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New Kid on the Job

Kenyon Sayler

I’M RETIRED, BUT I KEEP fairly busy. From January through April, I volunteer at AARP, helping folks file their income taxes. From May through October, our vegetable garden keeps me occupied. That leaves November and December as a slow period. There’s some volunteering that I do, but nothing that fills up large amounts of time.

This year, I thought I might try some seasonal part-time work to keep myself occupied. Retailers usually need help during the holiday season. I’m sure that I could have gotten a higher wage if I’d applied to work for one of the big discount retail chains. But I really didn’t want to be too stressed by large volumes of customers, so I limited my job search to a few stores that I thought would need extra staff but wouldn’t be swamped by huge crowds on Black Friday.

The experience reminded me of three things. Although I knew each of them, it was good to get a refresher.

First, resumes still matter. At first, I slightly modified my current curriculum vitae (CV), stating that I wanted a seasonal, part-time retail position, but I left my work experience unchanged.

I got soundly rejected by potential employers. Maybe it was discrimination because of my extensive work history. Maybe they thought I was overqualified. It really doesn’t matter—it wasn’t working.

I changed my CV. I showed only five years of experience and, instead of saying that I was a manufacturing director, I said I’d been responsible for customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction was certainly part of my previous job description, just not my only duty. Suddenly, I got more calls from employers, including an employer that had previously rejected me based on my old CV.

Second, culture matters. I took a job at a national bookseller. Everybody was very nice to the new guy. I was wondering if this was just lucky happenstance or something that the manager worked to achieve.

I found out one day when I had a problem. I thought a customer had a gift card that she was trying to redeem. I couldn’t get the gift card to be accepted, so I sent the customer to another cashier. I warned the cashier over the radio of the issue that I was having, and asked him to let me know what he did to get the card to work.

A few minutes later, my colleague radioed me and told me that the person was trying to buy a gift card, not redeem one. I thanked him for letting me know. Being of relatively thick skin, I thought nothing more of the exchange. But then I heard the manager come over the radio and gently suggest to my coworker that perhaps his response had been a bit too sarcastic. Obviously, the manager was working to make sure all discussions were professional and respectful.

Third, work is just a way to exchange our time for money. I’d taken the job to meet new coworkers, learn a bit about the book trade and stay out of my wife’s way for a few hours each week. I wasn’t working for the money. But it still affected my thinking.

Our dog had a minor medical issue that required a trip to the veterinarian for some pain medication and antibiotics. The vet’s bill came to 20 hours of working. My wife reminded me that I wasn’t paying the vet bills with my current job. Still, I found myself converting all sorts of expenses into the number of hours I’d have to work to pay for them.

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