Category Archives: Jobs

A Day of Work

So the other day I actually went to a workplace and did manual work for almost 8 hours. Did I fall on my head? Nope. Did I run out of money? Nope. I actually did it because I wanted to and I didn’t even bother asking how much I would be paid.

The job in question was actually a casual position with a local brewery. They occasionally need help with canning the beer depending on what they are doing and they put out the word a while back to the beer club I belong to. So I put my name on the list and then as they need help they just work their way down the list to find someone who can come in that day.

So I got the call at shortly after 8am and I was ‘working’ around 8:30am. The job was totally easy to learn as it was basically just manual labour for the day. My primary job was collecting beer cans off the end of the line and snapping plastic six pack holders onto them and then loading them on to pallets. I also would pull unlabelled cans off the line in the event the label marker was down but they didn’t want to stop the entire beer canning production line. During this I learned that the canning equipment occasionally has issues so dented cans or under filled ones are put aside as rejects.

Overall it was dead easy work but I sort of enjoyed it for two reasons. First off, it was nice to actually try to do something new and learn a bit more about the brewery. For example, I didn’t know they did contract brewing where they will brew and can other brewery’s beer. The second reason was a bit more obvious I was told to go through the rejects and take some home at the end of the day. The beer is fine they just can’t sell it since it is under filled. So I got 16 cans of craft beer for a day of work which at the retails price makes a bloody good bonus for the day.

Now I wouldn’t want to do this as a full time job. It’s just too much physical work for my taste but as an occasional thing I don’t mind it in the slightest. Heck, I would even be willing to do it up to once a week. Which leads me to believe that most work would actually be okay for just about anyone on a shorter term basis. The issue is far too much work is full time positions which can drive people nuts. Some people don’t want to do boring repetitive work such as data entry, or manual packing of goods for eight hours a day for five days a week. But once in while, it can be just fine.

I think the trick for work in retirement is to find things you don’t mind doing where the benefits make it worthwhile for you personally. For example, I won’t want to do manual work for most things but I love beer so if I get some as a bonus for a job I’m okay with the work. The pay is really secondary to getting to learn a bit more about breweries and the free beer. Which by the way I was $13/hour at the brewery so I got just under $100 for the day. The benefits out weigh the pay for me. Or for another example, my volunteer time at the local school library. I do it because I enjoy the work and the fact it helps the students and yes the occasional thank you gift of a book or bookstore gift card also helps. Again the benefits out weigh any pay issues for me personally. And as a added bonus I now have gotten to try two of my ‘dream’ jobs in retirement which I’m grateful for.

Now obviously everyone will have different ideas of what they are okay doing for work and what benefits matter most for you. Yet the reality is I think work can be a useful thing to a retiree as long as it doesn’t take up too much of your time. I don’t think I would be okay doing either of those jobs more than half time.

So do you see doing some work in retirement?  If so, do you have any ‘dream’ jobs you want try out?

Career Lessons

So I was thinking back about my old engineer career the other day.  I didn’t mind what I did for a living but it was time to move on to try other things.  But as I looked back on my career and I came up with some lessons that hopefully can help someone else in their career.

In no particular order:

  1. Asking for forgiveness is easier than asking permission, but it only really works on the minor things.  So try to be reasonable.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use your sick time.  I used to come in sick for the early part of my career and all I did was get no work done and then infect everyone else.
  3. Do good work, complete your work on time and be nice to work with.  Honestly if you can do that you are further ahead of most people.
  4. Own your successes and your mistakes.  It doesn’t get easier to admit when you screw up so get used to doing it earlier in your career.  And come with a plan on how to fix your mistakes.
  5. Good enough works sometimes.  For everyday items do good enough and save your energy for the key items your senior management really care about.
  6. Never depend on a raise or bonus.  It should accelerate your plans, not be your plan.
  7. The best way to a higher salary is usually a new job.  I got more raises moving jobs that I ever did just staying put.
  8. Always leave slack when estimating the amount of time you need to complete your work.  More often than not you will need it and if you don’t you just finished your work earlier.
  9. Know what you want or need in a job and try to maximize those and minimize what you hate doing.  For example, I hated repetitive work but loved getting new projects.
  10. People won’t recall your work, but they will remember how you made them feel.  So be nice as a default.
  11. When in doubt: speak up.  Ask the obvious or hard questions since most people have trouble doing that.  Senior leadership doesn’t know everything, contrary to popular belief, so ask.
  12. Time off is more rare than a raise, so when in doubt take the time off over money.
  13. If you can’t get all your work done in a day, it isn’t your fault.  It is often a resource problem, so doing overtime consistently will not fix it.  So avoid doing overtime on a consistent basis, but it is okay for that last push to finish a project.
  14. Take every dime of money you can for matched savings programs.  It will add up over the years.
  15. Social interactions make the world spin in business. So dear engineers get used to doing some small talk before diving into the agenda of your meeting.  I know it feels odd but when you really need someones help they are WAY more willing to give it if they like you.

So what lessons did you learn from your career?  Please add to the list with a comment below.

The Work Request

So it happened and I wasn’t entirely surprised. I got an email from my workplace back in Janurary asking for some help on something. Which to be honest was the first time they had done that since I left work.  Also I give them credit as it did sound like they did really try to solve the issue themselves but they have run out of options and have to contact me.

I will admit I did have a momentary fantasy of saying no and telling them to piss off just because I can. But in reality I’m not that kind of person and I actually do respect the people I used worked with. So agreed to have a quick look at the issue. The key word in that phrase is a quick look. I’m not putting hours into an issue that really isn’t my problem and I wasn’t really interested in a contact if they asked.

I haven’t thought about my old job all that much and I’m not particularly in the market to start doing it again. I spent my kids’ Christmas vacation being ‘off’ the entire time and not working on much of anything and very much enjoyed that feeling.

So I compromised on their request. I set a timer for an hour and opened up the email and examined the files and reviewed their questions. Of course with a set time limit I could not do a detailed review but rather I provided some general advice on items to consider and where to find more information. I checked the timer at the end and still had four minutes left when I hit send on the email.

Unsurprisingly they came back with follow up questions to which I replied that I would not be answering as I only addressed the first questions as a personal favour for my old boss who I admire. Then perhaps against my better judgment I included an offer if you absolutely need me I would be willing to come in to consult for a very short contract. I crossed referenced a site I knew with suggested consulting rates. I set a rate and then suggested we cap the entire contract to a mere 25 hours. I don’t want to be there for long and I don’t particularly want this to drag out either. I have other items I need to be working on.

Then it occurred to me how would I feel about going back for even a short time and the response in my head was clear: I would feel ill. I never really like the office environment all that much and don’t really want to go back but if you pay me a boatload of cash I would be willing to do it for short period of time.

In the end it worked out fine. They never did come back to me asking for a contract or any more help. They obviously decided to deal with it on their own which makes sense. Using me would me just put off them having to figure out how to do it on their own anyway.

So how would you handle someone asking you to help out at your old workplace after you retired?