I have a job now, just part-time, just temporary. It’s not the gig I mentioned earlier, the one for which I spent so much time going through their training — they gave me two attempts to pass their qualification test, and I missed the mark both times. I don’t get paid for the hours I put into that process, but then they don’t get any benefit from putting me through it, either.
So now I am a cashier. The training for that lasted barely two hours, not counting the additional hour we spent reading the employee handbook together. I will get paid for those hours, too. This is not what I went to college for, but at this time of my life, it feels like a good fit.
I think back to the various jobs I’ve had, the kind of work I’ve done and the job titles they gave me. When I was a computer programmer, I programmed computers. When I moved up to being called a software engineer, I suppose you could say I engineered software. When I was a network analyst, I analyzed networks. When I was a telemarketer… I telemarketed? (What I did do was call people at their place of business to ask them to donate items for a public television fundraiser auction, which was for a noble cause, but it is not a noble profession.)
Then I learned HTML and had a go as a “Web Production Specialist” which meant I produced the pages for a corporate site on the Web. There is no “-er” equivalent for what I did. I wrote code, but I wasn’t a coder; I cropped images, but I wasn’t a cropper; I pasted text, but I wasn’t a paster. I couldn’t even say I was a Web Producer, as that job title means something else entirely. The skills I used back then wouldn’t even get me an interview for a Web Developer position today, which involves developing layers of infrastructure to generate dynamic applications for a newer version of the Web which laughs at my static hand-coded flat pages.
Of course there are jobs and careers and professions which are not simply a noun derived from the verb describing the tasks they perform. Think about a dentist or a secretary, a customer service representative or a lawyer. One cannot say, “I secretary for a living.” Do certain jobs bestow a sense of identity, simply because of their “I am a” titles? I imagine musicians and artists are happy to have a label rather than a functional description of how they make a living.
Or is a label too limiting? Is “Bob the Builder” not more than just a guy who builds things? Does a cashier “cashier”? Will I look back and say I “cashiered”? I think everyone knows what a cashier *does*, even if we have no specific verb for it. On the other hand, I think everyone assumes they know who a cashier *is*, as if performing the duties of a cashier blots out all variations in the people who take up that job.
Then there are writers. They write. Some of them get paid for what they produce, but all of them write. I’ve stopped writing with any regularity, and I’ve never been paid for any of it. Was I ever really a writer? I am now a cashier. I may need to rethink this.