Friday, September 30, 2011

When we graduated in 1974...

Had time to think during our recent vacation. I thought about what it was like when Jill and I graduated and married in 1974. I don't know the unemployment rate at the time. But, I know that she got a teaching job and we planned on living in the city where we grew up. So...I needed to find a job in Joliet. Every day I went through the job ads. I had a degree with a major in sociology/psychology with a GPA around 3.3/4.0 and I had difficulty finding something.  Finally, I found a job as a quality control inspector at a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. It certainly wasn't what I had planned on doing; but, I got a paycheck- $600 per month. Not a lot; but, it was something. I was eventually promoted to a production foreman on the midnight shift - midnight to 8AM. I could still tell you all about the process of making plastic bottles using blowmolding and injection molding for milk, bleach, shampoo, etc.

Next, I was a foreman at a plant that assembled wallpaper sample books. We assembled the swatches of wallpaper and fabrics into the sample books that you would see in a decor store. Then, I worked as a recruiter for what we called data processing people - data entry clerks, programmers, system analysts, etc. No personal computers at the time.  I didn't know a thing about computers; but, I learned the jargon and was creative when it came to finding and placing people in jobs. Basically, I would convince a company to pay me a commission if they hired a candidate that I found (or lured from another company). This job was commission-only with a very small draw that was subtracted from my earned commissions. I was actually quite good at it. Very briefly, I was a recruiter in Joliet.

After about four years of saving up everything we could and before I left recruiting, we scraped together enough to buy our first house. Shortly after we bought the house, I went to work for Hallmark - first, managing the installation of new stores and remodels. We took a blank space and installed/opened a new store in four day. Then, I went into sales. I was still not doing what I had thought I would be doing when I went to college. By now I realized that in college I wasn't really sure what I would be doing after graduation. I never expected to be in "sales"; but, I guess I was good at it and I ended up being a sales trainer for Hallmark and a district sales manager for Drawing Board Greeting Cards.

I had many misc jobs before all this - these include concession worker/popcorn maker at a drive-in theater, summer jobs as a steelworker and a painter/misc labor at a college near Joliet, cook's asst in the dorm kitchen at ISU, Student Asst at the dorms in college and a math tutor during High School. Basically, I did whatever I could to get paid.

I bought my first car with my own money while in college in 1972 - 1972 red Chevy Vega. Beginning as a freshman in college through about 1978 when I joined Hallmark, I had a relatively steady paycheck (of some kind). I think I was unemployed perhaps 2 or 3 weeks during that time. Combining a scholarship, work at the college, summer jobs and loans, I managed to pay for my education without parental assistance. It took 10 years of monthly payments to pay off my college loans and I can still remember making that final payment.

Some might say that I didn't have goals and that I've floated aimlessly through life. Maybe so. But, in the end, I've become a very successful businessperson and have created a business legacy of which I am proud. The group I manage does business with more than 14,000 small businesses each year and those businesses employ more than 56,000 employees - counting themselves. Thousands of small entrepreneurs are able to create their own small retail business. I am very happy with my national reputation in the mall industry.

As this blog outlines, I am now a 4 1/2 year survivor of stage IV lung cancer that has metasticized to my brain and gallbladder. This past year I have been taking a study drug for lung cancer, had my gallbladder removed and had Gamma Knife radiosurgery on my brain lesions. Even so, we have completed two cruises and traveled to Punta Cana , DR for a nephew's wedding. Throughout this time, I have continued to work mostly full-time. We will continue to travel throughout the world - cruising. I have endured through all that you can read in this blog. And, I have continued to make the most of my life by living each day - one day at a time.

I wanted to take a little time to outline my life so that others can know more about me than just "I have cancer, this is how I've been treated and it's a wonder that I am alive". Yes, I do have cancer. Yes, it will probably kill me some day. But, I am much more than the cancer that is taking me. In the future, perhaps I will write about the 25+ years since I left the greeting card industry.

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