I began working for my parents when I was sixteen (1995/6). If I had bad grades or was caught ditching or was in trouble, I was brought to the office as a “punishment”. At the time it sure was punishment as I was a snarly teenager and the last place I wanted to be was in the office, cleaning the bathroom, dealing with shop guys and the little kids. One day I woke up and I realized I had a life long love affair with Staples, the phones and all things office.
Luckily, I am good at what I do. I’m not tooting my own horn or issuing myself bragging rights, but I AM. I have had the world’s hardest boss. Only because we are family, he expects me to move mountains with barely a shove, but he has taught me work ethic (what is a sick day?), a thick skin (I can handle a screaming session from anyone but him) and I always have to figure it out myself. There is no such thing as “I don’t know” (that is what google and wikipedia are for) and I have learned to cover my tail feathers on everything. It makes it easy for him, as I write up my day’s tasks for him. I have to be his secretary, his personal assistant, anticipate what I think he might want and always be one step ahead of him.
Since I have worked in the family business, I do not have a boss reference that is not family. I have been applying for many positions lately and I have noticed the the dreaded “Professional references, excluding family or previous employers”. Do they mean co-workers? I have worked alone in the office for the past eight years. I don’t have any professional references except our Project Manager who left on bitter terms. I suppose I could put down one of our vendor contacts but they don’t know me professionally. They just know me as the girl who makes the payment and occasionally gets an ear bashing. Hardly reference material. For all they know, since we have never met face to face… I am this girl! (It would totally rock if I could dress up like that everyday!)
One might assume that being self employed or working with family has all these benefits. Able to slack off during the day, not come into work at all without calling, given special treatment, always a “good” reference, get paid higher than normal… I would like to know who started those cruel rumors, because, from working with family NONE of that is true. If I am even thinking about coming in late, I have a phone call an hour before I start work that I “better not be late”, doctors and dentists appointments are not allowed, I have to be there all day every day “just in case” and since I am family, i take a pay cut when business gets slow! Working self employed is amazing. Only if we don’t have to deal with outside sources. The state of California and all their taxes or attempting to work outside of the business for someone else.
These employers (and people) who claim “You just work for family, have you thought about getting a real job?” have NO idea. I have never been better trained than working for family. Since I never get a break, vacation is unheard of (first vacation I took was in 2008 and I went to Scotland for 2 weeks. Weekend get-a-ways were okay, nothing allowed during the week. Paid? Nu-uh) I have amazing work ethic – come to work regardless of the sickness. One year I came down with a nasty flu. I called in sick to work and my dad told me that I had to come in. He doesn’t take sick days so why should I be able to? I went to work so sick. One of the only times I ever showed up in my pajamas. It was one of the sinus colds where it hurt to move one’s head, I could not think, barely answer the phone and fell asleep at my desk. I had a high fever and should NOT have been at the office. Well… needless to say, I infected the whole shop (about 5 or 6 guys at this time) with my flu. Even my dad got it and was laid up on the couch for a few days. Then my family caught it and it was a nasty, gross mess. He learned his lesson then. Next time I caught a cold, he sent me home that day and was a bit more sympathetic to my flus. The point of this story, is it took him from becoming sick in order for him to allow me a sick day. This is the work ethic I speak of. Come to work dead or alive. No breaks for family.
So that being said, these employers who pass me up for a person who has had work in a “real” job or have a piece of paper saying they are “qualified” to work are missing out on an anal work horse. I love to work and I love office work. I enjoy what I do (everyone has their off days) and I have an excellent harsh training behind me. The families joke is, “If you can put up with me for years, you can handle any boss.” And that is so true!
One day soon, the perfect job will come my way. Patience.
**All images borrowed from Google Images**