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One of the ways people have been entertaining themselves while staying at home during COVID-19 is by playing goofy online games, and I don’t mean Candy Crush. Games like naming an individual’s top-5 favorite bands, sports stadiums, or ice cream flavors, which are then shared on social media to facilitate conversation, helping people feel connected even when they can’t see their friends in person.

One of these games asked people to name five jobs they’ve held, the idea being that you could create a conversation when you notice someone either having the same job you had or an unusual role that you are curious about.

I decided to put a little twist on this game by listing some jobs I’ve had and including something I learned from each that has shaped who I am today.

CaddyKindness: I’ll often hear about people who are judged based on how they treat waitstaff or janitors. I believe caddies fall into the same category. What I discovered while caddying was that the kindest golfers got the caddy’s best effort. You didn’t want to let them down. Kindness was a powerful motivator.  

Cart BoyReliability: It was nearly 30 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday. It was a Friday night, our busiest night, and the other kid I was supposed to be working with didn’t show up for work. I scrambled all night trying, and failing, to keep up with all the golf carts returning and needing to go back out. All night, it felt like I couldn’t keep my head above water. I never want to be the reason anyone feels that way.

Bagger/CashierConversation: While I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as shy, I do have introvert tendencies, especially with people I don’t know. Working in positions where I was expected to have conversations with total strangers really got me out of my comfort zone and taught me the importance of listening while communicating.

ReporterWriting: One of my jobs during college was writing about sports for the Western Herald. I view it as one of the most important experiences of my life. I learned how to write both well (though I admit to being completely biased here) and quickly. It was a crash-course in refining a life-long skill that I use almost daily in work and personal communications.  

Insurance UnderwriterFit matters: I knew I was in trouble they day I was told to start with “no.” It was better, I was told, to say no first and maybe change my answer to yes down the road than the other way around. My personality, however, is to try and figure something out first, exhausting all options, before saying “no.” It was draining. I would come home every day grumpy and tired. My job and personality were in constant conflict, and I was losing. I realized that I needed a role where being creative and seeking out solutions were valued traits. I needed a better fit.

I try to apply these lessons every day. While I’m far from perfect, I do feel that what I’ve learned helps me respect and relate to people every day.

What have you learned from your past jobs? What lessons do you still apply today? This may be a great time to have this fun conversation with the people in your life.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash