My work history is a running joke among my friends, particularly from the age of 19 to 24. You could say I’ve lived a colorful life. I worked a total of ten jobs in my early 20s. Judge me not. Surprisingly, I have never been fired. It’s worth mentioning that I also have moved around a lot. In no particular order here lies my gauntlet of employment…
1. WATCH SALESMAN (Buy My Junk)
The Job: Selling watches out of Swatch’s flagship store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Wear black pants and a black t-shirt. Remind everyone who walks in that these babies are water resistant, shock resistant, and come with a two-year warranty. Highlights include cliché statements from management on reaching sales goals and sarcastic co-workers. How Long I Lasted: Four months. Only because they were so flexible with my schedule. What I Learned: How to convince people to buy something they don’t need.
2. TCF STADIUM SECURITY (You Can’t Sit Here)
The Job: Guarding the entrance to the student section during football games so that people without student section tickets may not enter. How Long I Lasted: One terrible day. What I Learned: Any job requiring you to interact with a mass of drunk college students is not worth it.
3. HIGH-END BRAND AMBASSADOR (The Champagne is Flowing)
The Job: Executing product demonstrations, catering, and guest services for high-end clients like Swarovski, Samsung, Fujifilm, Chanel, Google, Virgin Mobile, Condé Nast, Wired magazine, Delta, and many others in Manhattan’s finest residences and venues. A lot of private parties and a lot of product launch events. How Long I Lasted: Three years freelancing six to fourteen days a month. What I Learned: How to serve fine dining. That it takes a village of wealthy people to support a corporation. There’s a lot of money to be made in private high-end events. Showing up in clean pressed clothes, speaking confidently, and smiling a lot does not always come effortlessly when life gives you lemons.
4. FEATURES EDITOR (We’d Love to Feature You)
The Job: Writing and producing editorial content for a high-end art and fashion magazine. I did my best to advocate for more queer features on our pages. Thankfully, my supervising editor was receptive and supportive of this pursuit. While I was focused on writing and producing a finessed product for the magazine, what I didn’t realize at the time was how much these individuals would teach me about myself. How Long I Lasted: Part-time for two years. What I Learned: I learned from my features that being unique, weird, and different can lead to great things. I learned, after covering it for three seasons, that New York Fashion Week is not that cool and has become more of a media circus than a means for merchandising fashion. I learned how to craft persuasive emails. I also learned that the key to a celebrity’s heart is vulnerability, respect, and transparency.
5. LATIN RESTAURANT WAIT ASSISTANT (More Water on 32)
The Job: Wait assisting at the now-closed Nicollet mall restaurant, Masa, a brain child of the D’Amico & Sons family, came with high lunch traffic and an expensive dinner menu. The manager, Michelle Jensen, was an incredible joy to work under. How Long I Lasted: Five months. What I Learned: Time flies when your job is chaos. Any job becomes easier with reliable and consistent access to hot coffee. There is a special kind of satisfaction that comes with being able to leave each day with cash tips in hand. Looking busy is more important than being busy. Be nice to your server.
6. WARDROBE STYLIST (Please Don’t Let it Touch the Ground)
The Job: Running garment bags around town. Making sure things don’t get dirty. Dressing models and actors. Bringing life to the vision of the photographer or director you are working for. How Long I Lasted: One year. What I Learned: Wardrobe styling involves a lot of running around. Everyone has an opinion about fashion. Working in wardrobe on a feature film means you won’t sleep. Friendship and trust with showrooms and boutiques is like gold.
7. MODEL/ACTOR (Hi, I’m John Mark, I’m 6’2”…)
The Job: It’s not a real job. More like a hustle. Highlights included some work for Best Buy, Target, Panasonic, Adidas, New York Fashion Week, as well as paid contracts in Shanghai. Lowlights include the humility and resilience needed, to be told “no” 500 times. How Long I Lasted: An irregular love/hate relationship lasting seven years, full-time for one. What I Learned: Modeling is a great way to travel for free, but it comes with a lot of working for free. I also learned that being a model in Asia is way easier and way more fun.
8. DATA ENTRY (Is This the Last Pile?)
The Job: Entering file info at the mortgage loan office at which my mother worked. How Long I Lasted: Six days. What I Learned: Data entry is not for creative types. Purchasing a home comes with a lot of paperwork.
9. FRENCH RESTAURANT BUSBOY (Table 12 Needs a Punch in the Face)
The Job: Bussing and wait assisting at a new French restaurant located in what was once Manhattan’s historic Limelight. The building held great notoriety in the ’80s as a playground for Andy Warhol, a community for club kids, and a zenith for the popular consumption of ecstasy. The French restaurant was a pricey and less exciting purgatory of poor service, disrespectful management, and disorganized operations. The best part of this job was the beauty and energy of the building and the staff shift meal at four. How Long I Lasted: Four weeks. After nearly a month of emotionally abusive management, late paychecks, and dishonest tip-outs, I sat in the liquor freezer with another bus boy and shared a bottle of Patrón tequila before walking out mid-way through a shift, never to return. What I Learned: There are few things more intense than the high-end restaurant scene in Manhattan, but there is no excuse for name-calling in the workplace.
10. CHOREOGRAPHER (I Love What I Do)
The Job: Creating dances for theaters, schools, music videos, and special events. How Long I Lasted: Professionally, started three years ago and still kicking. What I Learned: Ask for what you are worth. Above all, respect your dancers’ time and energy. Don’t be afraid to create movement that’s a little outside the box. Understand that people are looking to be entertained. Moving your body is never a bad idea.