As I interview for new jobs, scanning each hiring manager’s face for clues, red flags, and tics, I find myself reflecting on the better jobs and bosses I’ve had.
In retrospect, my favorite job was my teaching job, the one I had before graduate school. During that time, I was doing research and applying to graduate programs. I sought flexibility and decent pay. This job, no pun intended, fit the bill. The work was fun. The autonomy was boundless.
Although the work was pre-pandemic, the company already embraced virtual communication. I met my boss in person once. He interviewed me over Zoom, left a voicemail to say I was hired, called in for an annual bonus, trained me in person once. Otherwise, I never saw him. I set my own hours. I determined my obligations. I was only ever stressed when I bit off more than I could chew. But I always had the option to scale back. At the time, I was grateful for the flexibility, as I juggled additional classes, graduate school apps, and lab responsibilities.
And the pay was, quite frankly, very good. Every hour – half of which was spent scrolling mindlessly on my computer, waiting for students to finish assignments – I imagined $40 sliding into my cardigan pockets. I imagined graduate school paying for itself through these genuinely enjoyable moments, as I grappled for bizarre Math metaphors (Do you know Stewie? Did you know that his head is the shape of an ellipse?) and barked out English rules like a grammatical commander. (WHO IS THE SEMI-COLON’S TWIN?)
But while the money was nice, and necessary, I relished in personal moments, too. I felt my heart melt like warm chocolate when stoic students’ parents relayed their kids’ praise over – when the students emailed me their later accomplishments. Truthfully, these students probably thought I was weird as hell – perhaps unhinged – but hey, something was working, because they were killin’ it.
Even though, in the current world, I’d absolutely refuse to ever go back to that job, I’m glad I had those experiences when I did. It was before the pandemic. It was before work-from-home. Thus, it remains firmly in the past, as I cling to work-from-home in the safety of my own bedroom. Although those work experiences don’t tie into my current field, I occasionally revisit these memories, recalling an old student’s joke, praising the boss I never really knew.