I remember a long, long time ago hearing some news person say that the average person has seven career changes in their lifetime. I thought that was bunk since careers aren’t cheap to come by and you can’t just snap your fingers and come up with a new one.

Today, however, Im wondering if he was using the term “career” rather loosely to include any kind of job from flipping burgers to changing the sheets at the local hotel.

If I count every kind of job I have ever had as a career, then I am well beyond seeing seven.

A a child, I was a babysitter, not just for my own brothers and sisters but for whomever else my parents chose to draft/volunteer me for. Not very lucrative as careers go and not a lot of fun when you are 12 and have the charge of 10 other kids ranging in age from 2 to 10 while your parents and theirs, booze it up in the pasture. But it felt like work, hard work, so I will count it as “career” one.

Raising my own kids was the hardest job I ever did, but raising kids is really BIGGER than anything that can be defined as work so, for the sake of the seven career changes, I’ll leave it out. Raising your kids isn’t something you switch away from, or change to something else.

Once you have children, even when they are grown, your children and their children are the very essence of you. A career might temporarily be the very essence of you, especially if you take your work to heart, but jobs come and go, children are forever.

So back to earning a buck. After babysitting, and later, as an adult, I tried cleaning hotel rooms. If you think the people who clean your room don’t take their jobs seriously you have been going to the wrong hotel. I worked for the Cosmopolitan in downtown Portland for a very short time that, for me, was all too long.

It was colorful, it was boring. It was back breaking and I hated it. Though the people I worked with were awesome, the people who stayed in the rooms we cleaned, were the real eye openers. Pilots and Stewardesses, who would have thought that people who looked so elegant and so refined could be so, so, icky. But this was in the 70s, decade of free love when pilots were men and stewards were stewardesses and not men.

Until I cleaned up after them I thought it would be cool to be one. If you ask me, in those days at least, the pilots spent way to much time dipping the stewardesses. I think you get my drift.

The pilots rooms were always a mess, smelled of sex and booze and they were messy. It was also the first time I ever saw a playboy and a hustler magazine. The playboy was naughty but the ladies seemed somehow, hmmm, upheld? Like art or a beauty standard? I know, that’s pushing it, but that’s what it seemed like compared to hustler. Hustler, the first page I flipped to showed only the vaginal area of the woman with a kitchen sink drain plug in it. It was repulsive, objectifying and it made me feel like I’d stepped into a sewer.

I didn’t clean rooms for long, but not because of the magazines insulting my young intelligence (I was 17), but because of the dust bunnies and the toilets. I hated cleaning toilets other people had used. Drunk men miss the bowl and aim everywhere. And I was forever forgetting to vacuum under the bed and having my left over dust bunnies pointed out to me. I knew enough about dust to know, if the room was really, really vacuumed every day, under the bed, as the training maid had indicated, there wouldn’t be a dust bunny there in the first place!

Two months of that and I was outta there!

Two career changes and on to three.

Three was as a cashier at the grand opening of a Fred Meyers back in the day when Oregon City still had miles and miles of fields. Amazing how a landscape can change in 25 years. Not a bad job, terribly boring. I got in trouble once for helping a fellow cashier straighten up the box in front of her station. The PIC said I needed to stand at my cash machine even if there were no customers in the store.

The truth is the store had hired 300 people too many. Some folks they outright laid off, or made uncomfortable until they quit and if that didnt work, they whittled your hours down to nothing. Which is pretty much what happened to me. I went frm 35 hours a week to three. The cost of the monthly union dues cost more than I was making. It wasn’t worth staying. Though I will say for years this remained my fav Fred Meyers and as the community rose and usurped the fields it became, as far as I could tell, a whopping success.

Four was flipping burgers at the small town local blackman’s corners. The work wasn’t all that bad but the “lead” girl was insane. The first night I was there she said she could do anything she wanted and say someone else did it and the owners would believe her over anyone else.

When I was young, I was so naive, so, innocent. I didn’t understand what she was getting at. She threw a small package of ketchup on the floor, slammed her foot onto it. It burst. She said, “You see that? I could leave this mess, say you did it, and they would believe me.” She cleaned up the mess, and said, no worries, she was just demonstrating.

I thought, she can’t really be crazy. But if you consider that several years later her brother raped and murdered the verym very, old lady next door to his parents house… I count my lucky stars I left that job after two weeks. The owner was awesome but this girl was just too creepy.

Sometimes I think we really are six degrees, not from anyone we want to know, but from anyone we’d never want to know.

Job five was cashier at the local small town video store. Nothing too exciting but it was the first time I ran into the exciting world of having two bosses, each with a counter goal to the other. A Husband and wife team, with big egos (they thought they were the next Tom Peterson). In the end it was too much like being inside a soap opera and I moved on.

If you’ve stayed with this boring tale this long you are wondering what 6 was.

I went to college. My kids were all in school, I was in my 30’s, and needed to be busy, but as far as jobs go, I was done with boring. I wanted something more challenging.

I worked while in college, odd jobs, one in publications that included deliveries of printed materials by hand truck, gluing paper edges to make note pads, chopping papers into specified sizes with a machine that required two buttons be pushed on opposite sides of the machine. The buttons were a safety feature to ensure you didn’t chop off your hands or fingers. Trust me, it was a GOOD feature!

I did that for two years, at community college, does it count as a career?

Next I went to university. I loved Oregon State! I had several years of archeology under my belt before our professors decided to fess up and inform us that the kind of jobs we dreamed of just were not possible unless you had LOTS of money or all the professors in the world dropped dead. I switched, long story short, to graphic design. Meanwhile my employment was in the financial aid department.

I loved the people I worked with. I didn’t love all the data entry and filing of papers.

Luckily I had discovered the internet. It was NOTHING back then but ugly gray pages but I was so excited about it. I got hate mail from some physics kid who said the web wasn’t for images but for information. Not sure how I had attracted his attention. All I had done was take a MM class, build a web page and put my pic on it as was the required assignment.

For me, the burgeoning, big wide world of web, was absolute bliss, and this is what led to my next paying job.

While other graphic designers had non-paying internships their last year of college, I was paid designing and building the graduate schools website. It only paid 7 dollars an hour, the most any student could make working for the University, but I loved it.

While at University I was allowed to design the Art Departments website as well as a favorite professors, both gratis. Both great experiences.

The Art Department was my first experience working with people who had assets I needed to acquire for the site. While some, thought little of the webs future, others were often “too busy” to provide slides of their work. I finally found an advocate who most of the staff really liked. He wasn’t a nobody student, he was a professor on their level, and once they saw his outstanding work on the web, then they wanted theirs online too.

When I was at OSU, I had friends who made $20,000 (yes twenty thousand) a page for other companies. I never saw that kind of money, not even close. I’ve often been in the right time, but never quite the right place!

I consider myself lucky to have graduated and with paid web experience under my belt. Ive been a web designer (with the occasional print project here and there), ever since.

How many careers? if all that counts, I guess I am at eight. if you only count the career that cost the most money, that I went to college for, that I am still paying for, then I guess I am still at one.

I’ve been at it professionally since 1996. Despite layoffs, companies that closed, or companies that changed hands, I’m not ready to give up on this career just yet. However, I am wondering what comes next. Im 50, you don’t get to be 50 without wondering what the next 40-50 years are going to be about.

So how many careers have YOU had?