Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Fun Job: Not An Oxymoron

I have been enjoying semi-retirement for 14 months now. What exactly, you ask, is "semi-retirement"?

The "retirement" part means that I left my job, and I no longer need to work. (I am using the word "work" to refer to a paid job.)

The "semi" part means that while I don't need to work, I may decide to work. If I do work, it will be by choice and not out of necessity. It will be on my own terms.

My days of having to work are over. This means no more unrelenting stress. No more endless adrenaline rushes. No more days of back-to-back meetings when I can't get any real work done. No more days of a backlog of emails in my inbox, every one needing a response yesterday.

Quoth the raven: "Nevermore."

During my career days, success meant winning the favor of my managers and teammates, earning promotions, and being well-paid. But the definition of success for me has evolved now that I am semi-retired. Nowadays, success means spending my life in my own way.

While my career days served me well, they took a toll on me -- on my health and on my overall well-being. "Work," for me, has always been such a dreaded word.

Today, I find nothing inherently wrong with work, in and of itself. But, to ensure that work continues to have a positive connotation in my new lifestyle, I've established a multi-point litmus test to help evaluate whether work is right for me.

For me, I will choose work that…
  • ...I believe in.
  • ...doesn't compromise my values.
  • ...enables me to be flexible so that I can take advantage of opportunities that may arise.
  • ...permits me to operate at a comfortable pace in a relaxed and casual environment.
  • ...develops community and encourages me to create authentic connections with others.
  • ...genuinely helps people.
  • ...revolves around a passion of mine.
  • ...blurs the distinction between work and play.
  • ...calls on my natural talents.
  • ...allows me to truly live a balanced life.
  • ...respects me as a human being.

I've always been curious what it would be like to work at REI. And so it was by following the above guidelines that I obtained a part-time job in REI's cycling department. 

My name tag on the infamous "green vest."

My job at REI revolves around one of my passions: cycling. It enables me to engage customers and to help members of the cycling community. As evidenced by the outdoor gear I've acquired from REI over the years (especially as a self-proclaimed "minimalist"), I obviously believe in the mission of REI and the products it sells. Lastly, the job is part-time and thus enables me to pursue other interests.

I have been working at REI since the beginning of October. It is an entirely different world than my previous career life. Here are some observations I've made:
  • I spent the last six years of my career working in online retail, but working at REI is my first true retail job.
  • The last time I used a cash register and time clock was 20 years ago, when I had a summer job as a sandwich artist at Subway.
  • Being on my feet all day long totally beats sitting at a desk.
  • It is wonderful not having to bring work (physical or mental) home.
  • It is wonderful not having to check work-related emails in off-hours.
  • It is wonderful not having to carry a laptop back-and-forth to an office.
  • When the store is busy, time flies.
  • There have been numerous occasions where I've thought to myself, "Wow, I get paid to do this!" Case in point, during our training at REI, we were asked to take bikes out for test rides. Seriously? Yes!
  • My co-workers are genuine and fantastic.
  • REI is one of the best companies I have worked for. It truly values its employees.

Admittedly, working at REI has required a couple of adjustments: 
  • When I worked at a desk, I used to nurse a cup of tea all day long. This is not possible while working on the floor at REI. I've adjusted by making occasional trips to a drinking fountain to rehydrate.
  • In my full-time job, I always knew my work schedule. At REI, I don't know when I'll be scheduled to work during the week until one week in advance. I've adjusted by setting aside two days that I'm unavailable to be scheduled. These are days I can affirmatively schedule other plans.
  • I'm used to working through lunch, so I can leave early. At REI, our lunch breaks are 30 minutes; we can't clock-in before then. I've adjusted by taking advantage of the downtime. After all, there should be nothing wrong with a taking a mandatory breather. 
  • The pay is quite dismal compared to my last job -- just a smidgen above minimum wage. But then I remind myself that I'm not doing this for the money.

Working at REI has taught me that a "fun job" is not an oxymoron. As long as I continue to enjoy my work and as long as the work continues to meet my litmus test, I will keep sporting my green vest.


  1. Love it! I work next door to REI and more this once people have asked me advice thinking I worked there, great way to get a part time job!

    1. Awesome! Same for me! When I was a customer, I used to casually provide advice to customers as well. I figured that was a sign I should work there. :)


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