Career History: List of Every Job I’ve Ever Had

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Help Wanted SignI’ve been thinking about all the various jobs I’ve held during my life. I remembered that even as a 10-year old child, I dreamed about being financially independent in the way that I worked for money and could live on my own – I wanted to be like the kids in the Boxcar Children books. Looking back, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I would eventually dream about being financially independent in the way that I didn’t have to work for anyone. I often wonder how I turned out that way.

Here’s a list of all the paying jobs I can remember, in semi-chronological order. As you can see, I’ve always been firmly on the nerd/geek side of things. As a kid, I remember listing my future job as “scientist”.

  • Restaurant cashier/host
  • Fast food drive-thru window dude
  • Country club food server
  • SAT/ACT/math tutor (high school)
  • Undergraduate research summer intern
  • Engineering summer intern
  • Academic paper proofreader / chart maker / equation maker
  • Campus security staff
  • Parking lot attendant
  • Tennis instructor
  • University bookstore cashier
  • University psychology department test monkey
  • Math/physics/writing tutor (college)
  • Graduate student researcher
  • Graduate student instructor (physics, thermodynamics)
  • Engineer
  • Consultant
  • Freelance writer
  • Web designer
  • Digital publisher (owner of various websites)

Work has been good to me. My stints in restaurants taught me that lots of people work very hard for very little money, which made me study harder. Being an working graduate student taught me that I could eat and live quite happily on an income of less than $18k a year, something I might not have learned had I went straight into a corporate job. I met my wife while working for campus security. How many jobs have you had, and which ones changed your life?

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  1. I have a framed picture with every business card I’ve ever had along with a few name tags I was made to wear (Grocery Store, Disney). I also have included logos of big clients I worked for. It’s a fun little work of art,

  2. I especially liked the last comment on working in a restaurant. I too worked various low wage jobs during high school and also found it to be a tremendous life lesson and instilled a strong work/study ethic. I feel many kids nowadays who have only studied and never worked a minimum wage job are missing out and will be less prepared when entering the work force. I certainly notice the difference in hiring recent college grads.

  3. At 16, I worked two jobs during the Houston summer that made me certain I never wanted to work outside as a career: I read water meters in a neighborhood of about 800 homes @ $0.13 / meter. This worked out to about $100 for 2 days of work each month but was extremely hot, and nasty as most of the meters were in boxes that would fill with rain water, bugs, frogs, etc.

    Then 2-3 days per week, I worked at a water treatment plant using powder chlorine to kill and then scrub algae off the troughs of large water storage tanks. That was stinky, hard and insanely hot.

    Being a valet in college taught me to never give my car to valets.

  4. Great post, Jonathan!

    I’m currently a grad student, like you were, working toward my Ph.D. As a part of this, I’m a graduate teaching assistant. So I, too, have learned that I can eat and live quite happily on an income of less than $18k a year. I agree that it’s a valuable lesson. This is actually the only paying job I’ve ever had (not counting odd jobs my parents paid me to do once in a while). That either makes me lucky or unlucky, depending on your perspective. I did, however, volunteer at my local hospital when I was in high school, doing grunt work (cleaning gurneys, stuffing envelopes, etc). The paint of hours of mindless work at that age taught me that I definitely didn’t want to do anything remotely manual or clerical, and that I had better study hard.

    Being a low-income grad student also prompted me to learn more about finance and investing. I took a night course in finance at my university (with a deep discount for being a current student/employee) alongside my usual workload and read everything I could get my hands on. Now I’m passionate about living frugally, saving, and investing. Really the only reason I aspire to earn a higher income now is so that I can save even more and reach financial independence sooner. I know most of my working life is still ahead of me, but I’m grateful to be 25 and single with zero debt and around $55k invested in mostly broadly diversified passive equity index funds. The future feels bright, and I know that as long as I continue to learn, and remain frugal and disciplined, it’ll continue to be.

  5. Here we go….@ 25 years old currently

    Fast food
    Gift shop @ a horse race track
    Valet (and shuttle driver) @ horse race track
    Retail sales (clothing at a sports store)
    Car Salesman (both new and used at the same time)
    data entry/auditing records
    Ski lift operator
    Cashier in a dining hall
    data entry #2
    Corporate Trainer
    Corporate Accountant

    8 of those were or were treated as seasonal jobs….

    The one that taught me the most would be working in a gift shop at a horse race track, because it taught me that once you get your foot in the door, you can move anywhere within a company (like I did to Valet). Just work your hardest and if you have a good boss, they’ll pull strings for you.

    Most life changing would be dining hall @ college, where I met my wife :).

  6. +1 for the grad student life. I am still amazed I could save $5k of my $20k income. Builds character 🙂

  7. I always felt I could relate to almost everything you write, Jonathan and the way you write it in a concise, straight-forward manner. I guess it really comes off that you’re an engineer like myself. Kindred spirits I reckon.

  8. I have had a lot of jobs that have helped me, but I honestly can’t even remember every job I have had. Back in the day I would only work at certain jobs for a few weeks. I understand the benefit of remaining at a place of employment for awhile because of this.

  9. No paper route, Jonathan?

    That was the first “real” job for me at age ten (mowing lawns and shoveling snow for neighbors would be, if I counted those). My wife did that as well in elementary school and junior high.

    The last time we had a paper delivered, it was by a guy driving an SUV through the neighborhood (I still see them when I am out in the early morning).

  10. @Maury – That’s a cool idea, good for showing the kids too.

    @Kevin – Just a valet teaser with no story? 🙂

    @Andrew – I think your future is bright, and the best part is you’ll be able to do whatever you really want to do as you balance income desire and personal enjoyment level.

    @Nic – Let’s hear it for campus jobs. I’ve always wanted to be the “ski bum” working the lifts and skiing the rest of the winter. Never got around to it. Ah well.

    @Michael – I think it is the engineering problem sets that contributed to that. Sometimes when doing calculations, I just want to box my answer, ha.

    @Weston – That’s a good point. I can’t say I was always a good worker, although I tried hard while there, I would get bored quickly.

    @Ron – Nope, no paper route. I doubt my parents would have let me, although I think by my time the paper was delivered by car as well. I once talked to my modern paper delivery guy, who said he got paid something like 10 cents per paper delivered, but got dinged $2 a pop when it was reported as undelivered. (Someone was stealing my paper, so we worked out a hiding place.) Tough job still I suppose.

    I only mowed my parents lawn for money, but I think I mowed one other person’s lawn and decided it wasn’t for me.

  11. “met my wife while working for campus security”

    Sounds dramatic.

    Did you have to rescue her?

    Or did you have to bust her for something and made a deal to let her go?

  12. I’m curious as to what your other websites are as I really like this one!

  13. Jonathan, I’m sure you’d definitely like The Big Bang Theory TV show…assuming you’re not a fan already 🙂

  14. I have been musing over my life, trying to remember all the jobs I have had……quite a few. Here is a list, in no particular order…….

    1. Answered the phone at my high school
    2. Babysitter
    3. Worker bee, then manager of Venus de Milo (figure salon)
    4. Switchboard operator at Monex (gold and silver exchange)
    5. Manager of Naugles (high dollar fast Mexican food)
    6. Airman First Class – US Air force
    7. Security guard – I got fired because I would not go out to the parking garage at night (too many grasshoppers, I was scared)
    8. Built mobile homes in Oklahoma (I did the electrical work, connected ceiling fans, connected the outlets, wired the fuse box) I don’t think I had a clue as to what I was doing, but I got to wear a work belt, and I liked it!)
    9. Picked cotton (yes, picked cotton!!) Lasted one day.
    10. Worked at Wright Brothers (meat packing plant), everyone was Vietnamese and I couldn’t talk to anyone, so I hated it! I trimmed the fat off of flank steaks and I was fired for being “too slow”. I wanted to trim every little piece of fat off of them…they wanted fast, not perfect.
    11. Another meat packing plant, I stacked boxes. We were not allowed to talk, so I started a petition, and of course, I got fired for rallying the troops.
    12. Graveyard janitor at a plant. When I used the floor buffer it threw me all over the place, couldn’t physically do the job.
    13. Hospital kitchen in Whichita Falls (don’t remember what I did)
    14. Paper route
    15. Hamburger shack in Newport Beach, Calif. (One guy used to come order his hamburger raw, yuck)
    16. Dishwasher at High Plains Baptist Hospital in Amarillo, Texas. We had to wear bright yellow polyester outfits. The obese black workers looked like bumble bees.
    17. Worked my way up to cook in the same kitchen.
    18. Transferred to pharmacy tech, after giving the Pharmacy Director TONS of food everyday in the lunch line (I was one of the servers)
    19. Memorex plant on the assembly line (used to fall asleep standing, got fired)
    20. Cashier at a convenience store (the whole crew got fired because someone stole money, and it was not me!)
    21. Investigational Drug Tech at The Methodist Hospital, I had arrived!!! Still there, but part time, and now I mix chemotherapy.
    22. Baylor College of Medicine, Sr Research Coordinator. Loved it.
    23. Started a journal retrieval company, JR & C, made copies of journal articles for doctors….friken Internet made me obsolete.
    24. Sold knock off perfume.
    25. Levi Strauss factory, I put the rivits on 501’s.
    26. House sitter
    27. Pet sitter
    28. IV Pharmacy Technician (compounded chemotherapy)
    29. Research Coordinator (working with newly diagnosed breast cancer patietns) LOVE this job!!

  15. Valets – in my experience in a big college town (Austin) – are not nearly as careful with customers’ cars as you might think/hope. These are testosterone filled 20 year old guys who think they’re invincible.

    Even guys that were careful and considerate of private property made mistakes (a very tight stick shift can cause a big pick-up truck to lurch back into a concrete light pole!). Add to that it’s most often a part time gig with varying pay; if a kid makes a big enough mistake it’s in his interest to just walk away from the job (mid shift) rather than own up to it.

    The most outrageous example I can give was when I was working one night at a very popular restaurant. I arrived for work and my partner for the night – whom I’d never met – cruised out to our stand after having been at the bar inside downing margaritas. He was a sketchy drop-out and had no concern at all for his performance on the job.

    Same kid used the cell phone in a Mercedes at a wedding reception to make long distance calls and order us pizza.

  16. Interested in knowing that you looked back at your jobs/career path on Thursday morning, September 20, 2012, by writing this blog. I am working, too, with decent pay, and it took me a long way to get where I am now. However, when I tried to teach my “college girl”, I would say “education would lead you where you want to”. I also mentioned often that we need to bend ourselves at some point in time in order to get moved forward in life.

    This Monday morning, September 17, 2012, I was telling my daughter the above and also mentioning some of the events and my relaxed attitude toward those events that had become my turning points in life.

    I said–when I was 18, my father asked me to take an exam for a government job, and I did without putting any effort to prepare for the exam. When I was accepted, I still hesitated because I was thinking about another job’s fewer workdays with more long weekends for myself. Well, my father asked me to report to duty tomorrow, and I followed his “order” and started to be an auditor trainee. A year later, my co-workers informed me of a new college program and suggested that we all go for it. I did not prepare for the exam; I passed the exam and got accepted into the program with four co-workers. When I prepared to come to the US, I was labeled a Business Administration prospective student, which was for Visa purposes. Back then, I did not know anything else in the US; thus, I continued to be a Business Administration “prospective student” learning the language here and then an actual student in that major. I was not ready to get married, but my husband planned it and I just followed him, at the time he earned $1,300 monthly. Luckily, I had a hard-working husband who supported me then (and still supports me now) and my education and our dream and goals. By now you know that I am telling my daughter/his sweetheart daughter such story. We are now earning ten folds more than the $1,300 and paying for kid’s tuition, hoping that she will at least have the same luck.

    Yes, those are my life-changing events, similar to you guys life-changing jobs. It seemed that I did not have goals and strategic plans, but God has prepared those for me thus far–this is my lessons learned.

    By the way, congrats to Jon for having your baby girl. Keep working and counting more babies’ arrivals.

  17. Started picking strawberries at 12, paid by the amount I picked. Just 3 hours/day for 6-8 weeks. Illegal now and that’s a shame. Farm and construction work until 16 when I got a teamsters job sorting bottles at a soda company. The teamsters got almost as much of my paycheck as I did.

    Had a variety of jobs through college. The best was as a night desk clerk at an assisted living facility. Was able to study several hours and was allowed to sleep midnight til 5AM.

  18. Tennis instructor?! We need to get a match started 😉

  19. @Toni: Wow, that’s a long list. If on average you held one job for a year, that would count 29 years of your enjoyment (not a wrong spelling).

  20. Wow. So many good folks sharing their story.

    Awesome. +1 for grad school. I got full RA funding for a year and 1/2 TA for next year. My savings from first, helped me go debt free in next. Second year was tough but planning helped.

  21. Always thought some kind of a brilliant guy was behind this website. I am very very impressed and thanks for all the information you have put forth.

  22. Food and Beverage Attendee- age 16 @ amusement park, first job
    Bus Boy @ various hotels in high school
    Room Service Waiter- during college and summers (paid for housing, food and books)
    Valet Attendee -during college and summers (paid for housing, food and books)
    Bartender – summer spending money
    Internet Solutions Consultant – sold ISP products, first job out school
    Inside Sales Rep – Small sales outsourcing company, setting meetings for outside sales reps
    Account Manager – selling outsourced meeting making service for last job
    Account Executive – sold investor relations software and services to publicly traded companies
    Land lord – picked up some rentals with a college friend and have another I rent privatly
    Internet Recruitment Consultant – sold recruitment services to SMB accounts for large recruitment services company
    Enterprise Account Manager – selling recruitment services to F1000 accounts for same company listed above

    Each job had a great impact on me. The last company has certainly changed my life, working there for now 7 years. I would have never been in this role had it not been for the lessons I’ve learned from previous experiences.

    Best advice:
    1. Surround your self with people who want to see you succeed
    2. Work Hard
    3. Be kind
    4. Avoid cynicism
    5. Leverage your strengths
    6. Conquer your fears!
    7. Never lose your inner child! 🙂

  23. “University psychology department test monkey”


  24. You know…

    Wayyyyy before I started reading this blog, I took advantage of rewards cards myself. It took a couple years, but I managed to actually put away over $5,000 on rewards cards alone. Not too shabby.

    The trick is not to buy stuff just for the sake of getting the bonus. If you must spend $300 to get $100, then do so wisely. Only buy what you’d normally buy (our household = groceries), and always pay your credit card off in full every month.

    I consider it free money. It’s well worth the time and effort. I cancel every card right after I receive the bonus. And no, my credit rating has not suffered as a result.

    So, yeah…I would definitely recommend doing this. Happy saving! 😀

  25. One more thing…

    Never pay with cash! Put everything on ONE credit card (choose the one with the best rewards program) and get a little back every month!

    If it makes dollars — it makes “sense!”

  26. I think another benefit of working grunt jobs is that it teaches you to treat those people with respect and kindness when you get further up in the ranks and/or are the customer.

    Here’s my job list for the past 37 years:

    1. Babysitting. Lots of it, starting at 50 cents per hour.
    2. First “real” job was making pizzas at Chuck E. Cheese. At the time (1978) it was their first location with all the video games (Space Invaders, Pac-Man), animated characters, etc., and the largest pizza parlor in the world. People would line up around the building to get in. We were featured on a national television show. Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari (and the restaurant), came in once while I was working.
    3. Answering the phone during lunch at my high school for a short while, during which a call came in looking for a student to fill job #4
    4. Summer clerical job in the office for a national traffic school company. Had my own office — didn’t know how rare that was at the time
    5. Part-time legal secretary at a couple different law offices
    6. Bookkeeper for a CPA
    7. Bookkeeper for a dentist
    8. Lowly staff accountant in a CPA firm (fresh out of college)
    9. Slightly less-lowly accountant in a Big 8 CPA firm, to complete my “indentured service” for CPA license
    10. Self-employed CPA ever since (23 yrs.). My boss at job #5 planted the idea in my head to be self-employed, and I am grateful for that nudge.
    11. About to start a new business and embark on a related self-employed career

  27. 30 Years Old:
    1) Grocery Store Stock Clerk: Learned value of keeping things nice an clean, a practice I continue in my house today. (Less than 1 year)
    2) High School Math/Computer Science Teacher: Learned how to deal with large groups of people at the same time. (1 school year)
    3) Research Lab Assistant: Learned how worthless the research a lot of research labs is. (1 year)
    4) Research Lab Manager (Different Lab): Learned how to multi-function work. Got paid to write my grad school thesis. (1 year)
    5) Software Development (at a job I didn’t like): Learned how worthless having a job at a place you don’t enjoy is. It is not worth the life agony, if you can avoid it. (3 months)
    6) Professional Poker Player: Learned the value of self-reliance. Also, learned how isolating having a job where you don’t have co-workers is. (3 years)
    7) Software Developer -> Software Team Manager: Learned that hard work can be rewarded. (3 years)

  28. Yeah, I am guessing few under the age of 35 or 40 would have had paper routes. Different world, different business model.

    Being a 12-year-old and standing on the porch in the middle of winter on a cold night and having to cajole $2 out of some middle-aged guy who subscribed and always received *his* paper by 6 a.m. but was unwilling to pay teaches you some things … about yourself and him.

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