Reflections on the past 14 years of employment

Yesterday at 10:15pm I emptied my locker, handed in my first aid room key and other items that I no longer needed, hugged folks goodbye, and left Save-On-Foods. It was my last shift as an employee of this wonderful store where I worked for 14 years. I am fortunate to say that I worked with some amazing folks — not all of whom I was fortunate enough to say proper goodbyes to on my very last day of work. This was a week of many goodbyes at work — spring is often a time of transition, but this year more folks were moving on to other things than usual because of a clause in the last union contract we voted on in August. Essentially I took an early retirement package (which I know is unusual for someone of my age and stage in my working life) but it was time to move on.

I am fortunate that in the next few weeks/months I'll have the financial wherewithal to make some long procrastinated purchases, do some long procrastinated things, relax and read, and truly begin the job hunt properly in earnest. Given the stress I've been dealing with over the past few years (both self-imposed and because of external events of course) I think I need the break, but I also need the time to invest in myself and set some goals and priorities for the future. I also hope to blog more often.

But this doesn't mean I don't value the many years I spent working at Save-On-Foods. This job taught me many things over the years and I'd like to take this time to write a bit more in detail about some of them. Online is not the best forum for exceedingly detailed postings about employment, but there are things I can and will say, because I'm darn thankful that I chose to apply at Save-On so many years ago.

I appreciate the flexibility that Save-On offered me. Even in the first months on the job, I was given the opportunity to travel on short notice when I needed the time off. This was something I appreciate incredibly to this day and I always tried to give appropriate notice for any requested time off thereafter partly to give back but partly because I realized just how difficult it is to plan schedules for employees who all have such different lives outside of work. Save-On let me work as many hours or as few hours as I needed depending on school, other jobs, travel, and other responsibilities that I had throughout the years. Eventually, my job allowed me the financial freedom to choose to live alone without a roommate, and to afford to travel when the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes I worked as few as one shift a week and at others I worked nearly full-time hours. And when this job gave me the luxuries of benefits or paid time off I felt truly fortunate because not all part-time jobs provide such benefits. Indeed I feel fortunate even now that my job has given me this opportunity to become unemployed temporarily with the financial means to do some of the things that I've long procrastinated.

My job gave me perspective. Everyday I interacted with folks of all walks of life. I met local celebrities, current and former politicians, people who worked in media, firefighters, policemen and women, EMS personnel, business people, Olympic calibre athletes, students, parents, children, people hard on their luck, travelers, people living with disabilities, and many many more. I learned to interact with people who spoke little or no English, to serve people in French and occasionally words in other languages, to try to predict the level of service that some folks would need and to answer and deal with people's questions and problems. Sometimes I encountered inappropriate attention, comments, racism, sexism, and other tensions between one world-perspective and my own, but working in customer service allowed me to better navigate the potholes of certain conversation topics and step away from some of the more challenging interactions with better perspective.

I also learned a lot more about dealing with technical support (on phone and in person), with troubleshooting issues (be they with printers, fax machines, self-scan checkouts, regular cash registers, or computers in general), using office equipment and tools, legislation and documentation, and much much more besides. The years I spent in the health and safety role and in the first aid attendant role were invaluable to me as a person developing and learning skills.

I'm glad that this job leaves me with such positive impressions in general and has allowed me to grow in so many ways as a person. While I'm going to miss the job itself, I'm especially going to miss all the people. Even in an industry with such high employee turnover as the grocery industry, there are many really important connections that can be made, with customers, co-workers and management. I feel very fortunate that I've been able to make these connections to the folks in my community and beyond. Fourteen years is not an insignificant amount of time, and I feel very happy to have spent my time here.

Sure I'll still shop at Save-On — it's still my favourite supermarket in my area. But I certainly won't be spending nearly so many hours under that particular roof.