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Amanda Brewington Headshot

Unfinished Business... Or Why I Left My Office Jobs

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I like to get things done. When something needs to be accomplished, I would rather stay up late and get something done in one day rather than spend two days doing something. This is why I didn't fare well in an office setting. And now I know why.

When you work in an office, there are set times to work each day. Whether it is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 6 p. m., it doesn't matter. These are the hours you are supposed to work and so you get what you can get done in this time frame with the idea in mind that there is always tomorrow. Some folks love this... work, work, work, stop. And start again tomorrow. I, on the other hand, do not love this framework. It feels much like high school in that everything is timed and ends at a certain period. I am not good at setting things down and returning to them the next day. I can't turn off my brain. I will lie awake at night thinking of how to get something done. I wish I could but I am not wired that way. I was better at college. Deadlines are set and you have to make them no matter what hour you have to stay up until. College also introduced me to the idea that you can make your own schedule. I could stay up late and work or study and then plan a nap in between class or meetings. Not every day is structured the same. This is a schedule I took very well to and it let me work until I was done.

During and after college, as I ventured into internships and jobs in office settings, I began to feel very out of place. I wasn't hungry at lunchtime and I didn't want to just abruptly stop working at 5 p.m. I then found an office job where everybody did work a bit later or even on weekends to get things done. But we still had to be there at 9 a.m. At first, I liked the around-the-clock schedule, but then I went salary and worked around the clock for the same amount of money as a person who worked 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. While my boss may have liked it... I certainly did not.

I left my office job and decided to pursue opening my own business. I like to work and I will probably be doing it for the better portion of my life, so why not work for myself? But what to do in the meantime, while I start my business? What to do to pay the bills? I made my return to the one profession I always felt at home in during high school and college: the service industry. Always full of a cast of characters, hours that change, meeting new people, tasting great food and wine. Waiting tables is great for many reasons: it gives me the freedom to set my own schedule; gives me weekdays off to work on starting my own business and best of all, the work stops... when it is done. A table comes in, you interact with them, bring them some amazing food and then collect payment. They leave, you clean up, put things away and its done. No loose ends.

I never really put this idea together until a recent conversation with my co-workers about the novel, Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica. Some of us had read it, some not. I read it when I was working an office job and considering the idea of leaving it and returning to the service industry. I have to say, it probably helped me make the return. I missed the adventure of meeting new people and working with people that are much more open about who they really are. Most waiters are very open about their lives since they spend a great deal of time working together in close quarters. I work with people from all different ethnicities, ages, and educational backgrounds.

Some know food and wine better than celebrity chefs and others are working there while they pursue other aspirations like writing, acting and medical school. Some are working their part time while they support a business of their own -- like myself. Some people I work with are waiting tables while they simply enjoy life and save up for their next adventure or house.
Now before you go in tomorrow and quit your office job to wait tables... know that I had experience upon making my return to the service industry. I had worked on and off for 10 years in a many different service settings (fine dining to sports bars to comedy clubs and back). I also knew that, due to a childhood back injury, I would not be able to wait tables forever. It is a very physically demanding job with little or no health insurance offered. I also knew I would eventually want to have weekends off again (yeah, that won't be for a while, but maybe some day).

Life is a journey and mine has been filled with amazing people and experiences. I plan to do everything in my power to make sure that continues. I went to college and worked several jobs to learn exactly what I wanted to do with my life and that is OK.

I once worked a job where I recruited interns. It was a little odd since I had been an intern for two to three years at different places. Now I was the one on the other side of the table. I went to an event once where they did speed networking. (Think speed dating, only this time it is for your professional life.) I had a student tell me he didn't know what he wanted to do so he didn't know what type of internship to apply for. My response: "Just try something. At the least you will learn what you don't like and that will help you find what you do like, right?" His eyes lit up and he thanked me for saying that. I think of that moment whenever I feel like I've wasted time on something. Hey... at least I learned something, right? Or maybe I just have a good story to tell. It is all part of journey.