What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?

women at typewriters

It occurred to me as I was sitting on a tour bus last week watching the Peruvian countryside flash past; I’m currently in the longest stretch of joblessness I’ve had since I my first job at 14.

My last day of work was April 22, which means I’ve almost reached exactly 6 months of ‘funemployment’. After 12 years of working consistently that’s quite a break.

This prompted me to look back over some of the more bizarre jobs I’ve held since I was a young teen.

The slave wage paper round

My first paid employment was delivering junk mail. It was miserable. On a Tuesday afternoon mum would take me to the junk mail Queen’s house to pick up bundles of catalogues for stuff no one wanted or needed. I would then spend the rest of Tuesday evening sorting the catalogues into manageable bundles to put in a granny cart, which really put a dent in my Better Homes and Gardens viewing.

On Wednesday after school I had the pleasure of dragging the heavy cart around our neighbourhood shoving junk mail in peoples’ letterboxes. I was paid per catalogue. The most I ever made in one week was $20, for about 6 hours work.

I wish I could say I learnt some kind of valuable lesson about money and hard work, but all I learnt was that I hated it and it was stupid and once I skipped an entire street and just dumped all the catalogues in our recycling bin.

Once I was the requisite 14 years and 9 months old (the bizarre age you must be to get a ‘real’ job in Australia) I quit the paper round and took over my sister’s old job at the local Thai/Vietnamese restaurant where I made $8 an hour. I felt like a high roller.

The geriatric photographer

In the summer between high school and university a family friend gave me a job at a very small pharmaceutical company doing mundane admin jobs like stuffing envelopes.

Eventually I was trusted with more serious work and they sent me, armed with a crappy digital camera, to nursing homes to take photos of all the residents. The photos were used alongside the names on medication boxes in the hopes that the right pills would be given to the right person.

There are few places sadder on this planet than aged care facilities. It’s hard enough going to visit your own relative. Now imagine you have to go into every single room and visit every single person, whether they want to see you or not.

I actually preferred the slightly grumpy residents. It was the lovely elderly people whose faces lit up when I walked in, suggesting their visitors were few and far between, that broke my heart.

I saw beautifully decorated rooms with photos and flowers. I saw stark empty rooms that smelt terrible.

I started to think my parents must have secretly organised my unique photography job in order to ensure I never shove them into a home. Well it worked.

The beauty pageant judge

This was a one off volunteer position I did with a very close friend of mine. I still have no idea what our perceived qualifications for this role were but we were asked to judge a beauty pageant. Thinking it would be like a hilarious episode of Toddlers and Tiaras we went along. How wrong we were.

The youngest contestants were in nappies and the oldest were just a couple of years younger than me at the time. The youngest category was the easiest, because there were only three contestants, so each of them got a tiara they could barely keep atop their infantile heads.

After that it became gut wrenching, having to rank children on appearance, public speaking and confidence in front of their earnest little faces. We spent far too long deliberating and tried to spread out the side prizes (best smile, best dressed etc) as far and wide as we could. But at the end of the day, I walked away feeling like a terrible, terrible person. Not to mention a bad feminist. We were offered the job again a year later but were ‘out of town’. Never again.

I want to know, what’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?

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6 Responses to What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?

  1. Patrick Caruana says:

    what an interesting post.
    I’ve had many jobs since I first started working back in 1979. For me the past 2 1/2 years have been my strangest. Since being made redundant at the end of May 2013 I have had very little work. I’ve had some short contracts but my last paid work was twelve months ago.
    So this is my strangest “job” writing hundreds and hundreds of job applications and many interviews. It has been really odd because I have done many varied things been a CEO and done labouring work and have extensive and varied skills and experience but being on the wrong side of 50 just can seem to break through anymore. This strange job will continue until I get a more “normal” one.
    Just one other point I would like to raise is about working in Aged Care. If I had to pick one of the most rewarding parts of my career was when I managed an Aged Care organisation. I was responsible for the care of approximately 400 people living in Independent Living units across 4 campuses and 100 residents in a high / low and dementia care facility. On my first day I called an entire staff meeting and told all the staff that whilst I was managing the organisation our whole method of care would be based on the premise that we were caring for our families. Yes there were sad stories of residents abandoned by families but we formed relationships with them. We organised collaborations with schools so that we had a grandparent program which benefitted all ages. I loved my residents dearly and they taught me so so much and they were so much fun. The impacts of that and the work I did reverberated through out my career in different organisations and interstate. I was working doing a site inspection on a building site in Canberra where this huge burly foreman came marching up to me and said you are Patrick ….. Yes I said and he replied weve never met but thanks you looked after my grandmother years ago and the time that you were the manager at …. were the happiest times she was there. The building that was being constructed was to provide accommodation for a child with Asperger’s and physical disabilities. Because he saw and recognised my name on the documentation he and his crew instead of installing the “Holden Commodore” internal fittings put in “Rolls Royce” ones at no cost for the child and the family.
    Finally what got me into working in Aged Care you tube this song Bec it is really special. I heard it in 1978 and knew that one day I will work with older people. Its called “Hello In There” by Bette Midler.
    Thanks for this post and for allowing my comments to be published.
    Travel safe,

    • Bec says:

      Wow, what a small world. And if all nursing homes were by people like you they would all be much better places. I’m sorry about your stretch of unemployment, I can’t imagine how tough that is. Keep on keeping on Patrick, and I really appreciate your comments, no need to thank me!
      I love Bette Midler (Beaches was one of my all time favourite movies as a child, even though it made me cry). I’ll have to look that one up.

  2. Peta says:

    Awesome post Bec! I’ve been reading your blog whilst sitting in my boring old office at work some days and it’s made me equal parts happy and jealous lol.

    I’ve had pretty “normal jobs” – worked in a café throughout high school (after school) from 14 yrs and 9 months old. Moved away to go to uni at 17 and continued to work as a barista and did bar work. Finished uni at 21 in 2011 and got my current “adult” job as a lawyer. On difficult days, I would rather go back to making coffee!

    The strangest job I had (if you can call it a job because I wasn’t paid) was growing up on a farm in a rural area, my Dad used to get my sister and brother and me pick bags of fireweed (a nasty weed) from the paddocks in summertime in the stinking heat and once we’d picked 10 or so big bags, we got a trip to the beach (which was 3 hours away). Dad reckons we “loved” doing this but my siblings and I beg to differ lol.

    Side note – we never got pocket money either, despite all having household chores. My Mum’s response was always “well, are you going to pay me and your father for all the work we do around the house if you want us to pay you?”. Touché Mum, touché.

    • Bec says:

      Your parents are actually awesome!! Love the beach as a reward, that would have got me moving. Although I loathed any kind of yard work as a kid. And that response from your mum is absolute gold! What can you say to that?! Nothing, nothing at all. So funny!

  3. courtalkek says:

    I worked at a call center during Uni for a short period of time. I interrupted people’s dinners all over Washington, Virginia and Conneticut to see if they would tell me the details of their daily commutes in order to help with planning future roads?! Usually the few people who would agree would hang up on me when I got to the part where they had to give their children’s school or day care address and what times they were there. Also, I was probably the only employee without a serious drug problem.

    • Bec says:

      Omg that sounds horrendous! How long did you last? I lasted one shift in a call center selling newspaper subscriptions. I’m not a very good sales person, let alone over the phone! One guy asked me if I had a life, seeing as I was calling people at 7pm on a Monday night… I don’t even get what that means!

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