Work Tasks Can Become Life Skills

I have written before about learning how to fold towels properly, a skill I acquired (after some initial difficulty) while working in a department store during high school. Never did I imagine that learning how to fold towels would come in handy for the rest of my life! I also learned, at the same department store, how to wrap gifts. By learning how to wrap gifts, I don’t mean throwing some gift wrap on a box and being satisfied with the outcome. I mean trying to make a gift box (or bag) as beautiful as possible by expending a little effort. There are many things in my everyday life that I learned how to do at work. I learned a lot about caring for plants when I performed manual labor during a summer break from college at a nursery that specialized in growing ornamental palms. It was hard work, but since then, I have nurtured countless plants, including some that I have had since the 1970s! Another valuable life skill I acquired was learning how to care for animals. I learned this skill while employed at the Humane Society in Miami. I love cats and I like dogs and I am far better prepared to deal with their messes, illnesses, medications, etc. than almost anyone I know. David and I, along with our employees, are also experts at event planning, travel logistics, making hotel reservations, and related issues due to the decades we have been traveling and setting up mock jury research for our clients. There is no task I am uncomfortable with when it comes to event planning. Things like selecting menu items for a large group of people are simple for me, due to the frequency with which I have planned meals for Magnus’ clients. Although my education is in the areas of psychology and music, my learning is more diverse, due to all of the interesting things I have been taught over the years. One never knows when a skill one has been paid to perfect will come in handy many years later and in ways that could never have been anticipated.

I never had a job which required folding towels or wrapping presents – thankfully!  I do plenty of both, with supervision for the last 30+ years of an expert, but I don’t think I would have fared well in that kind of retail environment.  As I thought about Melissa’s post, I asked myself what have I learned that is similar to her experiences.  I’m not coming up with many answers to that except to consider how things I learned in one job could be adapted for use in another.  In one of my college era internships that turned into a job, I worked in the A/V department of a hospital.  Training in a hospital is an ongoing endeavor and A/V resources are always a part of training.  Whether it was sound systems, videotape (in those days) playback, or documentary photography, there was plenty to do.  One task was preparing slides for physicians to use when they went to physician conferences and presented seminars.  I learned how to use a copy stand, a 35mm film camera and macro lens to create slides (you know, the kind with the plastic or cardboard edging that goes in a carousel slide projector) for this purpose.  With a special film, developed in a different way, I could create slides with reverse text (i.e., white lettering) on a blue background.  These bullet points really stood out.  There were other slides as well, black/white high contrast images (processed in the X-ray department film processor) and color slide film to show surgical/medical images from books or actual procedures.  But, it was the text imaging that became so valuable.  I used the process in subsequent college class projects and in the early years of Magnus when Melissa was making speeches for lawyers.  This was long before PowerPoint.  It may seem hard to imagine that this was high tech, but it was!  It was years later that PowerPoint imagery emerged and still many more years before computers with projectors replaced film images and a Kodak slide projector.  Of course we made the switch quickly and were on the leading edge of that change.  But, that one “trick” of creating and using text slides has long proved valuable.  I would never have known how to do that absent that summer job!

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