My work history briefly, Part II: A Cavalcade of Casual Service Jobs

I have worked as a bartender, tested DVD players and assembled mobile phones in an electronics factory. I have cleaned offices in Copenhagen at night, picked strawberries, transcribed research interviews, and called up farmers and tried to sell them magazines from a noisy office, pretending to be from the magazine-company (worst job ever).

Later, I drove around on a bicycle in a beautiful hilly suburb of Copenhagen to assist aged people in their homes, worked as companion for autistic persons living with their parents (that is actually a job in Denmark. It helps the parents so the kids don’t end up in an institution) and casual carer in an institution for autistic kids. I was also a casual helper for multiple sclerosis and arthritis patients, cooked in a fast food restaurant, provided phone support in an Internet supermarket for elderly, demonstrated PCs in a electronics retail store, and recorded sound for video productions.

 

Factory line at Flextronics, Denmark

Factory work may sound boring. It is.

 
Carer jobs

Carer jobs are well paid in Denmark and although the jobs can be weird and uncomfortable, the work conditions are good. And care workers are always in demand. I specialised in carer jobs in the run-up to my exit to Australia so I could work and earn as much as possible. During the last months before leaving I worked in 23 hours shifts* every third or second day looking after a final-stage multiple sclerosis patient, and sometimes in a 6 hours shift in between shifts, taking a very autistic teenage girl to the beach so her parents could get a break.

*I didn’t have to stay awake for 23 hours, I just had to be there.

 

Young girl about 5yo study intensely focussed on 2 ducks

This is a workplace.

 

International Space Station

This is a workplace.

 
To be multiple service providers for the same client group

The multitude of roles gave curious insights. For example, I worked in a casual customer service role for an Internet Supermarket for elderly.

The Internet supermarket targeted Copenhagen city councils with an offer to substitute traditional, time consuming manual shopping done by aged carers with guided online shopping.

Since I worked as a casual aged carer within municipalities that were clients of the service and municipalities that were not, elderly who used the service told me about how it worked for them and how they felt about Internet shopping replacing human shopping. I could compare that to my manual shopping for elderly as an aged carer in the ‘traditional’ municipalities and the chats with the elderly around that. That gave unique exposure to ‘both sides of the counter’ of an excellent service concept (link in Danish).

All the casual jobs gave skills and insights – in business models, systems, workplace cultures, service functions, management styles and interpersonal communication. All together they served as a kaleidoscope of workplace snapshots.

 

Aged care - young woman helps old man

This is a workplace.

 

Stefan Plenge, founder and director of Intervare: an Internet supermarket for elderly in Denmark

This is a workplace with Stefan Plenge, founder and director of an Internet supermarket for elderly

 

Honey bees

This is a workplace. Not for human workers, but still.

 
After several years in these random low level jobs my (now) husband suggested that I needed a proper degree to get out of the shallow water. I found a fast-track Bachelor of Arts programme which allowed credit transfer for most of the business course subjects and got in on various conditions.

I ended up doing a Australian Master degree in business/marketing after he got an irresistible offer from Australia. I chose business because it seemed the most ’employable’ agree and financially viable option. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities available for studies abroad in business/commerce (crucial to financing the tuition fee), and close to none for degrees i e.g. sociology.

Also, business skills are useful in any industry and can be used to start & run a business: the ultimate way to not have to deal with any more baffling workplaces.

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