Saturday, November 25, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 42

As this is Thanksgiving week, I'm going with that theme as my writing prompt.

What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving? Why?

When Jim and I were first married, we alternated holidays with our parents. We drove to Des Moines our first Thanksgiving, and then to Charles City for Christmas that year. The next year we headed to Charles City for Thanksgiving and to my parent's house for Christmas. This went on until we had our second child and traveling two holidays so close together became too difficult. At that point our parents often came to our house for Thanksgiving.

While I enjoy the ritual of preparing the turkey and all the side dishes, for me the holiday is more about being with our families. Because we have lived so far away from them the entire time we've been married, the time we get to spend together is very precious, especially now that we are all older.

Thanksgiving 2016
The past two years we have celebrated in Washington, DC with our kids. However, this year we are sticking closer to home to enjoy the festivities with my in-laws. I'm beyond thankful for the time we will spend together reminiscing about the past and making new memories to hold onto in the future.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 41

Sticking with the job theme, this week's writing prompt is:

What was your first professional adult job that led you to a more long-term career? How did you get the job? What did you like and dislike about it?

After receiving my Master of Education Degree in Counseling in 1980, I applied for the position of Public and Professional Education Director with the American Cancer Society (ACS). The job market was still tight from the recession, so employers could be very picky with job applicants. In this case, the Executive Director of the ACS only wanted to interview candidates who had masters degrees in public health administration. However his secretary happened to live in Webster Groves, the same community as me, so she included my resume in the stack that he was to review. It is only because of her that I even had the opportunity to be considered for the position.

me with news anchor Tim Vandergelder
Following the interview I was hired, and for the first time in my life had a job (and an office!) that utilized my college degrees. There were many things I liked about my employment there. First of all I totally believed in the cause, and was eager to help people understand the causes and detection methods of cancer. As a non-profit organization, we relied heavily on volunteers to spread the word and mission, and I worked with some stellar, giving people. For the most part the staff was comprised of young, adult women, and they contributed greatly to my growth as a leader and team player. They were also crucial to my personal life as we had only lived in St. Louis for a few short years and hadn't made many friends. A lot of that stemmed from the fact that we could not acceptably answer the inevitable St. Louis question, "Where did you go to high school?" That is a topic worthy of a separate blog post.

There were a couple of things that I didn't like, which ultimately led to me pursuing another direction with my career. The first was the dismal pay. Because it is a not for profit, the ACS cannot compete with salaries offered by for-profit companies. As someone with an advanced degree, I knew I could make more money in the private sector. Added to that is the fact that I was often required to go into parts of St. Louis, sometimes at night, that I was not comfortable with on my own. I was putting a lot of miles on my car as well.

When one of my co-workers doubled her pay to go to work for a local utility company, I knew that I had to take a look at whether or not there were other opportunities available to me as well. As it ended up, it was my experience working with doctors and health care providers while at the ACS that led to my next job offer. My new job came with a salary that more than doubled my current pay. An added bonus was that the company was located in the same building as my husband's employer, so we were able to carpool each day. The next phase of my working life was launched.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 40

This week I wanted to follow up with a couple of stories regarding my first full time job.  Let's make the question:

Did anything unusual happen at your first job?

It took a few months for me to get my first job out of college, and as I mentioned I was hired as a bank teller. We had little money as we were newlyweds with college debt, but I went to a discount store and bought a pant suit so that I would look professional on my first day of work. I took the bus into Clayton, and was feeling strong and confident as I entered the main bank building. At least until I noticed that people were staring at me and whispering. The head of personnel whisked me into her office and asked me why I was wearing pants. Did no one tell me that pants were against the dress code for women in the bank?

In fact no one had told me, so beyond being mortified I was upset that I had spent money we could ill afford on an outfit I would no longer be allowed to wear. She did not send me home to change, but I was uncomfortable all day. What a way to start my new position!

But in reference to the question in the writing prompt, that is not the unusual thing that happened at work. One day I looking out the front windows of the bank as I had no customers at that time. I saw a black car with tinted windows pull up in front of the building across the street from us. Two men emerged from the car and I could see that the one closest to me had a holstered gun, which was covered as he shrugged into a jacket. Fearing that they were coming to rob the bank, I quickly consulted with my co-workers, and then dialed 911.

The St. Louis County Police headquarters was just around the corner from our bank, so their cars arrived in short order, lights flashing and sirens blowing as they surrounded the black car. And that is how I came to sick St. Louis County's finest on Chip Carter, son of then-President Jimmy Carter. As it turned out, he was giving a luncheon presentation in a nearby building, and the armed guys were Secret Service. Whoops!

Chip Carter photo
from National Archives

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 39

What was your first full-time job?

me with Jim in 1978
Like many starry-eyed college graduates, I fully anticipated graduating from college and landing a great job in the career I had dedicated four years of my life studying. For me, that was a Bachelor of Science Degree in Family Environment from Iowa State University. A well-known and highly-regarded program within the State of Iowa, the curriculum recognized and focused on the fact that if one person in a family had a problem, it was not just their problem but affected the family as a whole. The whole family needed to be involved in treatment in order for the situation to improve. In my opinion the program was very progressive in its way of thinking.

While I graduated in late May of 1978 along with my fiancé, I stayed in Des Moines preparing for our August wedding while my husband-to-be moved to St. Louis for his new job. I worked as a temp up until we were married, and didn't begin a serious job search in St. Louis until after our brief honeymoon. This was was before the age of the Internet, and the only way to look for a job was through classified ads in the newspaper. I painstakingly cut potential employment opportunities out of the paper each Sunday, and sat at my portable typewriter composing cover letters to attach to my resume. Then I waited...and waited...and waited...for a call asking me to come in for an interview. It was nerve-wracking, time-consuming and frustrating. Sometimes the ads were so vague that I had no idea what I was even applying for, let alone the name of the company or agency that was hiring.

When I did get an interview, the company or institution always seemed a little suspicious of my degree. It didn't say "Social Work", so they were unclear what I was trained to do, despite my explanations and a wonderful review from my supervisor following my internship with Catholic Social Services in Des Moines my senior year.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the country was in a recession in 1978, with high rates of inflation and unemployment. Budgetary cuts meant entry level positions in many industries were eliminated. Unfortunately my student loans were not put on hold due to a poor economy. So I took the first job that I was offered paying more than the current minimum wage of $2.65 per hour. I became a teller at Clayton Metro Bank.

You certainly did not need a college education to perform the tasks of my position, but the listening and personal relationships skills I learned came in handy when dealing with my co-workers and customers. I ultimately ended up in the commercial drive-up window of the main headquarters in Clayton, which was always busy since we were near the county government offices.

It wasn't long before I recognized that banking was not going to be my long-term career, even though I had pretty good people I worked with and an amazing supervisor. I began looking at master degree programs in the area, and left the bank after a year and a half to attend graduate school full-time. In 1980 I received my Master of Education Degree in Counseling, which opened up many employment opportunities for me.