Orange riding lawn mower

We really should be more prepared for the real world after college, but some things you just can’t prepare for. Those would be the “other duties as assigned”–the loophole in your job description.

A few things I did for my first “real” job after college (the first was actually waiting tables at Dry Dock Seafood #2 in Carrboro, NC). This was an event marketing position, working for Kmart’s Kids Race Against Drugs. It was a cause I could get behind, and I didn’t want to be slinging popcorn shrimp my whole life–in fact, never waiting tables again was my main motivation for graduating. (It was not to be, but that’s another story.)

  • Lawn mower maintenance. The kids raced riding lawn mowers (minus the blades) around a track we built in store parking lots. The lawn mowers, of course, were not designed for this. We had to keep them running, when week after week 7-year-olds ran them into every possible obstacle, including fences, foam pads, tables and me.
  • Construction/temporary labor crew management. Really wasn’t prepared for this one. My crew in every city was from a temp firm that seemed to specialize in finding the drunkest possible vagrants and sending them to me at 7 a.m. We–me and a couple other 22-year-olds–then had to convince them to help us build a race track in inner-city Kmart parking lots. Two words: manual labor.
  • Loading/unloading semi trailers, in all kinds of weather. We had two tractor trailers that followed us around the country. Everything would fit, but only if packed precisely. And since we depended on temporary help, we were always in the back of the truck shouting for the next piece. Which didn’t land on us, if we were lucky.
  • Unholy hours. Regularly rose at 4 a.m. to race the weather guy for morning news segments across the country. Sounds way more glamorous than it actually is. Plus, you have to let the weather guy win.

I learned some important lessons on this job. I found out the hard way where my strengths lie. I was a master at packing the trucks, changing tires and completing the reams of paperwork required for every weekend event. I wasn’t so good at immediately building a rapport with the store workers, volunteers and labor crews–this required more of a touchy, feely personality and I was too green to realize that and try to fake it. I suspect faking it wouldn’t have gone well because, really, when does it ever?

If the job hadn’t been temporary, I wouldn’t have stuck it out so long. I craved a creative position and stability, and this was Road Rules late 90s and manual labor. But I was determined to learn what I could, and use that knowledge to find a position that offered more of the work I liked.

What does this have to do with being a one-person shop? I was thrust into that role early in my career–the job right after this one, to be exact. It was my first desk job (though, to be fair, that one involved a lot of event and warehouse work too). There are things in every job that you’ll never love, just like there are problems in every organization.  Trust me. Every job. Every organization. The key is finding the position/organization that offers the most of what you excel at (and the problems you can tolerate).

The cool thing about one-person shops is that you can often invent the job as you go along. So even if you don’t start with a position tailor-made to your strengths, you can create one. Yes, you’ll still have to do things you’d rather not, but let’s face it. That’s just part of being a grown-up. Take the opportunity to learn from those dreaded tasks, and maybe you’ll be able to delegate them one day.

Side note: I almost named this blog Other Duties as Assigned, since that’s what I seem to spend most of my time doing. I’d love to hear the wacky things you’ve had to do in your communications adventures.