Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Hobby Job

First, one of my favorite workin’ man tunes just to add a little bit of atmosphere to this story. Lyrics here.

In 2005 after 32 years of uninterrupted gainful employment my full time career ended. I like to say it was due to “creative differences”. In other words, I was creative and they were different (that in itself is worth another long story). Through no fault of my own they released me after 18 straight years with the same company for two reasons. 1) I was too old and 2) I made too much money. It was expected and no surprise to me even though I was awarded their manager of the year award along with a large bonus in 2001.

After 32 years in my chosen field I saw first hand what happened to those over 50 years-old and was well prepared for it. Management always seemed like an unnatural act to me anyway so I always stayed hands-on by executing and contributing graphic design, keeping current with technology and understanding my business inside out. It allowed me to prevail for a few more years as an independent contractor, a lone gun for hire if you will.

The plan was to pay the bills until 2014 when our annuities and social security kick in. This will provide a respectable combined income for our retirement. We have no debt other than our mortgage (to be paid off in 2016). We also have a fine nest egg with bonds and securities as a cushion so what’s not to like?

What’s not to like is the boredom.

Each year for the past six my freelance business had grown to where it seemed as if this was something I should have done years sooner. I was earning a comfortable income, almost as much as full-time and working only 7-9 months per year. There was more time to do a few things there was no time for in the past such as DIY home improvement and maintenance. There was also more time to fish, hunt and enjoy other leisurely activities.

Last year there was a noticeable drop-off in work calls due to the economy. This year has been a lot worse. The overall business is dead and ad agencies have gone through a lot of downsizing. There are now a lot of very talented journeymen on the street. Other independents I am friends with who are younger than me were hurting to the point they had left the business entirely because there was very little work to be had due to this ongoing stagnant Obungle economy. They had bills to pay and children to send to college so they found employment wherever they could. My offspring are now on their own so we qualify as empty-nesters with virtually no debt. Not a bad place to be these days if I must say so.

This year has been very different. With little paying work for me to speak of I have been bored sh!tless.

Full retirement is not all it seemed to be, for me at least, not now. I need something to do since I can’t go fish or hunt every other day. I need interaction with others, folks to talk to and partner with, something to look forward to each day other than wake up, read the news and drink coffee on the screen porch before mowing the lawn, tending the garden and pruning rose bushes. And I simply hate to golf.

Start traveling? Hell, there is a big world out there but traveling for a vacation is something that doesn’t interest me for more than a week or so per year. It’s way too much hassle and something that wouldn’t be special if I did it a lot. I simply despise airports, delayed flights and that homeland security wait-and-grope. To me it’s just awful having to sleep in germ-infested public hotel beds on germ-infested carpeting, packing and unpacking, rent-a-cars and...well...you get the picture. It's just not my thing.

I always told my young ‘uns (when they would ask) to follow a career path in an area you like, that way you will never hate your job even if it doesn’t earn you great wealth. In return you will be happy. Make opportunities happen and make them work in your favor and work hard at it. It worked like a charm for me. I had a fabulous career that took me to many exotic places and allowed me to meet the most interesting and fascinating people, some very famous. My career took me beyond my wildest youthful ambitions. No regrets here. None.

So what did I decide to do? I did what I always preached. I got a job doing something I like but doesn't pay too well. This one is so different. It’s a hobby job. In other words I don’t need this job, I want to be there. Until the end of the year I am now working part time at a large outdoor outfitting retailer (that shall remain nameless on the blog for obvious reasons) in the hunting, archery and firearm department.

Having this job allows me to still work at graphic design from the home office only (which was about 35% of my business) should the opportunity come my way. No here and there on-site two to four day agency assignments at snarky new-age ad agencies that aren’t really worth my time or effort. Sounds good to me.

It’s been two weeks now. My new employer put me through a one-week orientation learning about the company, the products, their retail process and everything they are required to tell me in order to avoid potential litigation. I had to sign enough documents to drain a ball point pen. Damn, I just love corporate attorneys and H.R. types. They think of everything to cover a unique company such as this.

Since fishing and hunting are my favorite pastimes this isn’t like work at all. It’s a fun learning experience about products I use and enjoy. There is a lot for me to learn too. Just because I have been hunting and fishing my entire life doesn’t mean I know it all, far from it. And then there are the people, both the other employees and especially some very interesting customers to interact with.

Nearly everyone who works or shops there either hunts and/or goes fishing and/or goes camping. There is a bond. Most are more than willing to share stories and knowledge. Most customers come in and know exactly what they want and look to us for affirmation to confirm their specific choices. “What do you think”, some will ask. If I don’t know I radio someone who does. It’s expected and encouraged. This is a highly specialized retailer that offers unique niche products and they are very, very successful at it.

Not many retailers are doing well these days. So check this out. 

Firearms are also my friends. But there are many more of them I still want to meet and get to know. They’re all here and so are some real experts. The man who manages the Gun Library has incredible knowledge and so do the experienced veterans who work the gun counter.

Another hunting associate (they call us outfitters) is promising to show me how to reload my own ammo. With my employee discount it should make my shooting much more affordable and more frequent, using either reloads or factory. Since I have trained gun dogs they have asked me to be the go-to guy for remote collars and related dog training equipment. Bring it on.

This isn’t work. Not to me. Really, it isn’t.


Jonathan said...

Well played.

Carl from Chicago said...

I think you are going to re-invest your paycheck on discounted product from ammo to everything else. That's great.

Also good that you've found something you want to do and don't have to keep commuting into the city that traffic is a nightmare.

Chris from Colorado said...

Been practicing for my next career.

Would you like black beans or pinto beans?

Its gonna be Hot Plate Heaven. Pass me the dog food.

PoorGrad said...

another good post

Dan from Madison said...


Sk8 said...

Cool, sounds like fun. The discount on cool stuff doesn't hurt either.

Dan from Madison said...

Out of curiosity, did or are they going to drug test you?

Gerry from Valpo said...

There was a drug test and yes I passed : )