If the job fits, work it

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Although Alice Cooper was conspicuously missing from the musical backdrop, a group of teachers recently celebrated their onset of summer with style. Pushing tables together on the sun-drenched deck, they spent the better part of three hours talking, noshing, and sharing their communal sense of relief and accomplishment. That, and their Grey Goose-induced raucous laughter stemming from off-color jokes that are illegal within 100 yards of a playground.

Chatting with one of the women I’m particularly fond of, she said something to the effect of how hard it is to find teachers. Good teachers, that is.

“You know,” she said. “It’s like you guys, the servers. There are so many people out there who think serving is just easy money, but aren’t cut out for it at all. It’s the same thing with teachers. They think they’ll have summers off (No server in Maine ever thinks that!) and have no clue what really goes into it. The late evening planning marathons, grading papers, difficult parents, disruptive kids with problems not their own, administration to deal with. It’s a hard job that a lot of people think they want. And there are so many applicants.”

Good teachers are usually right, and this comparative analysis was no exception.

In a recent column, I pontificated about servers finding their own personal “right restaurant fit,” but according to a seasoned bartender from Scarborough, really, it’s bigger than that.

“I usually agree with you, but you were off the mark when you talked about working the right job,” said Lane. “It’s crap to think even great servers can pick and choose the right job. Unless you’re related or something, you have to take the best thing you can get and then adjust your own attitude to make it the right fit. You made it sound like the other way around.”

Both the celebrating teacher/customer and Lane the bartender are correct in their observations, but are approaching a similar point from different angles:

1) If you are naturally, inherently skilled and love what you do for the right reasons (which is more than easy money or banker’s hours in schools or restaurants) you will find the “fit” easier to come by.

2) If you adjust your preconceived expectations about what the job should be, and focus more on what the job actually is, you’ll quickly discover if that job/place is somewhere you can excel.

To recap, according to the teacher, make sure the reality of the job matches your assumptions, and be naturally good (you can’t fake this) at what you do. According to Lane, suck it up while you adjust your attitude to meet the demands of the job. If the place is a match, it will feel good and you’ll know it.

This is deep stuff. Hopefully, it will shed some light on the many disgruntled emails I’ve been receiving about down and dirty job dissatisfaction.

Nuff said.

Peas & Q’s: Tip of the visor to an unnamed customer who turned in a lost wallet this past weekend. While there was no identification or credit cards, the well-worn billfold was stuffed with old photographs, a few yellowed business cards, and plenty of Franklins. Choosing to believe most people would do the same, this was an especially notable incident.

The wallet had been turned in by a 16-year-old high school sophomore who told me it was his first Father’s Day without his dad. Unsure if I should buy him a double order of French fries or give him a hug, I told him his father would be proud of him, and for what it was worth, so was I. Accepting the fries without hesitation, he said his father wouldn’t have been proud of him for just doing the right thing.

Immediately after his departure, the billfold was retrieved by an elderly gentleman who showed me the pictures of his wife and children from their early years. Stating he didn’t give a “hoot” about the cash, I was unable to help him when he said he wanted to leave the boy a reward. The kid, I explained, didn’t want to leave his contact information.

Saying nothing, he took the wallet and left with a smile.

As for myself, I thought a much-anticipated dinner with The Weatherman would soon be the highlight of my day. Instead, that memorable dinner was trumped by a grateful smile that spoke volumes, and a crumpled up one dollar bill discovered under a devoured basket of fries.

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to nladd@theforecaster.net, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.