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Eureka: Lessons from the jobs I had
by Joseph Gatt
2017-03-09 11:10:12
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Some people keep their first job for life. I wish that were my case, not in terms of keeping my first job but in terms of stability. I had tougher luck when it came to keeping jobs. Thankfully I’ve settled for a good one. I’ll talk vaguely about the jobs I had, which will hopefully give you hints as to jobs you should avoid.

work01_400_03First internship at a very famous international organization whose name I won’t tell you: I had no idea people who work for international organizations have something I like to call the “imposter syndrome” that is feel like they don’t deserve the job. International organizations have people with several linguistic backgrounds, but there are two categories of people: native English speakers, and those who speak English with a heavy accent. Those who speak English with a heavy accent feel ridiculed and like to stay in the closet, and the native English speakers are kept in the closet by non-native speakers. So working for an international organization feels like each time you start a conversation with someone, someone else picks you up and asks you a work-related question and reminds you that you should really be in your office. It’s all about people avoiding each other and preventing friendships from being formed. Nonetheless, people like to send group emails on Sundays, because they know you can only access your email from work, meaning they showed up for work on Sunday. As for those constant business trips, they are really about escaping the abysmal office culture, and not so much about helping countries in need.

Second internship at a large business matchmaking organization: Yes there are organizations whose job is to help businesses get to know other businesses or get to know clients. They organize fairs, expositions or matchmaking events, usually at hotels or luxurious sites, and a lot of businesses do show up for those events. The main problem at that internship was that the CEO or boss or owner were invisible and I don’t think they ever showed up. That meant the interns and managers were competing for who the real boss was and sabotaging each others’ work. It was this one manager who had been around longer than us but who liked to withhold information from us, meaning projects were walking in the dark, meaning they failed.

First job at a broadcasting company: Imagine a company that does shows in English but really writes the scripts in French, or Spanish, or German, or Hebrew for that matter. I won’t reveal the location of the job. Scripts were written in one language, then translated to English, meaning  the hosts had to read awkward scripts, although we did have editors to make the content more readable and viewer friendly. The great thing about broadcasting was the easygoing attitude, as I once had trouble editing this show and my boss goes like “take it easy, who do you think is going to watch the show?” The great thing was it was 2007 and digital filming replaced analogue filming which meant shows were incredibly cheaper to produce, meaning we didn’t have to worry too much about quality, since we had shot more shows than we would air, because shooting became a lot cheaper. The negative thing perhaps was the whole “propaganda approach” a lot of broadcasting companies have. This man is great, this woman is a hero! These people are awesome! Can’t we just talk about what they do rather than insist how awesome they are?

Second job at a research institution: So my dream was always to be a researcher, and I’ve published sketches of my research here in Ovi. The research center was mostly about recycling twenty or thirty year-old research. I was given articles from 1987, or 1978 or 1995 and was asked to update the articles. I would do that but for some reason my name never showed up when they were published. I quit the job because they were no longer giving me research, and at one point I was just mailing books and journals to different locations, so I became a bit of a mailman. Plus my boss didn’t care that I was also trying to get a teaching position, although he knew a lot of people who could help me get a teaching position.

Third job as a freelancer: This freelancer thing was becoming big, so I decided to try my luck with it. Work from home, no boss to yell at you (this part is not true, clients yell at you) and make money from the comfort of your own home. The difficult part is finding work that actually pays well. I did make 730 dollars in a single day (if all days could be like that day) which happened to be my birthday in 2011. Other than that most days were slow, I did have a few regular clients, and I only did translation because writing was mostly ghostwriting jobs and I like my name to be attached to the articles I publish. To give you an idea, in 16 months of freelancing, I only made about 5,000 dollars. I didn’t exactly strike it rich.

Fourth job as a professor: Yay! I finally realized my dream. I only had a one-year contract, 15 hours teaching per week, a good salary that came in every month, a retirement pension scheme and other benefits. Plus 5 months paid vacation, so plenty of time to do research. Except the dean kept threatening to fire me and telling me that I don’t speak English and that the students don’t like me (I don’t know where he got the ideas) and that research mostly meant talking about academia while drinking beer with colleagues. Unfortunately I had to be careful not to make the dean jealous, which is a lesson learned. I speak Korean (the job was in Korea) and that made the dean jealous. I speak several languages which made the dean and Korean colleagues jealous as well. I did research which made the colleagues jealous. One thing led to another and I was banned from teaching in Korea probably because the Korean president was jealous or something (a presidential decree of all things banned me from teaching in 2013.)

Fifth job as a marketing assistant: The move from professor to marketing assistant was not a smooth one. I had to find a job because I needed the money and took what came first. Technology can make people weird. The CEO of all people, rather than briefing me orally and telling me what’s right and what’s wrong, made me translate documents in which she vented her financial frustrations. Plus the company wasn’t that straightforward about what they wanted me to do. Mainly, when they kept asking me to translate disastrous financial reports, I saw that as a sign I should leave.

Sixth job as a translator: 150 pages a day? Really? I did most of it, but quit after two weeks.

Seventh job as a recruiter: The fun part was receiving resumes, interviewing candidates and placing them at jobs. I quickly noticed a pattern recruiters don’t really notice. The idea is you need to place a candidate near where his housing location is. Otherwise the candidate will have to rent a house and that means he or she will need job security, otherwise if something goes wrong they lose the housing. That made placement incredibly tedious, and matching employees with employers was like completing a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, mainly because of the human cost involved with candidates. Most recruiters don’t care though, and place candidates with factoring the housing question in, leading to lots of angry calls if employees get fired that go like “but I have a lease on that apartment!” add to that employers aren’t always honest about the state of their finances.

Eighth job as a teacher: I taught at several language schools. I noticed that the teachers, administration and staff tend to emulate the CEO of director of the school. If the CEO acts like a “bitch” then a lot of the teachers will acts like bitches. If he or she takes pleasure in other teachers’ difficulties, teachers will feel the same about their student difficulties. If he or she is an alcoholic no one will know exactly what’s going on at the school. I took me a couple of years before I found the “perfect” school, that is one where people seem to know what they’re doing.  


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Emanuel Paparella2017-03-09 16:57:48
Aristotle did not call it "a job" but a life-occupation, or career choice,and, moreover, he did not see it in isolation from health (both physical and mental) and family (which included friendship) which are integral part of a "flourishing life." So, perhaps it behooves us to take a second look at Aristotle understanding of career choice and the flourishing life...Or we may wish to stay in the cocoon of "modern enlightenment progress" deluding ourselves that we have reached the summit of the good life...

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