It’s My Job

Like a true Parrothead, I’m referencing a Jimmy Buffett deep track and one of my favorite songs. It’s about taking pride in your work whether you sing beach tunes or sweep floors. God instructs us to do the same. Work as working unto the Lord.

The thing is my career has been anything but what I planned. And yet, it’s worked out to be beyond my narrow expectations. It started with me imagining working for a plastics company. After graduation I was called back for a second onsite interview, but my trip was delayed by a case of strep throat, something I hadn’t had since I was 12. I mean this was in 1995 and the last time I’d taken antibiotics was just after the 1984 Olympics. After a valiant attempt to persuade the doctor I had to go on this interview, I acquiesced. The trip was rescheduled but due to the previous recession, they reduced the number of positions.

The summer wore on and while waiting for full-time employment, I took a part-time job as an on-call secretary and had a lot of fun. I learned how to edit Word documents in DOS. Geeky but fortunately a skill I never used again.

Company ID from my stint as a secretary.

Company ID from my stint as a secretary.

A couple of months later, I got a job using my degree, and it was a sweet deal for a 22-year-old. Company car, credit card, lots of travel. Only one problem. I was absolutely freaked out driving on freeways. I even had my boyfriend (now husband) plan out routes to his house avoiding them. Needless to say, I conquered that fear, learned to love business travel, got to see a lot of really cool facilities from department stores to factories that had been around for over 100 years. I also realized that I loved being a consultant. My employer also “happened” to have a position open up in the same city a few months after said boyfriend moved there.

A picture of me in a hardhat from my first employer. Ignore the mom jeans and cat vest. It was 1996

A picture of me in a hardhat from my first employer. Ignore the mom jeans and cat vest. It was 1996.

A year later, I was laid off but found a position with my current employer, one of the largest engineering firms in the world. Fourteen years later, I have had the opportunity to travel overseas, gained a both a breadth of knowledge in environmental engineering, as well as developed areas of expertise. I now telework and work part time.

It’s interesting. Most days I work from home and wear a shirt and jeans. In the office, I wear business casual clothes. When I do field work, it’s steel-toed boots, cargos, t-shirts, and Carhardts when it’s cold. Often I need to wear a safety vest and hardhat.

The funny thing is when I’m working I picture myself in a nice shirt and pants with dress shoes. A year ago, I shared an elevator with a fellow business woman. She looked at me rather tentatively and I realized I was wearing my field clothes. She didn’t see a chemical engineer, she saw an ordinary worker.

My typical field attire.

My typical field attire.

Think about who you passed recently. Did you see a business woman wearing a green blouse, black blazer, and wing-tip shoes? How about a worker wearing Carhardts and work boots? Did you treat them differently? Guess what? The blouse and blazer is what I wore a week ago Friday. The coveralls and work boots? I’m wearing them today. And both days I loved my job.

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About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

Posted on 2013/11/03, in Reading. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve never completely agreed with the workplace dress-code perception. I agree about dressing “appropriately” but I don’t understand the jeans vs slacks debate. I’ve had jobs where we had free reign to dress how we liked (within reason) and jobs like where I am now – jeans on Friday, if I’m lucky. Abilities don’t change based on attire. And dressing up for “nicer” jobs, to me, feels like flaunting.

    • I agree nice jeans can look as nice, if not better than some “approved” choices.
      Office attire where I work is pretty casual. Jeans are for Fridays only but otherwise, there’s a lot of leniency. It’s a professional environment and the employees respect that without making it a fashion show. Granted most are engineers and scientists, so not typically fashion forward.

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