Friday, October 24, 2014

how many jobs have I worked?

What exactly counts as "having a job"? When I draw up my résumé, there are certain things I don't include on it when I list my employment history. I don't include the library job I'd had in college, for example. I don't include the many tiny side jobs I've worked in Korea—teaching English privately, doing one-off proofreading work for a desperate professor, working as a copy editor for various English-textbook publishers, etc. When I think of "having a job," I suppose my own informal definition of that concept includes, as a major criterion, whether said job is listable on my curriculum vitae.

Going by just that, then, I've had the following jobs over the years:

1991-92 (I graduated from college in 1991): Fairfax County Public Schools, substitute teacher.
1992-94: Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School, French and English teacher.
1994-95: Korea Foreign Language Institute (hagweon), English instructor.
1995-96: Campus Foreign Language Center (hagweon), English instructor.
1996: SsangYong Paper Company, English instructor and proofreader.

1997: Adecco (temp service), admin assistant.
1998-2000: APIC (nonprofit), same.

[Assorted private jobs in Korea.]

2004-05: English Channel Foreign Language Institute (hagweon), English instructor.
2005-08: Sookmyung Women's University, English and French instructor.

[Unemployed during my walk and my mother's cancer, and for a bit after Mom's passing.]

2010: Business Korea Magazine, proofreader and copy editor.
2010: Educational Testing Services, TOEFL essay rater.
2011-13: YB (a pseudonym for my job in Centreville, Virginia), tutor.
2013-14: The Catholic University of Daegu, English professor.
2014-present: Dongguk University, English professor.
2013-present: Golden Goose (pseudonym for the publishing company where I now work Wednesdays), editor.
2013-present: Korea Management Association (KMA), English instructor.

That's sixteen jobs, not counting all the unlisted work. It's been a vagabond life, I guess, and one that's completely the opposite of my parents' lives: their generation believed in company loyalty—in staying the course and investing in the far-off promise of a retirement package that, once it arrived, wasn't nearly as rosy as it had been made out to be (Dad's retirement benefits from Northwest Airlines were particularly shitty). Generation X is a lot like me: we tend to be floaters, not settlers, and we've always got one eye on the exit in case The Next Big Thing comes along. We've had it drilled into our heads that we're suckers if we miss out on plum opportunities, so it's best not to be stupidly passive. We have none of the blind trust of the previous generation, which threw its lot in with corporations that promised to provide a soft landing for retirement.

The fact of the matter, though, is that my mother's retirement package and health-benefit plan weren't nearly enough to take care of her astronomical medical bills once she was diagnosed with brain cancer. By the time she died, her bills totaled about a million dollars, and it was Dad's military insurance (Tricare, pronounced "try-care") that ended up bearing the brunt of that load. Paltry Northwest Airlines couldn't be counted on to front the necessary cash, and even Mom's own health package from the National Association of Letter Carriers wasn't up to the challenge. So I guess the lesson is: when you retire, try not to come down with any life-threatening illnesses or conditions, because if you're not backed by an entity as big and scary as the United States military, you're pretty much fucked. I realize there may be better insurance deals out there—deals that aren't Tricare—but I'm guessing that they cost the policyholder a pretty penny long before the holder ever becomes ill or infirm.

Americans are often good about looking out for each other, though, and with sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, it's possible to crowdsource funds in a fairly short amount of time, assuming you market yourself and plead your case savvily enough.

Upshot: I take a stoic view of my own financial and medical future. The fact that I've worked so many jobs means I haven't built up a retirement package, but I also know that certain options are available to me that the older generation knows little to nothing about.


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