Dirty Jobs Sometimes First Rung on Ladder to Success

College Administrators Share Non-Glamorous Early Jobs

When College of Southern Maryland Vice President and Dean of Prince Frederick Campus Dr. Rich Fleming took a job while he was enrolled in college picking up and delivering clothes for a dry cleaning company, he never imagined diapers as part of the work and how ‘dirty’ the job could become. The job was one that even 46 years later, Fleming never forgot—it was the first thing that came to mind when he learned of CSM Career Services “Dirty Jobs Contest,” a contest that Fleming won by a wide margin.

“I was fairly lucky in that the supervisor liked me, but on one particular week I was the only one available to run the diaper route,” said Fleming, who added that in the mid-1960s there was no such thing as a disposable diaper.

The idea for the Dirty Jobs contest came from the television show by the same name, said CSM Career Services Associate Director Lisa Warren. “Our department’s primary function is assisting students with all phases of career development. We wanted to show students the diverse backgrounds and a sampling of the career paths of those that teach and serve them at the college. Students sometimes believe they must know exactly what they want ‘to be when I grow up’ and this can cause anxiety and self-doubt. Some students have a faulty belief that they will complete their degree and start at the top of the career ladder; the reality is that most people do not step out of college into a CEO job,” Warren said.

The Career Services contest which ran during November included dirtiest job, most unusual job, highest number of jobs held, most dangerous job and hardest job categories.

CSM Languages and Literature Assistant Professor Joy Syring took the top award for most unusual job as a pollen counter working for a doctor’s office. “As an undergrad I worked at an allergist’s office doing everything from payroll to insurance posting and anything else they asked me to do. Early in my career there, I was trained to count and identify pollen, calculate the ratio and distribute the information to local weather stations and eventually The Weather Channel,” said Syring. “Since the count had to be done daily, I can say I've worked seven days a week and on every major holiday, too.”

When a trusted supplier of patch testers discontinued manufacturing, Syring was again called to action as the practice’s guinea pig for potential replacement tests. “Scratch tests can be read the same day, but the patch tests, usually done for products like lotion, cosmetics and shampoo, require that the samples stay covered and taped to the skin for several days. The doctors didn’t want to submit their patients to malfunctioning medical supplies, so I agreed to help.”

Rattling off the jobs held by the winner in the most jobs category, Waldorf Center for Higher Education Director Tim Murphy could sound like Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” when listing his 35 jobs: “I’ve been a newspaper delivery boy, a weekend custodian, pizza cook, athletic trainer, wrestling camp trainer, baseball camp trainer, golf course groundskeeper, roofer/carpenter assistant, racetrack beer server, call center worker, bouncer, junior high youth leader, nursery yardworker, physical therapy assistant, physician’s assistant, summer camp director, Karaoke DJ, I’ve worked everywhere, man,’ the song would go.

“Chalk it up to a short attention span or following the opportunity of the moment; if someone asked me if I wanted to do something, I rarely said ‘no,’” Murphy said.

>Most students—past and present—work hard at jobs that are not very glamorous and experience a trial-and-error process to discover where they belong, said Warren. Then sometimes, it’s on to the next job or career.

“The career experiences of staff and faculty at CSM depict what is pretty typical and I think that can be encouraging for students. One of the important themes is keep working, keep gaining new skills and commit to lifelong learning—whatever it takes to find your calling.”

Contest winners were, Dirtiest Job: first place to Fleming for his work as a diaper delivery driver and second place to Communications, Arts and Humanities Division Adjunct Faculty Professor Katherine Humphries for caring for goats and other farm animals while also serving as a nanny to the human children.

 Most Unusual Job: first place to Syring for counting pollen and serving as a medical guinea pig in an allergist’s office and second place to Lead Student Success Coordinator Beverly Russell for stripping leaves and thorns off roses at a florist shop

Highest Number of Jobs: first place to Murphy with 35 jobs and second place to Accounts Receivable Sponsorships Coordinator Loretta McGrath with 24 jobs.

Most Dangerous Job: first place to Mathematics, Physics and Engineering Division Professor Dr. Richard Beers for work as a nuclear weapons tester and second place to Murphy for work as a roofer for a roofing company.

 Hardest Job: first place to Mathematics, Physics and Engineering Division Associate Professor Stephanie McCaslin for working two part-time jobs while in college—a tire jockey/grease monkey while also an evening singing telegram worker and second place to Southern Maryland Studies Center Coordinator Amy Richmond for her work as an indexer with General Motors archiving photos of cars and facilities, and searching for damaged negatives.

For information on CSM Career Services, visit www.csmd.edu/CareerServices.