This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. Katie Connors is a former Career Camper of mine who turned from Starbucks manager to product photographer, thanks to getting clear on her lifestyle goals and speaking up about her skill set and career goals. The best!
I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Interior Design from a really good school and absolutely no desire to use it.
Once I graduated, I worked in an office for three and a half years doing data entry and being bored and getting fat.
When my boyfriend of (currently) nine years and I decided to relocate to the south in July 2012, I decided to leave an office and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I started serving and barista-ing, getting back into the swing of it, having done both of those jobs throughout college.
Life is funny. I got on a path, then switched over to my coffeeshop for management, then moved back to the north this past January, then had to restart my path towards management, then got really frustrated with how long it was taking when I was told that I would be on the fast track, then wound up landing an amazing job in an entirely different place.
My boyfriend Tim is a musician, and plays regularly in our hometown with a band fairly well known to locals. A couple of weeks ago, they had a gig at a bar and I invited half a dozen people and every one of them bailed on me, which was kind of a bummer, but…well, I’ll get there.
There were a few people also on the patio, and after a little while one of the girls all of a sudden turns to me and says, ‘Why are you all alone?’ So one thing leads to another, and I chat with all four or five of them at one point, including one girl called Sarah, who apparently was only a year behind me in high school.
Of course, small talk eventually gets to what people do for a living, and when I mentioned I was looking around because I was pretty tired of Starbucks, she recommended I call her former employer because she thought they might be looking for someone to fill her position.
Sarah recommended I go down and talk to the office manager. So I did; I filled out an application, chatted with him, and he went to get the owner. Funny coincidence – I worked for the company in their storefront for a summer, way back in either 2003 or 2004, but I barely remembered him and he didn’t remember me at all.
It turned out that Sarah’s position had been more or less filled by rearranging some other employees. The company is a scarf and accessories wholesaler, and we were at the warehouse. However, the owner really seemed to want to help me out since I knew Sarah (sort of) and after a couple of general questions, asked the magic one: what were my computer skills?
Katie: I can use the internet, I can use anything Microsoft can throw at me, I know how to use Photoshop…
Ralph: You can use Photoshop?
Katie: Yes I can.
Ralph: Can you take pictures of objects and edit them in Photoshop and make them look nice and presentable?
Katie: Yes, I can definitely do that.
Ralph: Can you use a camera to actually take the pictures?
Katie: I can, I had an Etsy store for a little while and used to take pictures of my products with a really nice Canon Rebel.
Ralph: Oh, that’s the camera we have.
After a little hemming and hawing, since photo editing isn’t exactly a full time gig and he wanted to make sure I could work full time, he ascertained that I could do phone work and customer service. And when I said I could lift more than fifty pounds to help out with the packing and loading if absolutely necessary, all he said was, “Well, that pretty much seals the deal, I’ll call you soon.”
This was on a Wednesday. It was so casual, I wasn’t entirely certain I actually had a job. Then on Thursday, I got a message from a friend I hadn’t talked to in years; between moving to the south and then him moving to Maine, we sort of lost touch. I have never been so grateful for my town being so small; the HR lady couldn’t get in touch with any of my personal references, but knew one of them through this old friend, so she contacted him. He sang my praises, as did an old manager of mine, and I got a phone call on Friday.
I was half afraid I was going to show up on my day off from Starbucks and find out that it was all a dream, or I wasn’t going to be doing photography, or I wasn’t going to be paid what I had asked, or something else would go wrong. But I got clocked in under ‘photography’, I got my starting pay request, and I’m now a full-time employee.
I still can’t believe it. I am currently working as a product photographer for an accessories company in the northeast. I have weekends. I have a livable pay doing an art form I respect and am really excited to pursue further. I’m using skills I actually learned in college. I can still do some customer service (which I actually like) without having to deal with a beverage I don’t actually like. And the best part is, I never have to get up at 3.30 am for work ever again.
Katie Connors is thirty years old and is currently working as a photographer for a ladies’ accessories company. As recently as September, however, she was working for a coffee giant upon which most New Englanders do not run. Despite her job description, and her enormous amount of painting and drawing supplies, she is a dancer at heart. Katie has been dancing since age three, and after injuring herself at age 16, had to hang up her competitive Irish step dancing shoes. Since then she has danced for fun with other teens and adults who are also looking for fun. Katie has worked as a retail monkey, an office drone, and as a food service slave at a variety of businesses over the last twelve years. She’s really excited to be given the opportunity to pursue art as a career and hopes to pursue dance teaching at some point in her life.