First 7 Jobs, By Joseph Kent
1. Small-town odd jobs
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York, which meant my career got off to a unique start. I think the first thing I ever was paid for regularly was breaking into my neighbor’s house through a window when he locked himself out — yes, believe it or not, this was a regular gig! I also shoveled snow off of roof tops in the winter for spending money, something most parents probably would think twice about allowing their kids to do these days. I stacked hay bales every harvest at my friend’s farm and got so lacerated by the straw that the small cuts burned for weeks afterwards.
The summer before college, I mowed lawns in the morning for money until it got too hot. Then I’d get in a truck and drive around setting up party tents for a local auctioneer. I got to use a jackhammer to drive the tent stakes when I was lucky, or a sledge hammer when I wasn’t. In the evening I would head back to town to serve ice cream from a small shack via a window while I watched movies in the shack. (My friends stopped by frequently to help themselves to my ice cream despite my objections that they pay at least once in a while.)
2. Baseball Hall of Fame
The next job I had was as a stock boy in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located in Cooperstown, NY near my hometown. I had to restock all the tchotchkes at the gift shop. I worked in what was basically a secure underground windowless bunker all day during the beautiful and short summer. Being away from the sun was too much for me, and when my childhood sweetheart and her family invited me to go on vacation with them to Ocean City, MD I gave my notice. I do not regret this decision.
3. Restaurant in Cooperstown
During the busy summer tourist season in Cooperstown, I worked as a busboy, dishwasher and waiter at a famous lakeside restaurant, a restaurant where you could boat in and dine. I got to meet Nolan Ryan and Bob Vila — and not to #humblebrag, but two elderly English aristocrats, Lord and Lady Somerset, would ask for me by name.
4. Bartender in Scotland
I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland after graduation and got a job tending bar at a classic Scottish pub.
My Scottish boss loved my “American” work ethic; however, this was during George W. Bush’s presidency, and I sustained extensive verbal abuse due to being the only American bartender in the city (Bush was not particularly popular in Scotland). I learned to have thick skin and give the abuse back in a friendly retort when possible — and dodge pint glasses when necessary!
5. Hostel in Nantucket
After returning to the United States, I crash-landed on the island of Nantucket, where a college friend’s family had a vacation home. I lucked out and got a seasonal job for the summers at an international hostel in Nantucket, along with a free place to live (a feat not easily accomplished on an island for the super rich).
I was the front desk clerk, housekeeper, security guard, tour guide, Ouija medium, clam digger and event planner. I had some of the best times of my life at the beautiful location — I worked just 300 meters from my own beach. Oh, the stories I could tell…
6. Front Desk Clerk in Colorado
When the hostel closed in October, I headed out to another seasonal job as a front desk agent at a ski lodge in Breckenridge, Colorado.
I would often work the graveyard shift from 11pm to 7am, then get on the slopes as they opened, ski until it got crowded, then ski home to sleep. It was a fun gig, and there was something new every day—at one point I had to stop someone from stealing our Christmas tree—but dealing with guests who were upset about the amount of snow (which we had no control over) was a challenge!
7. English Teacher in China
After I left these seasonal gigs, I spent three years as an English teacher in China. It was an incredible time and I got to work on my Mandarin quite a bit. I have so many stories about this that I don’t even know where to start; I might have to fit them into another blog post some time!