a good job

First Night on Vacation
Today’s post is another guest post from my wife, Bubelah. She is one of a tiny handful of people I know who actually worked at a job she enjoyed once in her life (one of the few other people I know who does something he loves is a baseball beat writer; another is a youth minister).   I find inspiration in the fact that there are people who are truly energized by working at a job – not just engaging in entrepreneurial activities, but working at a job.  Decide for yourself:

Are you lucky enough to have a job that you really enjoy? Great! Some people go through life without having had a job that they enjoyed, loved and cherished. I was lucky that I had at least one job I truly liked. I had five jobs from the time I came to the US till the time I quit my last job to stay with kids at home. My first job, as a waitress, lasted about one month. The longest period of time I held a job was four years. I still remember it as a wonderful job, even though the pay was dreadful.

The job was at the International Organization for Migration, a non-profit intergovernmental organization. I was not sitting at a desk in the main office in New York City. I was doing the “field” work at JFK airport. The reason I chose this job was because it had flexible hours (I was in college then) and because I was (and am) obsessed with airports. I love the hustle and bustle and constant comings and goings that surround you at the airport. It’s the ultimate association with traveling. There is something mysterious about an airport.

Could I have made more as a ticket agent? Yes, but a ticket agent is only limited to one airline and one location. I, on the other hand, went everywhere at JFK and LGA airports. I even had access to restricted areas. My job responsibilities included translation (English-Russian), documentation, dealings with INS, Customs and Public Health. And of course, the main part was meeting and greeting immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

The greatest part of the job was meeting so many different and interesting people.
There were some real characters out there. Every day I interacted with people from all walks of life and diverse cultures. I wish I recorded all the life stories I heard. It was like geography and sociology advanced classes. It was the closest second best to traveling, which I love.

The job was very tiring. I had to be at different places in short periods of time. The hours were almost always random – I seldom had a set schedule. Sometimes I had to get up at 2 or 3 am, finishing at 8 am and then going to classes after taking a short nap in College library. But at the end of the day I was satisfied that I was doing something good by helping someone escape poverty, or prosecution or other kinds of hardship.

You cannot imagine how touched I was when people hugged and kissed me in gratitude. I almost cried. Nobody ever thanked me so sincerely or so heartily in my corporate environment. I have so many interesting stories to tell about the IOM job. I do not have even a single story to tell from my corporate life.

I had an Armenian family in my charge when the woman went into labor in Delta Terminal right in front of the gate and hundreds of people.
Everything progressed so fast that there was no time to move her. Their baby girl was born on the carpet with the help of an undercover cop. It was messy but so memorable. They stayed in New York for a few days, so I visited them in the hospital and brought lots of baby presents from IOM. A couple of days later I put them on the plane to their final destination. I wonder what happened to that family and that little girl. They didn’t even have a name for her yet. Maybe they called her Delta?  She must be in middle school now.

So here I am, thankful for having at least one memorable, satisfying and enjoyable job. I am young and I am sure I will have many chances to do a job like that again. I just need to choose wisely!

photo credit: as737700

5 comments

  • That sounds like an interesting job, bubelah. I very rarely had a bad shift in 8 years of bartending. I often wonder should I have stuck with it or got my own pub or something.

    I read a book called “Three Signs of a Miserable Job” last week. It’s a fable and the message is that the, well, three signs of a truly miserable job no matter our level or status are:
    anonymity (your boss/firm takes no interest in who you are as a person), immeasurability (you have nothing you measure and compare regularly for your exact job function – ie not department sales or something) and irrelevance (you can’t see how your job function impacts other people). I have to think about that a bit, both for myself and in terms of how I manage people.

  • I love it. I have a friend who worked with IOM in Cambodia. There is something about a rewarding job that makes the miserable salary ok. 🙂
    I have done some volunteer work with agencies that resettle refugees in the US. It was some of the most fun ever.

    I love my job too (same acronym incidentally, and also nonprofit). I’ve been at it for 5 years. I get paid a decent amount. I could probably get paid more for similar work elsewhere, but my job has two amazing benefits: 1. an ability to network like no where else, and 2. awesome flexibility. I have an excellent working relationship with my boss and have been able to flex my schedule to accommodate classes (in another city) and volunteer work.
    Between this job and my masters program, I have had so many doors opened to me. The only downside is that I’m starting to feel like I’m out outgrowing the work. But 5 years at a job is a long time! Time to move on, though I will miss it.

  • When you find a person who loves his/her job, it generally is the case that the job doesn’t pay all that well. There are a lot of low-paying jobs that are miserable, of course. Conversely, jobs that pay well are often quite awful, though there are certainly high-paying, highly satisfying jobs. But G416 is right in that people are willing to put up with low pay if they feel that a job is satisfying, or provides the possibility of making a real difference. As a teacher, I am often tired beyond words and feel oppressed by rules and administrators, but there have also been peak moments that will be with me forever. There is the ongoing satisfaction of feeling that I am a small but positive force for good. I feel that what I do helps some children, sometimes, in some small way, and that makes the lack of a high salary tolerable. Bubelah described a similar experience that was satisfying, but probably didn’t pay incredibly well.

    So, to be happy at work, do you have to be willing to tolerate a small salary? Other than entrepreneurs, are there really very many high-salaried professionals? It’s quite the conundrum, isn’t it?

  • Sounds like a very interesting job!

    Mike

  • This sounds like a really cool job!