided that her senior course load along with a part in the student musical didn’t leave her with enough time for the job. As the only staff member who was not also a music major I was uniquely positioned to take over. In addition to handing out programs, I scheduled the other ushers and occasionally ran the sound booth. Perks included choice hours and the ability to wear colors. The highlight of this job was meeting Aretha Franklin backstage. She called me Stewart and asked me to bring her a hamburger.
Program Analyst (Summer 2007)
The summer before my senior year I accepted a community research fellowship from my college. I spent the summer studying the impact of a 10 year old public housing grant on a nearby city. The city was a small rustbelt city in upstate new York that had spent years mismanaging its funds. The grant money had almost all been spent and the city had managed to build less than 10% of the housing units it had originally promised. During the course of my research, which was partially sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, I met with the mayor, the comptroller, the tax assessor, and a handful of other city officials all of whom basically just shrugged and sent me on my way. I received a very generous stipend and produced a report that amounted to a 30 page shrug. It was at this point that I realized I did not want a career in public policy.
MTV Asia Intern (Summer 2008)
This was my most surreal work experience to date. Since my fellowship had convinced me that I didn’t want to work in policy I decided to do the next logical thing: intern for MTV, of course! This was one of many, seemingly random media internships I applied for. I think I got that job because I listed that I had studied Cantonese on the application. My spoken Cantonese at the time amounted to being able to count, order food, and shout random phrases like “Don’t touch that goat,” but no matter. I arrived in Singapore in early June and to this day I’m not entirely sure that anyone knew I was coming. My primary job was to edit blog posts written in English by non-native English speakers. My other assignment was to cover the seemingly non-existent indie music scene of Singapore and Hong Kong. I was going on six months of fabricating glowing reviews of local bands fronted by British high school students before a family situation brought me back to the US.
Customer Service Rep (2008–2010)
I moved back to my home town and took the first job I could find, customer service representative for a community bank. Here is where I first starred into the abyss of collective human ignorance, a roiling sea of confusion and impotent phone rage. Also, sometimes, old ladies sent us cookies. Most of my day was spent explaining things that I thought most adults already knew, how to turn on a computer monitor, how to write a check, the difference between a debit and a credit. More than any job I had had before or since this job taught me how to manage people. The first six months were extremely stressful but eventually something breaks inside of you and then, when a woman calls to say that her father’s ghost is inhabiting her body and so she needs to access her mother’s personal account in order to pay for a spiritual cleansing, you roll with it.
Bank Operations Associate (2010–2012)
After reaching a zen-like state of indifference to the human condition as a customer service rep, I was offered a position in the operations office. This job was not funny in any way and I can’t think of a single amusing thing to say about it. I handled a lot of paper, maintained a bunch of balancing spreadsheets, exchanged currency, researched transactions from 1983, and learned that banks are not nearly as closely regulated as they should be. Many people assume that the retail side of banking is controlled by a strict set of rules, and that every eventuality has already been accounted for. The reality is that a bunch of completely random people with limited training are often making it up as they go along. Whenever I didn’t know how to do something, say open an account for a foreign national, or recall a transaction from the Federal Reserve, I Googled it. If Google didn’t have an answer I posted the question on a message board and other, similarly confused bankers at other institutions helped me guess an answer.
Bank Marketing Associate (2012–2014)
In 2012 the company decided that it was time to have a marketing department instead of just a stressed out woman printing flyers out of MS Paint. I was asked to join this new team, presumably due to the fact that I was under 30 and handy with a spreadsheet. My job has cycled through a number of different names including Analytics Manager, Marketing Data Analyst, and the especially vague Marketing Specialist. We attempted to nail down who our customers were, and how we could retain them while growing our customer base to include more profitable populations. Apparently we didn’t do this fast enough because the banks’ earnings tanked and everyone was laid off.
Freelancer (2014 -?)
I’m currently living a cubicle free life doing some copywriting and social media marketing consulting. In other words, I’m a professional millennial. The future is a sea of vague possibilities but thus far I’m enjoying having more free time if a little less disposable income.
Evan DeSimone is an occasional scribbler of words on the internet but he still hasn’t ruled out running away to join the circus. He tw(eats) his feelings here.