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Job-seeking is a bit of a psychological twilight zone. You need to be at your most look-at-me confident at a time when you’re most likely facing more rejection that you usually have to deal with in a year. When crafting resumes and gilding key selection critera, you’re forced into remembering all these past jobs you haven’t thought of in ages, and then you have to somehow make that experience not only relevant to your current situation, but also make yourself look like a star. It’s not unlike looking back on past relationships, particularly in that sense of selective editing and the rose-tinted glasses you need duct-taped to your head.

The forced self-reflection and the odd rejection make for a heady emotional rollercoaster. But as crazy as this process is making me, I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s career trajectories (particularly the early struggles) so I thought I’d share. On that note, get comfortable. I give you:

Every Job I’ve Ever Had (pretty much)

Age 11: St George Bakery

Pretty sure this violated any number of child labour laws but however my mother made it happen, I’m grateful for those couple of Saturday morning hours each week spent sweeping up sesame seeds and polishing the glass front of the pie display case. It was back when the Fullers still ran the bakery and Saturdays were especially special because Charlie would bust out the doughnut machine. It was hypnotic, the squeezing of batter rings into spitting oil, the rolling into sugar and cinnamon. And at the end of it all I’d walk home, exhausted but with paper bags full of leftover lamingtons and finger buns. And, if I was lucky, doughnuts.

Age 16: Cotton chipping / St Ursula’s Tuckshop

There’s no shortage of cotton in the George, but looking back it still seems a bit random that I spent a few days of my school holidays hacking weeds out of fields of cotton with a hoe. Not the work, so much, but the fact that my dad came along with me; either to chaperone or to make some pocket money of his own. The rest of the crew were seasoned chippers, mostly chirpy and chat-ready old biddies from town. Once I got back to boarding school for my final year I wanted to keep my fiscal momentum going, and so scored one of the three prized jobs for boarders at the school tuckshop. Ever greedy for the approval of people I barely knew, I spent my afternoons clandestinely doling out extra lollies to those I deemed worthy. I am proud to say this was the last time I worked with a deep-fryer, too. Who knows what the coming months hold, though?!

Age 17-26 (sporadically): Grape-picking

See here.

Age 17: Kitchenhand, the Merino Motor-Inn / Childcare Assistant, Warrawee / Night Fill Ninja, Four Square Supermarket

For six months after leaving school I moved back in with mum and dad, deferring starting university in a bid to gain financial independence. I had nearly a full year before I could legally go to pubs anyway. Turns out it’s hard to make much coin when you’re still being paid as a minor. Copping $7 an hour or so was really just the salt in the wound after working 2-3 jobs simultaneously, which variously saw me carving basket garnishes out of oranges, up to my elbows in baby poo, and rotating stock in the wee hours. This period was made more miserable by my lack of a car or drivers license, which is why one of my most enduring memories of this time is of trying to frantically pedal my old mountain bike while a small dog had its teeth latched onto my sock. Also during this period, my friends, who were generally embracing the bacchanalian excesses of Centrelink-funded university and college life, liked to refer to me as “budget boy”.

Age 18-20: Assistant Manager, the Queensland Copy Company

I’d moved in with Madge in Red Hill and we were both keen to get jobs. She’d made better progress than me, having got as far as the photocopying shop up at Paddington to do up some resumes. The owner, Annie, offered her a job on the spot. Luckily for me, though, Madge had her eye on a waitressing gig at the Broncos leagues club – and so I found myself employed without so much as an interview. It was a perfect job for a uni student. I must confess I often gave unauthorised discounts to local bands printing posters and this amazing googly-eyed kid who’d come in every few months to photocopy his zine. And the number of parties held at Bramble Terrace during this period which featured elaborately collaged invitations is purely coincidental. The shop was eventually bought out by the expanding bottle-o next door, but whenever I’m there buying a cheeky cleanskin I feel a pang of nostalgia for the scent of toner and the hypnotic, endless unspooling of the large-format laminator…

To be continued…

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