August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: Graphic Designer

staghorn writes:

Thanks to Mad Men and the countless ads on TV for schools that “allow you to express your creativity to its fullest potential”, the thought is that every design job is a sexy glamorous job. Once you’re through with school, you’ll land a job at Leo Burnett, BBDO, Nike, Apple, or another company that has a pool table, sexy promiscuous secretaries, very entertaining socio-political drama, or something your parents and friends would recognize on the shelf.

The reality of it is the vast majority of designers will work to make ugly things for strategically incompetent people only to have more people still think very little of you. The GAP logo for instance, was more than likely the victim of a long line of vice presidents, product managers, communication directors, marketing chiefs, and other people with business degrees who think themselves experts in design solely because they work for a company that is reputed to care about design. Even designers across the world joined the flogging though they, by personal experience, know how little it takes from a VP to completely destroy the integrity of a project.

Dustin Curtis, a designer who openly criticized the site design of American Airlines on his blog, received a response from a designer at AA that was thoughtful and intelligently outlined the bureaucracy and red tape at a corporation that prevents good design. You could say this designer reached out to provide good customer service and was promptly fired by AA

There is also the myth that by sheer virtue of your talent, you will receive adulation and recognition. That is the most accurate theme in Mad Men that can translate to today: we are an industry of networking and meritocracy. Who do you know? What clients have you worked for you? If you went to a fantastic school like SVA, Parsons, SCAD, SAIC, ACD, or another acronym that none of your friends or family will recognize, it won’t matter till your portfolio can reflect where you want to work. You are an ant in a colony with many queens. 

Most clients are small, so your work will likely go unnoticed. Nobody who looks at a can of Coke thinks a big agency hired a small firm who in turn assigned an underpaid designer to typeset the word “classic” on the can. The credit goes to one hotshot designer that billions of people cannot and should not be able to name. I say they shouldn’t because the biggest myth about design is about recognition.

Design isn’t a job, a career, or a calling. It’s a total lifestyle. We dominate decision making that is about cultural construction and make-up: music, food, bikes, clothing. You can’t walk down the street and safely guess who’s a doctor or lawyer, but you can guess who has an interest in graphic design. 

It’s not simply pushing a button and clicking a few functions in Photoshop. It’s a complicated industry with its own ecology made up of incredibly hard work individuals that is routinely undermined by its own customers. 

I love what I do. I wouldn’t change much about what I do. Some people can’t go vegetarian, I can’t stop thinking or practicing design. 

PS. Everybody who has thought about hiring a graphic designer should read this blog and try to let who they hired as an expert do their job the best way they can.  

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: Small Museum Coordinator

amooseintexas writes:

Although my title is officially Education Coordinator for the Brownsville (TX) Historical Association, I’m in reality a Jill of All Trades since our small size means I do a little bit of everything.  In addition to overseeing and executing programs for all ages, I also over see exhibit curation, school and group tour development, social media applications, write the press releases, oversee volunteers and I have even made the news down here.  My days are never dull with so much to do and the different personalities that walk through the door.

Many museums are changing how they operate and our goal is to encourage you and your family to come out and learn something knew and to have fun while doing it.  Cultural institutions like museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens offer programs and opportunities for all ages and just about any interest out there.  Here at the BHA, we just finished up a three day ghost camp for children.  The camp let these children explore historic sites in a new fashion – learning about oral history and how urban legends and ghost stories are part of our heritage.  They even got to lead their own ghost hunts.  And let me tell you, the EVPs those kids found are super creepy!

We aren’t the boring places of yesteryear and our goal is to continue to make history accessible to the public any way we can for you, the visitor.  The continued support of the public ensures places like museums can offer you and your family a great way to spend an afternoon and to expand upon your interests.  And this support isn’t just financial – donation of artifacts allows us to flesh out history; donation of volunteer time lets museums continue to operate even in these tough times; and visitation and program attendance tells us what you want from your museum.   

I ask that you toss out your preconceived notion of what defines a museum and invite you to see what the museum community has to offer!

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: Admissions Work-Study

alltheworldsablog writes:

When most people think work study, they see students halfheartedly swiping cards,listening to their iPods, and doing homework. However, my work study requires commitment of a completely different level.

Working in Admissions means I’m always working. It doesn’t matter if I’m just walking through campus and off the clock. If I see a prospective student or family, it is the expectation that I answer any questions for them and bend over backwards to convince them that the school is right for them.

I can never be honest. While I don’t lie, I can’t voice my opinion. On Facebook, Twitter, in person, etc. Any questioning of the administration comes off as dissent.

Other work-study students don’t understand why the Admissions kids are near tears at the end of an Open House. Any Admissions event (Open House, Accepted Students Day, College Jumpstart) requires weeks and weeks of planning, pulling promotional materials, assembling tote bags. The week of, the Office feels like a war zone with students running back and forth with fact sheets, schedules, crates filled with miscellany. We’re expected to skip class, stay late, and sacrifice our personal lives and sanity to the admissions process.

The day of these events, I usually come in around 5 am and leave around 5 pm. During my lunch “break” I have to mingle with parents. I do trivial things like get Diet Coke and name tags. I shuttle people around on golf carts. I put up signs. I convince people to come to the school I work for. “You’re interested in (major)? Our (major) program is incredible here!”

I feel less like a work study student and more like a entry-level personal assistant. The only difference is that I don’t make coffee runs and am not trusted with keys to the office.

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: Retail Sales

painted-fire writes:

The customer is always right. This is the most absurd statement that I’ve ever heard, yet I have to adhere to it day in and day out. I am not your personal shopper. I am not here to write down the numbers of everything you need and size you (or your child) for over $300 worth of clothing for you to then buy it online at a discount. I do not make commission when selling you boots, so please don’t complain that I’m trying to get you to buy a more expensive pair. It’s not my fault that the vendor hasn’t shipped your order, and calling back multiple times per day to complain is not going to make it ship any faster. I am not here to babysit your kid when you drop her off in the store so you can go to your salon appointment. 

What I am here for is to answer questions. To share my expertise. To prove to you that you’re shopping at a store who hires knowledgeable, reliable staff who work hard to find you the things you need. So next time you’re at a retail store, don’t tell the person helping you that the customer is always right. Smile, explain the situation, and be sincere. It will get you much friendlier, helpful service from people who really do want to go the extra mile to help you find what you’re looking for.

Lastly, remember the golden rule of shopping at a retail store: always put things back where you found them.

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: General Labor for a Dirt and Construction Company

theworldkeepsgoinground writes:

It’s 95 degrees and the humidity is 80%. People don’t understand that. People see a man with a shovel in his hand working on a job site and think he’s lazy because he’s just standing there. What they don’t see is the struggle going on inside your brain. The part of you that has lived in the wild for millions of years is saying it’s too exhausting, it’s too hot, why don’t you go lay in the shade for a while. That part of your brain sees the shovel, sees the ditch, sees the pipe to be laid, and it doesn’t see how this is getting you food or sex. That other civilized part of you is saying, but not there is food and sex to be found in that ditch. You just need to hunch over that pipe for another 5 hours, and then for another three days, and then it’ll be this made up thing, Friday, and you’ll have this other made up thing, money. Then you can go out and eat and try to procure a mate.

You just need to clinch that shovel tightly for a little longer and you can get what you want. The little tribesman in your mind doesn’t understand this. Things were easier in his time. Sure you only lived to be 26, but if it was too hot you didn’t move, if some bit of fruit was too hard to reach you walked to the next tree and looked for lower fruit. There is no low hanging fruit left in this world though.

You hold that shovel and think if only I could bludgeon that little tribesman in my brain. Then I could be free to give myself to wage labor, free to force my body to do what it doesn’t want to. So when you see a man on the side of the road not moving just watching some machine manipulate earth, know that he may not be lazy, but just engaged in a struggle between a past that shaped us and a present that was made by us but not for us. 

Josh Kleinpeter 

Baton Rouge, LA

General Labor for a dirt and concrete construction company. (Not that I consider that a vocation, it’s a way not to starve, which is why Juan, one of the men I work with, says he came to this country.) 

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: A Philosopher

limmoraliste writes:

I am a philosopher. (And yes, even I cringe because of the pretension this statement seems to contain.) It would be better if I were also a philosophy professor because then I could say I teach. But I don’t teach philosophy. Teaching is only part of what a philosopher does. Research, which consists mainly of reading books and writing books, is also a small part of what I do. The bulk of what a philosopher does is think. I think about politics, art, society, culture, science, music, language, technology, teaching, ethics, literature, history, religion, and philosophy. And yes, I think about the meaning of life. But because I am a philosopher, I can’t unquestioningly rely on the criteria from other fields as justification for either those fields themselves or for the value I find in them. Instead, I have to think about history, for example, without relying on historical methodology. I have to question the value of art without merely resorting to historical or aesthetic or theoretical justifications for that value. I love being a philosopher, even though it may sound pretentious. I wish there were more of us enamored with thinking.

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August 2, 2011
What People Don’t Understand About My Job: Working for FEMA

cubicmetaphysics writes

I’m going to write about both my old job and my current job, because there are a lot of misunderstandings about both.

I was formerly an employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the type of employee known as a Disaster Assistance Employee or Disaster Reservist.  I am writing this as a former employee speaking about my experiences and anecdotally, and I am in no way a representative of the agency.  I recently quit so I could pursue graduate school, however many people seemed to not really understand a lot about my position or what FEMA even did.  Most Americans either have an overly generous view of FEMA or think that FEMA only operates in major disasters a la Katrina.  Both of these views are wrong, FEMA doesn’t come out if you have a little water in your basement or if a Tornado destroys only 2 houses in an entire state (usually).  Conversely, just because a disaster may seem small, does not mean that it may not rise to the level of requiring FEMA assistance.  Additionally, many Americans seem to miss the fact that the agency can’t enter a state without a governor’s request, so many times FEMA’s “slow response” is actually a governor’s slow response, but the agency chooses not to ever point this out because Governors can become Senators, and Senators with grudges have the power of the purse.  As for my specific position, I was called up when there were disasters and traveled to these disasters, when there were no disasters I didn’t work, luckily for the past 3 years that I worked at FEMA there were plenty of disasters so I worked most of the year.  Additionally most disasters require a lot of overtime so I was able to make a healthy amount of money to hold me over while I sat at home, other DAEs were not so lucky.  DAEs, are unlike the often vilified government employees, not entitled to the Federal Healthcare plan, only recently began to receive sick time, and can very easily be fired (at least from a specific disaster).  My relatives and friends always thought it was outrageous that I was paying out of pocket for health insurance.

While working on my education I have begun to do freelance videography for extra cash, the main thing that people seem to misunderstand about this (and videography in general) is that editing video takes a long long time.  Depending on the scope of the project, an hour long final product can easily take 2 weeks sometimes.

What do people not understand or appreciate about your job? Submit a post, tweet your thoughts with the tag #AboutMyJob, or email us at All submissions will be published anonymously. 

August 2, 2011
What Do People Not Understand About Your Job?

We’re launching a new feature, and it’s all about you. 

Picking up where Conor Friedersdorf left off last year, we’re asking all of our readers to send us a paragraph or two in response to the question: What’s the one thing people don’t understand or appreciate about your job?

Last year, the entries astounded and impressed us. We heard from lawyers and teachers and historians and journalists. We want more. No matter your profession or industry, we want to hear from you.

Submit a post, tweet your thoughts with the tag #AboutMyJob, or email us at All submissions will be published anonymously. (If you really want us to include your first name so you can demonstrate conclusively to friends that it’s you, we can do that, too.)

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