My First REAL Job

This is about the experiences I've had as a college student making my way into the full-time working world.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Learning Curve

Friday night our gallery was one out of five galleries in town to host a walking tour. The public is invited to go from one gallery to the next at their own leisure. My job was to speak with guests and deliver information about any artwork or furniture they showed interest in.

I felt nervous because there is still a lot I don't know about the gallery. We have over 500 artists work, and as of then I was only comfortable giving information about five of our most popular artists.

I surprised myself though because I was able to speak about any piece that a guest asked me about. The laid back atmosphere of the tour allowed me to push away any insecurities I had, and I pulled out information I didn't realize I had.

Many things I had learned from listening to my coworker speak to clients. I found that the things I remembered were stories about the artists that I felt were interesting, so when I relayed them to our guests that night they became excited and interested in the art also.

At the end of the night my boss walked up to me and said I had done a great job. He told me he had approached a guest that night to tell her about the piece of art she was looking at, and after he started speaking the guest told him I had already filled her in.

I think he was just as surprised as I had been on what I've already learned. My interest in art and the artists process has helped me pick up on lots of information quickly. Now I'm excited to sell more work and speak with our clients.

(image is a piece from my senior exhibition)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Skirts and Screwdrivers

I had to stop and laugh at myself today as I suddenly realized how silly I looked. I was lying on my back screwing together an Elite glass desk, wearing dress pants and high heels.

This is a part of my job I enjoy most. Getting to use my hands. I feel like I've accomplished a real task when it requires motor skills and muscle.

When new shipments of furniture and artwork are delivered I unpack and assemble the pieces. It's not always the most glamorous job since, at times, I have to get down in the dirt and dust, but I feel like I've contributed to the gallery when a new piece is displayed.

This dirty work isn't something I expected to be doing working at an art gallery, but at a small business everyone pitches in to do dirty work at times. Now I've just got to figure out the most sophisticated way to use a power drill while standing in a skirt.

(Photo is exact desk I was working on.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Patience Is A Virtue

It's been over a month now since I started at the gallery, and I haven't exactly been set free to sell or do any sort of designing. I have learned how to make the sculptures sparkle and organize the frame counter to a T, though. There have been days when I'm required to follow my coworker around and watch everything she does; without getting to take over any part of the work.

I've become accustomed to other retail jobs where I learn everything I need to know within the first week, and then I'm set free to work and figure the job out on my own. The gallery is different though, because I have to learn the entire business, not just interior design or web pages, which I was hired to do. I'm learning the frame shop; selling furniture, artwork and lighting; ordering and pricing; and running the computer.

My training has been unorganized and covers only a small part of each job. I haven't learned how to completely do one job, so I can't do anything on my own yet, which is very frustrating. I've tried to be aggressive and take over small jobs, but I usually end up doing part of it wrong since I haven't been completely trained.

Although, I've discovered that each time I am given the chance to do something on my own, I'll do it even if I'm not entirely sure if I'm doing it right. I want them to know that I need to learn more, and I'm comfortable taking on more responsibility. I know eventually I'll be given more responsibility, and until then I have to practice patience every day. It seems to me that I didn't go to college to know exactly how to do one specific job; I went so that I would be teachable in a variety of related jobs.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Know What Your Worth

It was a month ago that I was interviewed for the job at the gallery, and since then I've figured out what little mistakes I made. One mistake was that I wasn't prepared to negotiate my pay or benefits. I went to the interview with low expectations, thinking I would only be starting with a part-time position. I should have been prepared for anything because by the end of the interview I was offered a full-time position and asked what I thought I should be paid.

If I had been smart I would have said I didn't have any figures at that time since I was expecting a part-time position and then asked if I could meet with him again to talk about pay. Instead, in my excited haze, I told Tony I just wanted to keep making what I was at my other job. Now, I was being paid well for working part-time at a home-improvement store but I wasn't using the skills I learned after four years of college either.

Tony smiled and told me I'd be making more than I currently was and asked me to come in again after he typed up my contract. This was a big mistake because I let him have total control of what I was being offered. I'm sure what he offered me was a reasonable entry-level amount, but I might have been able to persuade him into paying me more. My benefits seemed normal: five days paid vacation, paid holidays, health insurance.

Now I will have to wait until I've been at the gallery long enough to ask for a raise. It will take a lot more hard work and showing Tony what I am capable of to increase my salary. After I received my contract, I took the time to research what the average person in my position is paid. I also researched how much I could be making after I've been at the gallery for five or ten years. I researched what related jobs pay, and also how my salary would fluctuate if I was working in different parts of the country.

With the amount of education and experience I am bringing to the gallery I might have been able to start out making slightly more, but I guess I'll never know since I wasn't prepared at my interview.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

When It Rains It Pours

I've already said how my job at the gallery pretty much fell into my lap, but what's the chance that another job would also? Apparently the job market isn't so bad right now because I received a phone call yesterday from an administrator at my college with a job offer. He said a man that I interned with at the city newspaper had sent him an email asking for referrals for a graphic artist position open at the newspaper. The man, my former boss, also asked if I was still around and if he could get a recent phone number!

I had interned with the newspaper for eight months as a graphic designer during my senior year. I learned every aspect of the job, and I really enjoyed everything I did and the people I met. The offer seemed like a sign since I've recently been questioning myself for accepting the gallery job so quickly. I decided to find out more about the job, just to see what they could offer me.

I hope learning more about the position will either leave me content with my spot at the gallery or allow me to switch to a position I’m better suited for. My duties at the gallery haven't involved computer aided design, which I've worked with the past five years. If I worked at the newspaper they wouldn't need to train me, in contrast to the gallery job, where everything is being taught to me.

I wonder if most new graduates go through a few jobs before they find one that fits, or they stick it out at the first position hoping to grow into it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

REAL Job Panic

I've begun to panic that I accepted my first full-time position too quickly. I'm unsure if I want to stay in this area of the country, if I want to forget about graduate school, and if I really want to work in an art gallery. I'd been planning to move to a larger city, work as a graphic designer, and possibly go to school for architecture.

All of these options seemed more open to me when I was still just a student with a part-time job that I didn't care about. Now, working full-time in a position that will take a lot of my time and energy, I feel unsure about what I want to do with my future. I want to be able to focus on my job at the gallery 100 percent, but if I feel uncertain about it I don’t believe I’ll be able to do my best. To help ease my worries I've talked to a career counselor at my college.

She assured me that it's normal to panic about a first job because they are never as perfect as we imagine them to be while in college. She also told me to keep looking and researching other jobs incase I find something that will help me get to my ideal position sooner. This way I won't feel like the door is closing on my options. I was also strongly advised to stick with this job for a least a year because she said most jobs need to be experienced for that long to determine if it's something I will enjoy doing.

So, for now I am going to do my best at the gallery and keep an open mind. Also, I am going to keep researching jobs and graduate school so I can be prepared for my future.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Kindred Friends

Making new friends at a job has never been a problem for me, but I've never developed close enough relationships to stay in contact after I leave. I have my group of close friends from school and from being in sports, so I have always hung out with them outside of work. The things we had in common were our classes, practices and meets.

I've discovered a new kind of friendship with the people I'm working with at the gallery. They share the same taste, style, hopes and dreams as myself. We share a similar vision as to what we want to accomplish in our life through work. My parents used to tell me that I would probably end up being closer friends with my coworkers, but I never believed them because I felt there would always be a professional barrier between my coworkers and I. I didn't think it would be appropriate to share my personal life with my coworkers because it would be mixing business with pleasure.

I'm starting to believe my parent's theory. One day I was describing how I would design a room to my only female coworker, and we shared this moment of total understanding and appreciation for what we were doing. I was leafing through catalogs and pointing out furniture, and we both kept agreeing on pieces and building on each other's ideas.

That was a great moment for me because I discovered how great it is to work with people who think like me and share my passion for design. We've also had a lot of great conversations about our futures and what we hope to accomplish at the gallery. My coworker and I have socialized outside work a number of times now, and the mixing of business relationships with friendships doesn't seem to be such a terrible thing after all. I believe one of the best parts of landing a job in a field I love will be making wonderful new friendships.