Writers Workshop: Workin’ For A Livin’

I went to work many years ago for a man named Paul Balutis. I can use his name now, because I worked for him over 40 years ago and he was in his sixties then, and there’s a better than average chance the man passed away since then. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he died not long after I worked for him. It was that kind of a place.

Anyway, went I went to interview with him for a job as a supervisor, he looked at my resume and saw I had worked as a programmer briefly. "Why do you want to work here?" he asked. "It sucks here, and you can go places as a programmer." I explained that I had a degree in Production and Operations Management, and that I was anxious to use the skills I developed in school. He said, "yeah, but you don’t want to work here doing this, do you?" I assured him that I did, and they went ahead and hired me.

And the job sucked, but not as badly as the job I had left. On that job, I worked third shift and the president of the company had a habit of getting really loaded and showing up at 2 AM to basically raise hell with me and the other supervisors. It was a food company, so I had to deal with food mess, and trust me, that gets really nasty. Eventually Paul called me into the office and told me they were eliminating the second shift, so they no longer needed a second shift supervisor. In other words, I was out of work.

I filed for unemployment and started looking for work, and found that there wasn’t much in the way of jobs for supervisors. I applied at Dubuque Meat Packing, and the guy who interviewed me greeted me in a blood-stained lab coat. And I was stupid enough that, if they had hired me, I would have taken the job and suffered through it for a year or two before trying to move on elsewhere.

My mother was at a party and met a man who was a placement consultant, i.e. a headhunter, and told me to call him and talk about the openings he had. He found me a job with one of the big downtown banks, and I worked for them for a few years before moving on.

One of the benefits they had was tuition reimbursement, and heard through the grapevine that they especially liked when people went for their MBA. For some strange reason, I was less than thrilled about the prospect of spending another three years in school to get an MBA, especially since no schools in the Chicago area offered an MBA in Production Management. You’d think I’d be smart enough to realize that Production Management (and its twin, Operations Management) were basically a dead-end street, and choose something else, like Marketing, Finance, Accounting, or Economics. And you would be wrong…

I learned an important lesson: if your job offers tuition reimbursement, take it.

17 thoughts on “Writers Workshop: Workin’ For A Livin’

    1. I regret not doing it now, mostly because I’m looking back and thinking it might have opened my mind to a whole bunch of other possibilities and directions my life (specifically my work life) could have gone in. Life looks different looking back on it at 66 versus how it looks looking forward at 26.

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  1. Tuition reimbursement is a good deal. I’ve only worked one place that offered it and didn’t take advantage.
    Hmmm, third shift supervisor at a food company sounds rough. And a drunken berating boss to boot!

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    1. Yeah, he’d get a load on at the bar across the street, then come in, raise hell, then go to his office and sleep it off. Really great working conditions…

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  2. I worked in the same industry, but with different employers for my entire career. Seems I remember tuition reimbursement but I never took advantage of it. However, they did pay for courses and fees for my licenses and designations.

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    1. The banking industry has its own educational arm that we could take courses from. I wish I had taken advantage of them, because there were some good topics (mortgages, trusts, investments, etc.) The bank paid for those.

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  3. Tuition reimbursement is excellent and I never heard of this. I don’t know if that is done here in Canada. That one boss sounds like a treat. Showing up drunk and berating…I bet he is 6 ft under now too. I found it comical that your other boss was dissing his own place. That made me laugh.

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    1. Paul was one of my favorite people to work for. He was like an older uncle to me. When I got the job at the bank, they needed a letter from him that said I had worked there, start and end dates, etc. I called him, and we must have talked for 20 minutes. I wish I had stayed in contact with him…

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  4. I so get this trajectory. I’ve changed careers Over time and you’ll be happy to know my current employer who I’ve been with for 20 years offered tuition reimbursement and I took them up on it!)

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    1. I read somewhere that the average person today will change jobs 11 times and careers three times during their working life. I was way below average…

      I knew quite a few people who took full advantage of tuition reimbursement. Their employers didn’t care if they ended up leaving shortly after they got their degree. Sounds counterintuitive, but when you think that it takes 3 or 4 years to get an MBA (for example), the chances are very good that they’ll stay all that time. Since the average time a person works at a job is 3-4 years anyway, it’s actually not a bad investment.

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