Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Most Unusual Working Life

 

I graduated from college in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Back in junior high school, a psychiatrist had helped me a great deal, so I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist when I grew up. Since you can’t do much with a bachelor’s degree, I applied to graduate schools to get a master’s in counseling psychology. I got accepted to exactly one school, the University of Minnesota, so that’s where I went.

Getting there was way less than half the fun (driving an old car that broke down on the way, by myself, knowing no one), but eventually I made it. I found a place to live not far from campus and started my studies. Little did I know that I had chosen the school described as a “Bastion of Behaviorism,” but it sure turned out to be. 

A part of our education was practicing real counseling, and being videotaped while doing so. I remember very well my review of my performance with the course instructor. Basically, she told me that I wasn’t really very good at this, and asked me if this was really what I wanted to do. Stubbornly, I told her that this was what I really wanted to do, so she just shrugged and passed me (barely).

So in 1973, with my newly-minted master’s degree in hand, I started looking for jobs. There weren’t any. No one was hiring, and many layoffs were happening. I decided I wanted to counsel college students, but those positions were very scarce. So, for the next few months, I worked for a temp agency, doing various clerical jobs, none of which had anything to do with my degree. I was living with my boyfriend at the time and in July we flew back to Seattle to get married. Then went back to Minneapolis, where he was working as a transformer winder and I was just working temp.

Well, we lived in Minneapolis until early 1974, when we decided that we’d rather be unemployed in Seattle than gainfully employed in Minnesota. So we packed up the cars, rented a U-Haul trailer for all our belongings, and caravanned home. I towed the 1960 Fiat 600 behind my 1962 Chevy II, and Larry towed the U-Haul behind his 1964 Dodge Dart. We were really happy to get home, away from the 20-below-zero winters and 98-degree summers. We found a little house to rent, then went looking for jobs.  

Larry found one right away, working for a transformer manufacturer. I didn’t. I volunteered at a crisis helpline to use my degree. That experience taught me that my grad school instructor had actually been right — I was not cut out to be a psychologist after all. So, I ended up getting a job as a pricing-clerk in the Pharmacy at Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle.

At that time, everything was done on paper, and my job was reading the little squares where the nurses registered all the medication doses, adding everything up, and computing the charges for the day. When I started, they had not had anyone in that position for a while, and there was a huge stack of paper. It took me about two weeks to get through the stack.

I had that job for about six months, and during that time I was able to observe the pharmacy technicians at their work and thought that would be a fun, interesting job to have. So I asked the manager if I could apply for the next tech opening that came up, and he said I could. The next position that opened up was not at Harborview, but at the U of Washington Hospital. I interviewed and got the job. I learned on the job and enjoyed the work. It involved preparing all kinds of injectable and oral medications, and delivering med carts to the various areas of the hospital.

I was pretty good at the job and thoroughly enjoyed working with the hospital pharmacists. I outgrew that job, and my next position was at Swedish Hospital on First Hill in Seattle. I worked there for about three years, and during that time I qualified, with the other techs at Swedish, for one of the first Pharmacy Assistant licenses granted in the State of Washington. The pharmacists ran a special course for all the techs, about medications and how they worked and were administered. By the end of my time at Swedish, I was the Lead IV Tech on the evening shift, preparing antibiotics, standard IVs, and Total Parenteral Nutrition for the patients.

My next, and final Pharmacy Assistant job was at Children’s Hospital. I worked there for five years, and was a Senior Pharmacy Assistant, preparing oral and IV medications in special doses for the kids. I mixed complex cancer chemotherapy infusions and kid-sized oral syringes of various liquid meds. I also got to substitute for the Pharmacy Purchasing tech while she was out on vacation and I really liked that.

I also decided I wanted to write a paper for the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists convention. I did write my paper, about the duties of a children’s hospital tech, and sent it in. And my paper was accepted! I was invited to prepare a poster presentation for the convention which was held in Atlanta, and I went to the convention. I had very sore feet after standing up all day, explaining my job to the pharmacists passing by. Out of that, I got two job offers! One was from the manager at the Stanford Hospital Pharmacy, and one was from the manager at what was then Rush-Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago. I really couldn’t take either one, since I was married and I’d have to move Hubby too.

That was my last job as a pharmacy tech because something else intruded. I decided to restart playing the violin, after not having played for 25 years. I found a teacher, and re-learned much of what I had known when I quit after the sixth grade! In the summer of 1986, I went to adult music camp, and my whole life changed. I had a great time and was recruited for two community orchestras. I got a whole new group of friends and new activities. But, the problem was, if I wanted to play in an orchestra, I had to have my evenings free. Which meant changing careers, since my job required rotating day and evening shifts. So, Hubby and I agreed that I could quit my tech job, and try to find something that was just days. He was now an engineer and earned enough to support us both while I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I decided to start trying to find a job as a traffic clerk, since I had done that during my college summers, so I had some experience. No luck, so I made myself a job. I found a man who was a transportation consultant and I visited him, asking if I could be his apprentice. I’d do his scut work and he’d teach me his business. Well, that worked out fairly well — his specialty was freight claims, and I helped him with that and learned all about freight billing.

I worked with him for about a year, then decided I really need to make some money. He helped me find a job as a traffic clerk for an office-furniture company. That job lasted about six months, and I quit when I got tired of being bullied by the manager. Next, I worked with an independent freight-damage consultant, accompanying him to various places to view damaged freight to help the consignees’ file claims. I took pictures and helped write reports.

One place we visited to view damaged freight was a company that made ultrasound equipment. This was early in the field, and the machines were pretty big. While there, I learned that they were looking for someone to work in their Stores department. I applied and got the job. In that position, I did Shipping and Receiving, as well as handling inventory. I actually liked Receiving, and was back and forth to the Purchasing department all day, nagging the buyers to get their POs entered so I could receive their parts. I had an interesting conversation with their senior buyer, and he told me about the Purchasing Management program at a local community college.

So, at age 37, I quit work and went back to school. At the community college, where I got some of the best education I’d ever had. I took three quarters of Accounting, two quarters of Economics (which I loved), and business math and computers. I made the President’s List for academic achievement, and through the evening purchasing class, got my first purchasing job. [I also joined NAPM, the Purchasing Managers Association, about which more later.]

That job was sole purchasing agent for a little electrical control-panel builder. They were a job shop, with each job requiring different materials. I learned a lot, especially how to wheedle parts out of my suppliers, even when they knew they might not get paid. That job lasted 10 months before the company went out of business (you know you’re in trouble when the first time you call to place an order, the supplier tells you that your company is on “credit hold”).

The end of that first job brought misery. I had gotten divorced and was living on my own. I could not apply for unemployment insurance since I only had ten months on the job, and my previous job was “school,” which didn’t count. I worked a succession of temp jobs to keep the funds coming in. I found one job that was entirely different; food buyer for a chain of pizza restaurants. The boss said “We are going to do great things,” but that job lasted even shorter, five months, and a bunch of us were all laid off at once.

Again, it was the rounds of the temp agencies, trying to find work to keep food on my table. I worked at an electrical contractor, a medical-supplies company, and a couple of other short-term places, but nothing stuck. I did qualify for some unemployment compensation, but it was precious little. I basically lived off my savings and was about at the end of my rope when I finally got a real job. I was the passive-components buyer for a contract electronics manufacturer, for three years, which was the start of my career in Purchasing.

In 1999, as a way to contribute to NAPM, I took over the Western Washington Business Survey when the previous manager retired, and I am still the Business Survey Chair, doing our local report every month. I love the Purchasing field, and my current job at an aerospace company is very fulfilling. I help make the company go, and I feel like a little bit of myself is in each of the aircraft into which are placed our equipment.

So my life has been: Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology—>Pharmacy pricing clerk—->Pharmacy Assistant—->Freight claims apprentice—->Damaged freight inspector—->Stores Clerk—->community college student—->purchasing agent—->food buyer—->passive components buyer… Assuming that I do go back to work in two weeks from my current furlough, my Purchasing life is not done yet, even at age 70.

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  1. KentForrester Moderator

    Wonderful post, Babe. I love to hear how people make their way through life.

    • #1
    • March 31, 2020, at 1:09 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Wiscosotan Member
    Wiscosotan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Are you still playing your violin? I’m trying to play my cello more after letting it languish a number of years. 

    • #2
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:13 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Stad Thatcher

    I find most people have work histories that are a far cry from “graduated, got a job, worked forty years, retired” . . .

    • #3
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:19 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49: I towed the 1960 Fiat 600 behind my 1962 Chevy II, and Larry towed the U-Haul behind his 1964 Dodge Dart.

    I loved the entire post, but this sentence caught my attention. A Fiat 600 was my first car – I never knew anyone else that had one!

    Mine was probably a little older – I bought it used (very) with Christmas tips from my paper route. It cost $300 and I learned a lot from that car, mostly what not to do. Since I bought it about 5 months before I could get a license to drive it, my driving was all in my parents driveway. I could pull into their two car garage and with lots of back and forthing, get turned around. Their drive was up hill and about 50′ long. I could start in the garage and be in 4th gear before I had to slam on the brakes at the end. I learned to parallel park on that hill.

    Your post has motivated me to spend some time writing up my trajectory. I would love to see similar stories from others. Maybe this would be a good Group Writing project.

     

    • #4
    • March 31, 2020, at 6:10 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  5. Housebroken Thatcher

    RushBabe49: you know you’re in trouble when the first time you call to place an order, the supplier tells you that your company is on “credit hold”

    Got that right! Worked for a private company whose policy was to not pay anything until 120 days past due: They had the money, they just wanted to keep it earning interest as long as possible. Stupid. I was having to go a long ways to find simple supplies, one major corporation refused to sell to us even if I offered to pay cash! Forget finding a local machine shop that would work on account, small businesses can’t wait forever for payment.

    • #5
    • March 31, 2020, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Mark Camp Member

    A most unusual work life indeed! Who could have imagined it in advance?

    It would be interesting to compare it to the story of a typical German of the same age today.

    From what I know about the European economy and the flexibility of its workforce, I think it would likely be less unusual.

    Unusual work lives are usual in traditionally more economically liberal America. They are unusual in the traditionally more feudalistic/communistic class-based economy of Europe.

    = = = = = = = =

    Theoretical economics: Notes on the practical effects of workforce flexibility

    Workforce flexibility is a contributing factor to

    • long-term economic growth
      plus
    • stability

    Why?

    Because, from mainline (not mainstream!) theoretical economics, we know that national economic growth is achieved by innovation and adaptation to change in the nation’s production system. Innovation means that producers re-allocate capital to more wealth-creating production processes, which means that they try to re-allocate labor, too. (Why? To put labor and capital in the same place at the same time, working on the same production process. Capital and labor have to move together to make a new, more productive production process work.)

    What if the labor refuses to budge? What if a former traffic clerk wants to stay a traffic clerk, but capital is free to be allocated (as in a liberal economy), and the capital needed for that job has moved to somewhere else? And she says, “I am not moving!” Then she is out of an income. Enough of that sort of thing and you have another yet another recession.

    • #6
    • March 31, 2020, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49:

    and Larry towed the U-Haul behind his 1964 Dodge Dart.

    So you were once married to the long lost Tappet Brother?

     

    • #7
    • March 31, 2020, at 7:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    @rushbabe49 , This post is so relatable, I think because of two truths: 1.) It’s amazing what new information and skills one can pick up in new work contexts that enrich the repertoire and can be applied in future jobs. 2.) You can prepare for a career in college, and even if you are settled on what you want to do, you never know what specialty you’ll actually find yourself in. Maybe that’s due, as someone in this thread has already pointed out, to the tremendous opportunities the US economic system offers.

    WillowSpring (View Comment):
    I would love to see similar stories from others. Maybe this would be a good Group Writing project.

    This is a great idea. My work history is not nearly so detailed as RushBabe’s–it’s more like checkerboard jumps than a chessboard. But, still unexpected, and sweetly fulfilling. 

    • #8
    • March 31, 2020, at 9:18 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    Wiscosotan (View Comment):

    Are you still playing your violin? I’m trying to play my cello more after letting it languish a number of years.

    Yes, but rarely. When working, I am totally exhausted when I get home from work, and have a hard time getting much energy to play. I do make a point of playing in the University Unitarian Church full-length Messiah sing/play-along every year at Christmas. I have an informal stand-partner who always saves me a seat, and we have fun playing the entire Messiah, in front of a really awesome choir.

    • #9
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:26 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    RushBabe49: I towed the 1960 Fiat 600 behind my 1962 Chevy II, and Larry towed the U-Haul behind his 1964 Dodge Dart.

    I loved the entire post, but this sentence caught my attention. A Fiat 600 was my first car – I never knew anyone else that had one!

    Mine was probably a little older – I bought it used (very) with Christmas tips from my paper route. It cost $300 and I learned a lot from that car, mostly what not to do. Since I bought it about 5 months before I could get a license to drive it, my driving was all in my parents driveway. I could pull into their two car garage and with lots of back and forthing, get turned around. Their drive was up hill and about 50′ long. I could start in the garage and be in 4th gear before I had to slam on the brakes at the end. I learned to parallel park on that hill.

    Your post has motivated me to spend some time writing up my trajectory. I would love to see similar stories from others. Maybe this would be a good Group Writing project.

     

    Larry bought the Fiat from someone in Minneapolis, and we had a ball with it in the snow. We’d go out really late and do 360s down the middle of the street. When we got it home, he taught me to drive a stick-shift in it, and it was really easy to learn.

    • #10
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    Housebroken (View Comment):

    RushBabe49: you know you’re in trouble when the first time you call to place an order, the supplier tells you that your company is on “credit hold”

    Got that right! Worked for a private company whose policy was to not pay anything until 120 days past due: They had the money, they just wanted to keep it earning interest as long as possible. Stupid. I was having to go a long ways to find simple supplies, one major corporation refused to sell to us even if I offered to pay cash! Forget finding a local machine shop that would work on account, small businesses can’t wait forever for payment.

    That was not my only employer who was on credit hold. At one place, the buyers had to line up to get the boss to approve cash-in-advance purchases when we were on terminal credit hold with most of our suppliers. I quit that job when I just got tired of begging to get my suppliers paid. I have always been able to see things from the supplier’s point of view.

    • #11
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    RushBabe49:

    and Larry towed the U-Haul behind his 1964 Dodge Dart.

    So you were once married to the long lost Tappet Brother?

     

    Nope, but I was married to “engineer extraordinaire” for 18 years. When he got his engineering degree, his first job was his dream job, at Kenworth Truck Company at their engineering offices in Kirkland. Here’s what he did on that little Fiat:

    Stripped down the body to bare metal, filled in all the dents, and gave it a complete new paint-job in bright yellow. Stripped down the interior, repainted it, and gave the seats brand new upholstery, sewn by himself on an industrial sewing machine he bought for the purpose. Rebuilt the engine and transmission. When he was done, it was the cutest thing you ever saw. It was nicknamed the “Prancing Hamster”.

    When he retired from Kenworth a couple of years ago, he was the manager of their engineering lab down at the assembly plant in Renton. He got to “bend wrenches” all day, dreaming up new parts and ways to build the trucks.

    • #12
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:37 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    Larry bought the Fiat from someone in Minneapolis, and we had a ball with it in the snow. We’d go out really late and do 360s down the middle of the street. When we got it home, he taught me to drive a stick-shift in it, and it was really easy to learn.

    Another memory – My mother used to drive me to the local high school to practice, but she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift, so I would tell her when to push in the clutch, then I would shift and tell her to let the clutch out. Not very smooth.

    Later, when I had my license, I would go to the same school when it snowed and practice driving in the snow – including 360s.

    • #13
    • March 31, 2020, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Mark Camp Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Wiscosotan (View Comment):

    Are you still playing your violin? I’m trying to play my cello more after letting it languish a number of years.

    Yes, but rarely. When working, I am totally exhausted when I get home from work, and have a hard time getting much energy to play. I do make a point of playing in the University Unitarian Church full-length Messiah sing/play-along every year at Christmas. I have an informal stand-partner who always saves me a seat, and we have fun playing the entire Messiah, in front of a really awesome choir.

    Must be hard for the Unitarians to just listen to the beautiful instrumentals, and not to hear the words that inspired them! The orchestral interludes must be a great relief.

    • #14
    • March 31, 2020, at 2:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Mark Camp Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Wiscosotan (View Comment):

    Are you still playing your violin? I’m trying to play my cello more after letting it languish a number of years.

    Yes, but rarely. When working, I am totally exhausted when I get home from work, and have a hard time getting much energy to play. I do make a point of playing in the University Unitarian Church full-length Messiah sing/play-along every year at Christmas. I have an informal stand-partner who always saves me a seat, and we have fun playing the entire Messiah, in front of a really awesome choir.

    Wiscosotan is lucky in one way: It is much easier to make the cello sound beautiful than a violin.

    • #15
    • March 31, 2020, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Southern Pessimist Member

    Thanks for sharing an interesting journey. I don’t think it is that atypical. My wife and I are the same age as you and each of us has reinvented ourselves due to “midlife” crises that seem to occur about every ten years. Fortunately we have never felt a need for a major reorientation at the same time or at least in opposite directions.

    • #16
    • March 31, 2020, at 5:24 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    Here are some things that I learned. For a while, I thought that my future might be as some company’s Traffic Manager, who is responsible for inbound and outbound shipment. I discovered that, when a company wants to cut its labor costs, the first manager to be let go is the Traffic Manager; and his or her duties are given to … wait for it… the Purchasing Manager. Purchasing is an absolutely vital function, and in a company with more than about 20 employees, the duties cannot be given to anyone else. So that’s where I wanted to be.

    I took those two quarters of economics at the community college, and my Micro course totally changed the way I looked at the world. I learned more about human behavior from my economics classes than I had learned in five years of Psychology courses. The instructor was really great, and I used what I learned in that class in all my future jobs. Unfortunately, my Macro class was taught by a socialist, and I knew she was wrong, dead wrong about most things. She had little idea of how people really behave, and socialists know absolutely nothing about incentives.

    • #17
    • March 31, 2020, at 9:20 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  18. Stad Thatcher

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    When he got his engineering degree, his first job was his dream job, at Kenworth Truck Company at their engineering offices in Kirkland.

    You should have taken advantage of their employee discount and become a gypsy trucker. Heck, you might have even run into Dave Carter now and then . . .

    • #18
    • April 1, 2020, at 7:01 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Housebroken (View Comment):

    RushBabe49: you know you’re in trouble when the first time you call to place an order, the supplier tells you that your company is on “credit hold”

    Got that right! Worked for a private company whose policy was to not pay anything until 120 days past due: They had the money, they just wanted to keep it earning interest as long as possible. Stupid. I was having to go a long ways to find simple supplies, one major corporation refused to sell to us even if I offered to pay cash! SNIP

    I totally relate. When I first moved to California in the 1980’s, I helped a man I had met and had become friends with by helping to run his business. He had a contract with Stanford University. They’d pay him 200 K for putting in a major computer system for one of the departments. The problem was, according to the contract, he wouldn’t get paid till he had put together most of the project. To accomplish that, he needed to buy $ 30,000 worth of equipment that would be used for the project.

    He was also broke. We brain stormed. He was worried that he’d have to call up the guy at Stanford and tell him to find someone else. We talked late into the night; I felt bad but couldn’t figure out a way out for him.

    The next day I came into work a bit later than usual. Sam was in a good mood. “I figured out what to do: I wrote out a check for the equipment.”

    “You wrote out a check for $ 30,000?”

    “Well, yeah. What else could I do? I went in to my bank and asked for a loan, only the idea that interest on the loan for 30 K would be 18% gave me pause. But I was denied the loan as I had no collateral and I had no credit history. So I wrote the check.”

    He noticed my worried look. “So what is the worst that can happen? The check will bounce, but I will have the equipment. I’ll get the project done and worry about the consequences of the check bouncing after I am paid.”

    “But the people supplying you with the equipment will put you in jail, won’t they? Or else force you to return the equipment?” (This man was smart about electronics, physics and everything regarding science, but totally a fish out of water when it came to money, banking and the rest of life.)

    So what happened is this: the check went to his bank. Some teller handed the check to the bank president who knew Sam. The bank covered the check! Sam got the equipment, did the project over two months, got paid his $ 200K and re-paid the bank for the bounced check. The best part was the whole affair cost him a $ 15 NSF check fee, rather than 18% interest.

    • #19
    • May 2, 2020, at 1:27 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.