What is the worst job you have ever had?

General Posted by Razorback 6 years, 5 months ago

I was talking with some friends recently about past jobs that we hated and it occurred to me that this might be a good topic for the Mint. Not sure we can top anything Mike Rowe has done, but I bet there are some good stories to be shared. I will go first.

In the summer of 1986, the University of Arkansas and I agreed that we might need to spend some time apart (in other words, they kicked me out for a year). Apparently, they felt my excessive partying and failure to attend class regularly might be detrimental to my education and long-term career choices.

During that time, I had to find gainful employment in order to pay rent and try to put food on the table as well as beer in the fridge. Fast food work was out for me as I had done that in the past with little to no pleasure gained from the experience.

I managed to secure a job at a local car wash. This was one of those businesses that after the car went through an automated wash, several of us would greet it at the end to dry it off and clean the windows. Glamorous work, as you might imagine. However, it gets worse.

In desperate need for more income than the part-time $3.35 minimum wage the car wash provided, I was mindlessly lured into selling waterless cookware door-to-door under the guise the commissions would make me filthy rich. Well, at least make a better living than the car wash provided.

We would set about going from house to house asking people if they would like a demonstration on how the most advanced technology in the cookware industry would save them time...and water. The demonstration showed how you could "boil" an egg in a pan with no water at all. I found that only those people who appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance thought this culinary marvel was in the least bit interesting.

I never sold a single item. Bruised and broke, I shoved my shattered ego into my pocket, discarded my dreams of wealth and went back to a normal hourly position.

Now, the silver lining. I eventually landed a job at a local hardware store where I would work for four years. During this time, I learned a great deal about the vocational arts from skilled carpenters, plumbers and other craftsmen. To this day, that knowledge has served me well more times than algebra ever will.

Also, it helped me understand the importance of getting my degree. I returned to school in 1987 and excelled in all areas. I never missed a class and always sat in the front row. Whenever I seemed to tire of studying, I always remembered that job and it helped propel me forward. I have since gone on to create a successful 25-year career in marketing and public relations. But I also know how to use a multitude of tools and I always boil my eggs with water.

21 replies

  • glen

    Fantastically written, and a great topic. Thanks for sharing.

    My worst (and best job) was working for two summers in high school as part of a 2-man cleanup crew for a local construction company. Outside of doing a lot of sweeping, I also did odd jobs like spending an entire month taking a hatchet to massive oak beams to make them look "rustic". (These beams were strategically placed in the hot sun and under no shade.)

    While the work was terrible, I also learned many things that have stuck with me throughout the years.

    1. How to have a cheerful attitude while doing hard, monotonous labor. (Construction workers on this crew were incredible at this.)

    2. The very basics of construction: how to use basic building materials and tools, etc.

    3. That I should never do meth. Ever.

    4. How to think outside the box to get a job done. Every house had it's own "gotchas", and the guys on this crew were masterful at just making things work with whatever resources were available.

    5. There is no finer cure for better sleep than a hard days worth of manual labor. I've never slept better at nights while I was working on that crew.


  • elancaster65

    I was on unemployment from 2008-2011. During that time I worked basically three jobs.

    1. Right seat in a King Air. Insurance requirement for the client. Not really flying, just warming a seat for $45/hour. Sounds like a not but not really and was deducted from my UI.

    2. Board Operator for a radio station. Also did producing, voice over and sometimes co-host. Great fun job. $10/hour. 1-2 hours a day. 5 days a week.

    3. Worse. Job. Ever. Worked for one of those inventory companies. You know, counting things in stores. All night. For $5/hour. No break. No lunch. They had a lot of different, lets say, non labour board friendly rules. The counting was no big deal. 10 key by touch on a keypad on your leg and/or a scanner for the UPC code.

    So I get a call to go with a crew 3 hours west, through the Cascades to Eureka. Guy driving the van thinks he's Mario Andretti and The Stig all rolled into one. We drive 3 hours, count for 6, get 20 minutes to grab something to eat from a gas station at 4:00 in the morning then drive 3 hours back to Redding.

    Guy is taking the curves so fast the crew in the back is white faced. I'm in the front watching my life flash every other curve. We stop for a break and the rest of the crew pulls me aside and tells me I have to tell him to slow down. We take off and we take the first curve on nearly 2 wheels.

    I asked, "Are you in a hurry?" Driver, "Yeah. Why?" Me, "Little fast for night on 299 don't you think?" Driver, "I've driven this before, no worries." Me, tired, pissed at the low pay, long hours, no pay, no breaks, management yelling at us to go faster, says, "Well we're not. Slow down or I'm driving." Driver, quietly slows to the speed limit.

    They had a system in place to tell them when you would be available so they could schedule you. With my radio job eating up most of my mornings and the occasional flight coming up I had some time restraints. Invariably, when the schedule came out, they would schedule me when I couldn't work. I'd remind them what days I could work, they were supposed to reschedule me but they didn't. Updated schedule comes out and I'm not on it. At this time, UI is gone and I'm thisshort from selling body parts to pay the bills.

    Finally I get a note in the mail that I've been fired. Not terminated. Not let go. Fired. For failing to show up to work when scheduled.

    In the end, I joined a class action lawsuit against them. Apparently they had violated a whole host of Labour laws. Their response was we were contract labourers. Hah! I was an employee! Wife is a bookkeeper very familiar with W2/1099 employee differences. She was glad that job was gone.

    BTW, they sent my W2 at the absolute last minute delaying my taxes.


  • Nickolas

    Great topic and second that on how well written. Early in my life I wanted to work for the local bike/skiing shop but had no experience. This lead to a few odd jobs. Overall there have been a few good a few bad:

    1- First job at 14. Pumping gas for an angry Croatian. I was only allowed to be a gas jockey. I watched in horror how his Service crew damaged cars and could care less about how well they fixed them. Was the kid running out to fill the old lady's tank then wash every window possible. I was fired after going to baseball practice one Saturday morning. The owner told me to turn in my no name BP shirt and said" I want to have you think about if you want this job or not." I did. I didn't.

    2-Job after pumping gas. Even worse. It was working at a Baby Gap and Kids Gap in the local high end mall. The hours were crazy and I was there late after 11 PM on school nights every night. The manager hated me. My first night after folding a whole table of shirts for an hour the manager told me to clock out. I went into the back to clock out then when I came back out the manager had ripped off every folded shirt to the floor and and growled "You folded them wrong". I quit three weeks later.

    3-5 Got my dream job of working in a Skiing shop. I hated working retail but loved everything about the rest of it. I would work 40 hours a week during High School and College. I worked in three shops all together.

    Adult Career-

    Worst job- working for a startup. I am a big company kinda guy. I like systems and a matrix to work with. The startup I worked for was like going back to high school. There were the cool kids and I was the dork. Strangest place I ever worked and hated almost every minute of it.

    Best job. working at Apple before anyone cared about Apple. I was lucky to work at Apple when it was a company struggling. My job was to keep Mac from being tossed out of Companies. I got to meet Tim Cook, Avie Tevanian and get cussed out by Steve Jobs. It was like working for a startup that every really enjoyed their job. We were not cool at the time but everyone loved their job. I left when all the hipsters invaded and the rest of the cool crowd. The culture changed drastically as Apple became what it was meant to be.


    • glen

      "I got to meet Tim Cook, Avie Tevanian and get cussed out by Steve Jobs."

      Pretty illustrious career there!


      • Nickolas

        I was there when it wasn't cool and there was only the glimmer of the aura Apple has today. I also guess I have never been phased by 'celebrity' when I should have been. My customers were just as interesting. I had SNL, MTV Networks (all the shows), Music labels and so on. I became the iPod and then iPhone resource for some of these folks. No matter how wealthy they would ask for free Apple gear. There were fortunately more nice celebrities than not. Usually it was their managers or entourage that were trying to mooch.


    • Razorback

      My first job, also at the age of 14, was working for a stage and light production company in the rock-and-roll business. We built large-scale productions for some of the biggest acts of the late 70s and early 80s. I met (and partied with) numerous famous musicians. Our boss was Australian and always called me a "stupid little wanker." He was right. I was so star struck most of the time that I probably neglected some of my duties. But I kept that job for two years and it was an absolute blast.


  • nukk3r

    It was in 2009. I was living with my mom and grandma and I was desperate to find just any job. My mom was depressed after she lost her job due to a raid earlier that year (not the corporate one, armed people occupied their propery). I left my job at a town hall newspaper where I worked for two years as a layout designer. They owed me a three month's salary. By the end of the year we've burned through our savings.

    The job market was empty but I've managed to find an open position in a printing company. I didn't meet their requirements for a designer's position so they offered my a job as a salesman/wide-format printer operator. I had to take orders, forward them to designers and I had to prepress and print the posters and banners. There was a 2 month probation period with a UAH 3k salary and when it's over they'd add 10% of monthly sales to that. I agreed and that's where the fun began.

    The boss was a control freak. Every morning he stood near the entrance and checked when all the employees come to work. If anyone was late for more than five minutes he'd lecture them on spot about how this time could be used to increase sales. The thing is, the customers never showed up till 10 a.m. and he knew that. He also checked the security footage every other day and had a remote access to every PC in the office.

    One day he came to me and said, "You wanted to be a designer, so i have a task for you. Make a calendar with my friend's photos for his birthday". I said, "We have six designers. Why me?" He replied, "Just do it, okay?" I've made it and he didn't even thank me.

    As it turned out, I was the only person in the whole company who could write a sentence in English. The boss had an assistant who lied on her CV that she knew English, so I've translated his business letters to the ink supplier abroad.

    One day he hired a new manager for the sales department who had no experience in print at all. I had to instruct her on every aspect of it and answer all the basic questions like "Why are there 4 colours in printer?" and "Why the paper thickness is measured in grams per meter?"

    My probation period ended successfully. During my third month I've made UAH 36k in sales. I was really proud of myself and looked forward to get my 10% share.

    Our business hours were 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was the third friday of the month, 7:30 p.m. I had a chat with some coweorkers in the lobby. A man came to us and said that he wanted to print some business cards. I said, "Sorry, we're closed but you may email all the details and i'll get your order ready by monday afternoon". It had to be THAT moment when the boss's wife appeared out of nowhere as if it was a cheap TV drama. She forced me to take that order and said, "You should be grateful to have this job". The next monday I was informed that it was my last week in the company and that i've been stripped off my bonus. On my last day there designers threw me a leaving party, I drank wine and cheered to the camera.


    • glen

      Wow, great (and awful) story. Hopefully enough time has passed that you can look back on the time with a little humor.

      Unrelated: Can you make me a calendar with some of my photos?



      • nukk3r

        Yeah, I don't hold any grudges. It was tough at that time but I learned a lot about printing. For example that even a qualified technician can't calibrate an industrial printer properly to match the customer's Pantone color. When we finally matched the color to the sample it had different CMYK values than it was supposed to.

        I can but why would you need one? =)


        • Razorback

          I think the best things to come out of horrible circumstances are the positive things we learn through that process. It also teaches the bad behaviors of others that we should always vow to never repeat.

          Kudos from coming out of that situation with such a positive attitude!