It would be fair to say I get around job-wise. Throughout my illustrious working career I have had the opportunity to experience so many roles – some wonderful; some not so much. The following has turned into a bit of a novel so I’ve split it into two: BCH (Before Crap Happened) and ACH (think you can figure what that stands for). Brace yourselves.
I find myself on yet another “step-to-the-right” in the dance laughingly called my ‘career path’ (more like drunken stagger) – still at the same workplace but using a different, more technical skill-set to the administrative/marketing role I’ve been filling for the past 18 months. I’m a little nervous but mainly excited about it but if you look at the experiences I’ve had over the past *cough* wee while, there’s many things I’ve already done that should help me pick it up and run with it fairly quickly.
My working career (outside of the usual after-school shenanigans) started way back in 1991 as a Coles Deli Assistant, working my way up to 2IC (which just meant I got the lucky task of coming in super-early on a Monday morning to get the rotisserie chickens cranking and set up the cabinet for the week and do the scale report to make sure we weren’t diddling the customers). Then we moved to Sydney, added a second baby to the family and I began my library studies, which led to the first twist in my path.
After moving all over the country, we landed in a small town in WA, where (on the second attempt) I became Library Officer at the Primary School two of my three kids attended (yep, quite a gap there between paid jobs). I loved this job dearly and it’s still the longest stint in one workplace in the same role (4 years). It was pretty perfect – school hours and school holidays but none of the responsibilities of a teacher (poor sods – I have so much respect for teachers from my time working with them in schools) as well as the pleasure of scouring through reviews to pick all the books.
I vividly recall reading the review for “Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone” and knew it would be a hit but was unsure if it would be too hard for the kids (poor town; struggling/itinerant families; lots of behavioural issues). I ordered two copies, thinking if nothing else it would be perfect for teachers to read aloud and ended up having a waiting list of kids clamouring to read it and having to buy a few extra copies to keep up with demand. The second time I remember purchasing a book as part of my role and thinking “This is gonna be HUGE” and being proven right was for – you may know it – the first in a 4 part series called “Twilight”.
During this time I also was a casual Woolworths Cash Office Administrator on weekends. I scratch my head at this memory, wondering why on earth I did this, with three kids and already working five days a week – then I remember the expectations and mindset I was living under at the time and it makes sense. Taught me to count money real fast and honed my OCD for all notes facing the same way in neat and tidy bundles.
New town in a new state, and of course the school system was different – I had to be a teacher to work in a school library – and the local Public Library was not going to be hiring any time soon. After a brief and terrible stint as a Learning Coordinator for a state government funded adult learning centre (which didn’t actually have a building for the centre – just a room in another state government funded centre which just made it all sorts of awkward and complicated), I got lucky, scoring a job as a part-time Typesetter/Graphic Designer at the local newspaper, with no prior experience apart from the fact I was comfortable with computers, could spell and had done a module of study in my library technician’s diploma on colour design and basic formatting of promotional collateral.
After a time I did manage to get a position as a casual Library Officer at the local library, covering shifts on Saturdays and sometimes their one late opening night per week. It was a good gig. I was studying for my Bachelor of Library Science at the time (while still working at the newspaper cause apparently I had 35 hours in a day back then), so it gave me great opportunities to put theory into practice and vice versa.
I almost blanked out the three years I spent as Library Technician for the local TAFE college after leaving the newspaper to do some full-time (but short-lived) study for a teaching degree (that’s a whole other post in itself). TAFE was a great learning experience as my manager was a great mentor willing to share her years of experience with me. Sure, she was the quintessential cranky librarian and scared the bejesus out of most people but she treated me very well … and she was so nice to my kids (as well as being a complete push-over with her own. Softie at heart.) that I couldn’t not like her. But working for State Government was a long, slow death and I did not want to slowly evolve into the quintessential cranky librarian.
So I left full-time employment at a very decent government pay rate and moved onto the local Catholic High School as a part-time Library Officer … not sure how I passed the interview with regards to religious beliefs for that one but somehow I did. It was ridiculously low pay for a fully qualified librarian at $15 an hour but I loved the school ethos – they really cared about their students – and of course, the kids were great to work with.
But then … the “eccentric” (i.e. batshit crazy) … library manager at the Public Library left, which led to my next big break.
As Library Manager in a regional library service – one main branch, one teeny-tiny little room in a very interested area known as the Gemfields – I had the responsibility of managing staff for the first time as well as being accountable for a substantial budget. Exciting, scary and very difficult at times but I loved every minute of it … ok, not the minutes I had to ‘have a talk’ with certain persons for upsetting the applecart every time they walked into the place … but the rest of it was great. Honestly, after the last manager’s crazy antics and passive-aggressive management style, I did not have to do much to look fantastic – and I thank her for that, wherever she is.
Then Peter Beatty did his thing and ruined my perfect little life in more ways than one. This career sidetrack led me straight up Poop Creek and onto Poop city …
After March 15 2008 (yep, I still remember the date), the council I was working for was amalgamated with three other surrounding shires into one giant mega-council. It covered an area of roughly 60,000 sq. kilometres with offices spread out at roughly one-hour-drive intervals from each other. That and the fact each office had its own unique culture made it seriously dysfunctional Due to the necessary restructure, I was offered the role of Manager Community Services. To this day, I’m not sure why. I guess I’d proved myself capable of management to a degree in the previous 8 months as Library Manager.
Just managing the shenanigans of the library service growing from 2 branches to 10 would have been enough challenge. But instead I had to take on Community Services, a portfolio which included libraries, pools (dear god, I shudder just thinking about pools), halls, art galleries, aged care facilities, youth facilities and – best of all – community groups. I want to say it was THE WORST decision I ever made but circumstances being what they were at the time, I felt I had no choice but to accept. Nine months later, I had what you could nicely refer to as “a spiritual awakening” but what most people would call a nervous breakdown. Even though my heart knew I really shouldn’t have taken that job, the advantage of hindsight shows that I actually learnt a lot and grew so very much from that complete and utter personal and professional smackdown of an experience. Let’s just call it a Turning Point and leave it at that.
While I was recovering sufficiently to be able to deal with the stresses of a ‘normal life’ again, Lady Luck smiled upon me and I found myself working from home as a Freelance Proofreader for a friend, proofing advertising collateral for various big name companies. Not a huge amount but enough to give me ‘pin’ money and help my severely battered self-esteem compose itself. It also gave me a taste for the freelance life and I really liked it.
But life was about to deal a few shockers and I was going to need more regular work … (to be continued)