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.