Everyday jobs that you've found fun and enjoyable
July 13, 2010 6:57 PM   Subscribe

What readily available, everyday jobs have you found enjoyable?

I'm 23 and moving back to the city where I went to college. I need to get a couple of part time jobs or a full time job before I move to establish a steady income.

The city has a population of just 40,000, so that may or may not affect the viability of your suggestions.

The qualities of my ideal job(s):
* Must be working with people
* Must be learning something
* Preferably a low amount of repetitious drone work
* Preferably not sitting in front of a computer all day (unless I also get to work with people)

One of my favorite jobs was working at a local Chamber of Commerce for the summer helping walk-in and call-in visitors. It was only very busy occasionally, but there was a fairly steady stream of people.

I worked at a video store in the fall of 2009 for a short time before I got a job at a printing company. I love movies and thought the video store would be awesome. It was great working with people, but most of the time there was spent security-casing and shelving videos (which was incredibly dull). The only part I truly enjoyed was suggesting movies to customers, which I only got to do a handful of times in two months.

I'm an outgoing guy, a college graduate in photography, and have a background in customer service and web development.
posted by mtphoto to Work & Money (37 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Landscaping, especially if you're able to find a garden center that runs a crew (or two or three). It'll give you the opportunity to work with the public, to not sit at a desk all day, and possibly, if you find a good employer, the opportunity to leverage your photo expertise and web development (say your employer wants a website, or simply doesn't understand why they might benefit by one...).

Seriously, I love the physical work even when it's totally ball-busting. And the sense of accomplishment when you see what you've done is awesome. I wish I still worked with plants - there's tons to learn.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:03 PM on July 13, 2010

I genuinely enjoyed working in/managing a clothing boutique -- spec. a band t-shirt/punk fashion store. There was a lot of off-time and the boss was a bit ... insane ... but it was in the middle of a high-traffic area and I got to meet some awesome people and sell them nice things.
posted by griphus at 7:10 PM on July 13, 2010

During college, I enjoyed working in an art supply store.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: Museum guide. Lots to learn, great public speaking practice, met people from all over.
Waitressing - genuinely loved it. It had some repetitive aspects, but every day was different, every customer different, the specials different every night.
posted by Miko at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Miko, you got paid to be a museum guide? Where? Tell me more! Most of the museums I'm familiar with only use volunteers.
posted by Sara C. at 7:17 PM on July 13, 2010

Go work at a Bicycle store.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:19 PM on July 13, 2010

Art museums depend heavily on volunteers as docents, but history, science, children's and local historical society museums often employ guides or interpreters. Usually it's minimum wage, up to maybe $9/hour, but it's an interesting and fun job. And even art museums often have paid educators who work with school groups or on special programs. If there's a museum near you that you like, give a call to ask!
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on July 13, 2010

In college I worked in the campus computer lab doing tech support for the students. It was pretty nice and met all your requirements. My school didn't hire non-students for that job, but who knows, yours might.
posted by phoenixy at 7:26 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: Are you good with kids? One of my coworkers worked a day care all throughout college and post-college. He said it was one of the best jobs he'd had, teaching kids and playing with play-doh. He worked with, I think, 4-7 year olds, though, so he didn't have to change diapers or anything like that.
posted by kerning at 7:46 PM on July 13, 2010

Bar work! Definitely working with people, lots of opportunity to learn things (how do you make that cocktail? What's the difference between an eight and twelve year old scotch?), and although much of the work is repetetive in that you'll be making lots of the same drinks, each interaction involves a new person. If you can find a bar with good clientele and the right balance of busy and quiet periods, then it can be quite fun work.
posted by twirlypen at 7:50 PM on July 13, 2010

I was going to say day care. I worked at an after-school program for elementary school kids, and it was pretty great (if exhausting)
posted by brainmouse at 7:51 PM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: bartender! the best job i've had. however, i tended bar in a somewhat remote area and it got sketchy at times, especially during the full moons. i had backup. it was still cool.

i was also the clerk at a health food store. the clientele was smart, weird, wacky, and generally quality folk. never a dull conversation.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 7:57 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pizza dude!

It was great. I did if for years while working on various art projects. I seriously miss doing it. Even though I'm no longer in need of a day job, I keep telling myself I'm going to swing by and work a weekend shift for fun next time I visit my hometown.
posted by Jezztek at 8:25 PM on July 13, 2010

I've been canvassing for the county democratic party, it's pretty fun and good exercise (only $8/hr though). I've gotten to see more of neighborhoods I usually don't go into and meet lotsa people.
posted by thylacine at 8:38 PM on July 13, 2010

Substitute teacher. When I was transitioning away from web dev, I subbed for a year. I was able to pick which schools, grades, and subjects I wanted to pick up on short notice, so I went everywhere. If it sucked, I didn't do that combo again. Picking up days as an elementary school art teacher or music teacher were some of the most memorable and fun work days that I've ever had.
posted by john m at 8:38 PM on July 13, 2010

Go work at a Bicycle store.

Yup. Or ski shop. Or surf shop. Generally, any kind of specialty retail that requires in-depth product knowledge that's aligned with your hobbies and passions. It's much less cut-throat than mainstream retail like Gap, and much more rewarding. Every time I go do a shift at the bike shop, it feels like play rather than work to me.
posted by randomstriker at 9:03 PM on July 13, 2010

Being a floral clerk is certainly entertaining. You'd learn lots about flowers, and even more about people
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:08 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I did some substitute teaching this year and really enjoyed it. It's a bummer it's not a year-long opportunity.

I'll keep the local food co-op store in my radar as my job search gets underway.

My mom has recommended waiting tables because of the pay and flexible hours. I haven't done that before, but it would be a great challenge.

Griphus said he enjoyed working at a fashion store.

Are there are any other retail stores anyone had fun working at?
posted by mtphoto at 9:09 PM on July 13, 2010

my spouse worked at a Baskin Robbins a few Summers in college, and loved it. People who are going to buy ice cream are generally happy.
posted by annsunny at 9:21 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

People who are going to buy ice cream are generally happy.

Also, people who are grouchy about buying ice cream are sort of hilarious. This kind of work is a constant stream of entertaining "how not to be/think/act" examples.
posted by hermitosis at 9:26 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

People who are going to buy ice cream are generally happy.
I worked at a local ice cream place in RI (Newport Creamery) for a few years (a very long time ago). One thing I can say for sure is that an awful lot of people buy ice cream to shut their kids up and quite often they aren't exactly "happy".

Randomstriker's point is one I definitely agree with. Post-college, I worked at and then managed a series of skate/snow/surf shops within a chain. Definitely an enjoyable job because of the stuff you get to deal with and you certainly meet some interesting people.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:53 PM on July 13, 2010

Political canvassing. Whether it's fundraising, petitioning, voter registration, or get out the vote work, you will meet a ton of people every day and have some great conversations with them. You'll generally go to a lot of different areas, which will let you explore the area around your city more than you may otherwise. The coworkers are usually awesome, like-minded people who you'll probably end up hanging out with outside of work. Walking around all day is great exercise. The worst part of the job is getting doors slammed in your face/people being jerks to you- it doesn't happen as often as you may think, and it certainly gives you thicker skin. Plus, there's that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get from working to make a difference for a cause that you care about.
posted by cheerwine at 10:29 PM on July 13, 2010

I really enjoy working at a coffee shop, but I work at a student-run shop at my college so it isn't very serious. Making drinks is fun, because you can take your time and make something really nice for some random stranger. Taking orders is fun because of the dealing with people aspect, and the challenge of making uncaffeinated, stressed-out college students smile (being amped on caffeine yourself helps). I also actually enjoy cleaning and organizing things, but that's a pretty small part of the job.
posted by MadamM at 11:40 PM on July 13, 2010

Taxi driving. Crap money, long hours, but you meet a lot of people and it's good to be able to walk away from a shift with cash in your hand.
posted by flabdablet at 4:30 AM on July 14, 2010

I worked at a shoe store (you mentioned other retail options) and loved it. I made friends with every drag queen inside a 100-mile radius. They all wanted to know when we got shipments so they had first dibs on the larger women's shoe sizes. Once a week it was like having a cocktail party without the cocktails.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:43 AM on July 14, 2010

I loved the 2 years I spent as a movie theater usher in college. Plenty of people interaction (bonus: they're usually in a good mood because they're going to see a movie), and I learned a lot of neat stuff about the projection booth.. I actually wound up training to be a projectionist, although nothing ever came of that.

Although the job was by nature repetitious (tear tickets at the door, close the theater doors once the movie starts, do theater checks while each movie is running to make sure people aren't yelling/smoking/whatever, sweep up people's garbage after the end credits) it's usually on a pretty relaxed & varied schedule.
posted by usonian at 4:45 AM on July 14, 2010

Do you have a local airport nearby? I worked at one close by when I was in high school and college and it was a blast - a wide variety of tasks, interaction with customers (who are all mostly regulars, so you get to know everyone pretty well), and generally pretty flexible.

The biggest downside was that when it was slow (bad weather, for example - no one showed up), it was grueling to sit behind the desk for a whole shift without anything to do. There are only so many hours in a day that one can watch the Weather Channel and stay sane.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:49 AM on July 14, 2010

Swim Instructor. I think I got more out of that job, on a personal level, than any other one. But I also LOVE to teach and lead people.
posted by zombieApoc at 5:23 AM on July 14, 2010

For retail stores, I worked at Target for a few years when I was in high school. Cashiering sucked, but Guest Service (customer service) was pretty fun. It was nice to have a new situation with each customer. I don't think I'd recommend most other jobs there to you due to the repetition.
posted by Tu13es at 5:55 AM on July 14, 2010

I loved working the desk at a hotel. You deal with lots of people (yes, some angry, but most very nice), spend a minimal amount of time behind a probably-quite-old computer, and you need to be quick on your feet to come up with solutions for the weirdest of problems. The housekeeping people were the ones who dealt with gross messes, so I mostly avoided that hotel inevitability. If my full-time gigs ever fall through, I'd be back at a hotel in a jiffy.
posted by theraflu at 6:49 AM on July 14, 2010

I miss working at a coffeeshop. I wouldn't want to do it full-time for the rest of my life or anything, but my barista jobs were great. You get to work on crafting well-prepared food and drink for people (if you get really good you could even go participate in a latte-making competition), there's plenty of face-to-face people time, you usually (especially in independent coffee shops) have control over what kind of music to play, you can straighten and clean and move around and look for ways to make the shop run better. Fun! I think it's less stressful than waiting tables, which I also enjoy but find way more tiring and stressful.
posted by aka burlap at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe not quite what you're looking for, but just to throw it out there, I was a model for drawing and painting classes in college and loved it. The money was better than you could make anywhere else on campus, art people are nice and play music during class, and sometimes I got to listen to anatomy lectures. (Yeah, I had to be naked. I was nervous at the first class, but that passed pretty quickly; everybody was generally conscientious about making sure I was comfortable.)
posted by clavicle at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2010

I worked in bookstores all through college and loved it. You would probably need a degree of interest in and knowledge about books, but honestly if you know the difference between fiction and non-fiction, what a genre is, etc you'd be fine. It's also a little bit lower on the customer interaction scale: you're mostly helping people find stuff, not really "selling" to them. It was an incredibly fun job, and I could usually sneak some reading in during my spare time.
posted by Sara C. at 9:08 AM on July 14, 2010

When I was in college, I worked as a computer consultant (read: monitor/supervisor) in the journalism school's computer lab. I loved it! It was fairly low stress, there was interaction with users, yet I was allowed to do homework or browse online or whatever while I was there. (Plus I got to be in charge of the scanner - ooh!)
posted by SisterHavana at 10:50 AM on July 14, 2010

In college I was part of a collegiate bar tending association. Rich people throwing private parties who wanted private bar tenders would call up the club, happy to support college kids, and I got to tend bar in nicer homes than I will ever own, serving drinks I will afford (Johnny Blue!!), and meeting a lot of interesting people. This was in New York, so ymmv because you're in a small-ish town, but I loved it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:50 PM on July 14, 2010

I waited tables throughout college - summers and breaks, mostly. I did it for a few months after college in the evenings, while I was temping during the day. Some experiences may vary, but I found the work to be awesome. the pace is quick and you need to be a good multi-tasker. I'm an engineer by degree and I think it fit into my problem solving nature....as a server, you are perpetually prioritizing tasks.

I generally worked 10 - 12 shifts a week (lunches and dinners). The money was good, as we were generally busy. You have to watch it however, as most of your pay is in cash - very easy to piss away.
posted by beachhead2 at 6:45 PM on July 14, 2010

If this is your thing, I enjoyed doing direct care for adults with developmental disabilities. If there's an Arc chapter in your town, that is a good place to start. There will be some training, and you'll probably have to get certified in CPR and first aid. I had two regular clients (a woman with a traumatic brain injury and a man with Autism). My job mostly entailed taking clients to appointments, to church, or out to do fun stuff (bowling, movies, karaoke). It got a little stressful at times, and the pay isn't great (I made $8/hr, but I know people who are making more for the same work now), but it was mostly a good time.
posted by lexicakes at 9:48 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

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