Tina Fey, and My First Job

Like every other woman over the age of 30, I have been reading Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”. She somehow writes her way through deadly minefields (breastfeeding, working moms, being a boss, Sarah Palin, theater geeks and cruise ships), and comes through not only unscathed, but triumphantly witty. She’s a treasure.

My favorite part of the book is about the dead-end job she took in Chicago to pay for improv classes. She was a receptionist at a particularly grim YMCA. She worked terrible hours so her workplace became her whole world. In this world, she only had a few romantic interests: Eli, a guy “with no shoulders” who strung her along, a YMCA “guest” who gave her a box of SweeTarts, two used Linda Ronstandt tapes, and a note attached that said, “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?” (“Needless to say, we married in the spring.”) And a sixty-something toothless mailroom guy whom she tried to strike up a rapport with in lonely desperation. (He repaid the favor by telling her co-workers that the two of them were doing the nasty.)

It reminded me of how important my first real job was to me, and how it became my whole world. I was an account coordinator at a
big PR agency, and I treated the job as seriously as a heart attack. If those press kits weren’t finished in time for the conference, LIVES would be lost. And the clients were ALWAYS right. One of my poor colleagues was given the assignment of trying to drum up publicity for a THIRD edition of a boring technical book on coding at some junket. Whereas many would just dump the pile of press releases in the nearest garbage can and pretend they had been “distributed”, this earnest friend actually approached real-live journalists with the stapled, carefully worded documents heralding the earth-shattering news of JavaCoding 3: The Reckoning.

At the same time, there was a real sense of comraderie there, and the president of the company was a really smart guy who gave lots of yoda-like advice that I remember to this day. My favorite bits:

1. Lying is for energetic people. Telling the truth is for the lazy. It’s much easier.
2. Clients won’t remember the time you got them on the front page of The New York Times, but they will remember the time your directions got them stuck on a one-way street in Framingham, Massachusetts.

What was your first real job, and did you love it or hate it?

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1 Comment

Filed under Discovering joy

One response to “Tina Fey, and My First Job

  1. chhandita

    My first job was with one of India’s biggest magazine group. I joined as a researcher a year after college, but soon was a proofreader, account coordinator, travel organizer….worked 16 hours a day without a day off for months (when our guide books went into production)..This was also the time when I had a breakdown. Was a tough time, but I did learn a lot.

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