Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Work

We've been running a column series to get more personal with our readers. Today, we're talking about anything to do with working, jobs, careers, etc. That's definitely a central focus in a lot of chick lit novels! 

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them.

Melissa Amster:                                                                                                   
I've held office jobs ever since I graduated from college. Even before that, since I did some summer jobs at an office, as well. When I lived in New Jersey, I had my first work-from-home job doing medical billing for a couple that also worked out of their home. After I moved to Maryland, from late 2009 until the spring of 2020, I had been working in an office. Since then, I've become a work-at-home mom again, thanks to the pandemic. So today, I'm going to talk about the benefits of working at an office vs. working at home.

Working at an office:
* I had a social life. I usually had friends at whichever office I was working at. I'd have lunch with friends in the office or we'd go out somewhere for a meal. I spent a lot of time chatting with colleagues. (Well, when I was at the facilities management job, I was more of a loner but I did meet a few nice people. I ate lunch with the company of a book until my husband started working for a different company in the same building.) 

* I had a reason to dress up. Even when my office went casual, I still tried to wear something nice. 

* I listened to audiobooks. It kept my commute interesting and I'd also have them available for when I was doing something tedious. (My older son thought my job mainly consisted of stuffing envelopes.) 

* Two words: Free food. There was never a shortage of snacks or meeting leftovers and people were always bringing in baked goodies (present company included). 

* Office parties. They were a nice break from the day-to-day routine and a fun way to connect with colleagues. 

* My own desk and comfy work chair. I also got to decorate my desk to suit my personality. 

Side note: I saw on my Facebook memories feed that today is the seven year anniversary of when I moved into the new office building.

At my desk on the last day at the old building, showing off my candy basket

Working from home:
* No commute. Even though I miss listening to audiobooks, I don't miss traffic! (And I've seen all the road construction leading to my former office. It's not pretty.) 

* I can work in my pajamas if I want to. I don't usually do that, but it's nice to have the option. Even so, I'm saving a lot of money on clothes.

* I'm on my own schedule. If I don't start at 9:00 a.m., no one is complaining. I also can take my kids to appointments and not have to worry about their end of day schedule either. 

* Saving money on not dining out so often, even though I do miss my lunch outings.

* Everything is contained on my laptop so I don't need to worry about two separate computers. 

* My husband works from home too, and it's nice being together even when we're doing completely separate things. The house doesn't feel totally quiet. 

* I don't need to wear a mask at home. If I were to go to an office, I'd be masked up all day long.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to the different work environments. Maybe, in the future, I'll want to go back to an office job. When it's safe to not have to wear masks anymore, perhaps? For now, working from home works well for me. 

Sara Steven:                                                                                                                                         
My sixteen year-old is just beginning to venture into the work realm. Now that a few of his closest buddies have secured themselves part-time jobs, he’s thinking of putting himself out there and has even applied for a job at a nearby Harkins theater. The zest for independence and freedom, along with a much-desired need for a little extra dough reminded me of my own jobs when I was his age, during a time when earning a dollar an hour babysitting was considered a pretty decent wage. I think like most young girls, that was my first foray into the workforce, when overworked parents were looking for a break and decided to give the mousy book reading kid next door a chance. That job had become a central theme during my teen years, actually. Having four siblings of my own, taking care of children seemed to be a great fit in my wheelhouse. But it wasn’t all diaper changes and Chutes and Ladders.

At fourteen: I worked with my grandmother. She was an office manager for the nearby elementary school, and she’d let me hang out and photocopy documents and file them, or sometimes she’d give me organizational projects to bide my time until she was off the clock. I didn’t get paid, unless you count the trips to Dairy Queen afterward, but it didn’t matter to me. I couldn’t wait for my school day to end, so I could take the city bus out to the elementary school and start my “real” job assisting her and the other ladies in the office. 

At fifteen: a family friend needed a sitter, so I regressed back into my former profession. But man, was that a sweet gig! Someone would pick me up from school, drive me out to the house, and I would provide care for one of the sweetest little preschoolers I’d ever met. His name was Willie, and his mom was pregnant at the time with who would soon be Coral, and when Coral turned six weeks old, I had another child to tend to. I still can’t get over the fact that anyone would have thought a fifteen year-old was old enough to take care of a new baby, but I honed my skills with Coral. I’m still the sleeping baby whisperer, and can get any baby to fall asleep in my arms, guaranteed. I owe that all to Coral.

At sixteen: I went to work after school for my best friend’s family business. Her dad owned an electrical shop, and when I wasn’t filing, typing, doing data entry or answering calls, I would solder circuit boards. I had a steady hand in those days.  

At seventeen: I found out that a nearby daycare center needed workers who could helm a before and after school program for a Catholic church I’d driven by or walked by plenty of times, but had never stepped foot in. I would get up really early to keep an eye on the private school children, then skedaddle on over to my high school to start my day, then head on over to the Catholic school again when class let out. This went on all school year, and the center also provided care for the holiday seasons and when various school breaks occurred. Parents would sign their kids up for summer break--which is three long months out in Oregon, where I’m from--but I relished in the extra money as well as the freedom to create group activities and go on field trips to the library, museums, or local parks. This was the job I stuck with until I moved from Oregon shortly after I turned nineteen. 

I don’t know what kind of memories my son will have where first jobs are concerned. It’s so different now, with Covid and social distancing. I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign at the local McDonald’s, but it also said: “must be 18+.” You know it’s different when the classic employers from our youth who notoriously would give teens a chance only want someone who is eighteen and older. I’m encouraging him to find a job, but I’m not pressing too hard, either, given the current environment out there. I figure he’ll find what works for him when he’s ready, and someday, he’ll have his own first job(s) to reminisce over. 

Side note: I did work for a sandwich shop for two weeks--the longest two weeks of my life. After burning my hand on scalding hot coffee and scoring second degree burns, for which a doctor had written a note forbidding I put that hand in hot water, my manager insisted I wash dishes anyway. When I refused, she fired me. We all have that kind of story to tell, I imagine...    

Share your thoughts about jobs and/or careers with us!

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