Monday, July 9, 2012

The Best Job That Never Was

I had to give my son the bad news. His perfect job wasn’t.

He’d recently graduated from Notre Dame. He was working at Arthur Anderson in Chicago. His girlfriend (soon to be wife) was living not that far away. He loved his job, all the traveling, his boss and the company itself. What was not to like?

Trying hard to straddle the line between being realistic and yet supportive, I could only remind him that while everything was great at the time, things do change. While ‘Father doesn’t always know best’, I’d been down that path before, several times. He laughed at me. We laughed at me. But my prediction did prove correct.

Not too much later, Brian’s firm imploded and he was hired on by KPMG, a company that was not even close to the culture of Arthur Anderson.

My daughter interned at the law firm her last year in law school. So it wasn’t surprising when they hired her upon graduation. She found that corporate law wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

Two perfectly wonderful jobs that turned out not to be so wonderful.

No job is ever perfect. Even if all the stars and moon and sun are in alignment, eventually something usually happens that changes the equation.

Brian moved on to Colorado, got his masters in Entrepreneurship and found a job with a new startup called Triple Creek. He’s still there and thriving.

My daughter moved on to the capitol working in politics and found her passion; politics and the sometimes wondrous, confusing, mysterious manner in which bills are made and passed.

Now she has the most important job of her life; being Mom to Brennan and Charlotte.

Welcome to the real world, guys. No job is perfect but you can make the best of any situation.

My first job as a paperboy
On Sundays, I had my little red wagon to haul my 143 Sunday newspapers. Their weight was so great that the front axle bent every Sunday morning. And I had to untwist it before I could proceed. No wonder I can still lift small boulders with ease.

It meant getting up at 4:30am each morning, even if it was twenty below zero and delivering newspapers to my unappreciative vociferous readers. It meant getting short-changed by apartment dwellers, who moved away without paying their newspaper bills. It meant trudging back to some home when the owner couldn’t find the newspaper that hadn’t landed in exactly the same spot every day. Pulling it out of the weeds without even a thank you. It meant listening to the smart-ass district manager haranguing me because I wasn’t making his quota of new customers each month. It meant watching out for the big kids who loved to threaten me when I was ‘collecting’ and had cash on hand.

Yet despite those irritating nuisances associated with the job, it meant I was an independent businessman. I learned to save money and not spend all of it before the end of the month. To a great degree, it meant I was mostly self-supporting from 7th grade on. I got a musical education with my tiny transistor radio that I wore under my parka. All the best of the 50’s Pop music and crossover Country and Western. It was my musical window and fueled a lifelong love of music.

I never considered myself in the newspaper business. I was just a kid, willing to freeze his tush, for a shot at a savings account and the education it might buy. And despite the cold, deadbeats, high-strung district managers, and sometimes-grumpy customers, it was a great first job.

I changed. It didn’t. After high school, it was time to move on.

KTCA Television
My start in television started inauspiciously enough. They didn’t have an opening for a writer so I offered my services for free. I volunteered there for over six months with a great group of people, all of who were much older than I was. There was an atmosphere back then that was electric with interest and excitement for the business of public television. We were all part of the gradual transition from educational television to public television, a huge shift in demographics, in programming philosophy, and production techniques.

Once hired on as a producer-director, my crew and I experimented with all kinds of new production techniques. Field recordings and videotape were introduced during that period. And we marveled at the creative new ways we could tell a story on television. It was another education for me. And I got paid for learning.

Of course, over the years, management changed. My boss moved away and the atmosphere got more corporate and not as much fun. The bottom line superseded the creative aspects of the job and the staff grew stale on repetitive programming and production.

It was time to move on. Again.

Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting
Without a doubt the best boss I ever had was General Manager of the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting back in the 70’s. He was brilliant, generous with his support in every way. He let me run my department without outside interference. He welcomed new ideas and self-motivation.

He gathered around him a wonderful group of people to work with. It was a blast for almost five glorious years.

But then, of course, over the years things gradually started to change. Eventually the GM got a job offer in Philadelphia that he couldn’t turn down. He left and with him, the creative energy that defined the place for so long. The disease was slow in coming but over time it managed to turn a top rated television station into a study in atrophy.

There were other jobs before and after those. Some good. Some not so good. I learned from each and every one of them. Life lessons I’ve taken with me in one capacity or another.

Even the Army brought with it some traveling, some adventures and misadventures, a host of colorful characters I’d love to meet again. And a few, I’d rather not.

Sharden Productions and other Associated Ventures
Sharden Productions, Inc. provided me an opportunity to be my own boss. Of course, you’re never your own boss. Every client, every customer, every potential contract is your boss/master/driver/nightmare/reward. That’s the nature of the business.

I made a couple of bucks.I can’t complain.
I worked long hours.I wanted to.
I had some sleepless nights.Part of the equation.
I did some very nice work.I take total credit for that.
It provided me an opportunity to travel.I appreciate that.
It provided some amenities I wouldn’t have otherwise.Ditto.

Now it’s the foundation for a gradual shift from a video production/distribution company to a publishing company.                                                Thank you Sub-S Corporation.

I guess that perfect job I never had would encompass all the best of what I did have.
Each job brought something special to my life. And my life experiences.

Imagine if they were all wrapped up into on job. The best of best. The nicest people to work with, no limit on possible earnings, no age discrimination, self-motivation as the driver, an opportunity to reconnect with some old friends, or forge relationships with new ones. Wouldn’t that be just the perfect job to have?

But wait, it is.

I’m a writer.

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