08 July 2006

What would you do in the name of Survival?

8July06 Saturday 12:12am

When I left Montreal at 18 years old to live in Toronto I knew nobody. I came to Toronto because it was English and I figured I'd always be able to get a job. I always have. I left Montreal because I knew that the only way I would be respected in my family was if I moved out on my own, not down the street, but on my own where I couldn't easily be rescued.

One of the reasons I have always had a job is that I was always willing to take any job to build my resume and to survive. Going back home was never an option to me. My motto has always been, "If I have to clean toilets I'll do it. It's not like I'll have to do it forever." Some people do and I respect them for it.

I've worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken, in retail, cleaned houses for seniors, worked as a waitress, a bartender, a ticket seller, Assistant theatre manager, a busperson, an usher, a data entry clerk, a child and youth worker, a personal assistant, a receptionist and now my current gig as the service centre coordinator working with tenants in building operations. I love my job but I've worked some doozies...

When I worked in sponsorship I was also working at the Science Centre. In sponsorship I was the only original employee because all of my bosses and their assistants didn't last over a year before they quit. In 1999, my new boss offered me the assistant position but I turned it down because I knew that there was a high turn over for a reason. Plus the Science Centre paid me better. My boss, who was new to the corporation, confided in me. She told me about the daily threats and abuses of her boss. Every other week her boss was going to shut down the program and fire us because we were incompetent.

At the Science Centre the Union was in the process of sending us on strike. I was the walking stressed and didn't know if I was coming, going or just breathing heavy. I was going to lose two jobs in one fell swoop and it was January, not exactly a prime job seeking month.

Strike talks went on for two months and were finally averted. My boss in sponsorship finally quit to start her own freelance business and I was back to being the only person in our wing of sponsorship (individual giving). My next boss (my fourth) had no respect for me, had no management experience and refused to let me do some of my work from home (something I set up while I was sole employee). But then of course when I was off sick, he'd call me at home and tell me that since I was off I could do some work at home and he would bring it to. Like I was on vacation. I never did.

We butted heads at every opportunity until he told me that I'd have to write up a daily account of all that I'd accomplished each day and I'd have to train him on the fundraising software (something I'd repeatedly refused to do because they wouldn't pay me extra to train my boss when we had an IT department to do that). I walked out of his office having agreed to everything with a smile on my face, thinking, "I know I'm not going to do it, so I guess I know what I have to do."

He no doubt was sure that he had the upper hand and had won the war.
I worked the rest of my shift, packed up all my work up in a box and stuck a hand written letter of resignation on it...

"Due to an intolerable work situation and circumstances beyond my control, I must resign immediately."
I plunked the box on his desk while he was gone on his lunch and I walked out of the building.

To really piss in his corn flakes, I got re-hired in another department in the corporation. He tried everything possible to stop that from happening and was shown my evaluations over all the years I'd worked there and told, "Nobody has ever had a problem with Shelley except you. She's coming back, get over it."

He ended up getting fired two years later. Well, laid off...

That experience taught me that there's no need to be that stressed out in a job. If you let them, people will walk over you. My boss was like a date rapist that wouldn't take no for an answer.

When I left the Science Centre, after four years, I started applying for jobs that were short-term, seasonal or contract. My first contract job was what was to become my current job four years later. After I completed my second contract there I got a job with a Life Coach as her personal assistant. It was a position with lots of potential but too much work for the part time hours expected and not enough money for all my responsibilities.

The other people that worked at the 'health centre' were invited up to the Life coach's cottage for a weekend. It was a lovely time. In our conversation about people and expectations and what people will accept, The Life Coach said, "I've always been able to find people who will work for me for less money than they should be paid and they'll be grateful for it."
We all stared at her satisfied smile in silence. I was stung and stunned. I knew I couldn't continue to work for her. Within two weeks, she flipped out on me for a situation that she set herself up to have happen.

Basically she hadn't registered to have business garbage removal because it was too expensive. Instead she had me put out the garbage with the residents. She was fined heavily when she got caught and blamed me. So I quit.

She backtracked trying to get me to change my mind but once I make a decision I will not change my mind. She leaned across her desk in anger, pointed her finger at me and hissed, "That's your stuff, that's your stuff, that's your stuff."

I gave her two more weeks and even trained the next person she hired. It was a karma thing, I knew that I was going back to my old contract job in a permanent full time position, getting paid what I'd asked. I told her clients who asked why I was leaving that I was going to pursue my writing.

I would still take any job to survive today if I had to. Working more than one job always gave me a safe place to fall should I come across some of the crazy times I'd faced in a few jobs. There was always still some money coming in to tide me over and I always knew that if one job was too unreasonable, I could just walk away.

Jobs have been easy to find because I've always been willing to work. I had to go through a lot of jobs before I found the right one like the princess who kisses a lot of frogs until she finds her Prince. I've learned that I should always ask for what I want.

The worst anyone can ever say is no.

Reflecting on the past.

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