What I Learned from House Painting


Photos from a Junkyard by the Artist Makena

From Junkyard: Photography, by Makena

I picked up a small painting job during my job search. It was only a few hundred dollars. I had not painted a room in many years and I seriously underbid the job. I do not think that anyone enjoys painting. It is messy and boring. It can be very tedious and I was starting to grumble a bit as I was getting close to finishing because it was taking so much longer than I’d anticipated.

Additionally, I was feeling a sense of strange defeat. When I was first married, I worked as a carpenter’s apprentice. That title glamorized the job a bit. I swept floors and carried lumber for 8 hours a day. When work slowed down,  I was farmed out to a house painter  for a couple of months. I went on to pick up some painting jobs at night to make ends meet. This spurred me on to go back to college, get a degree in Computer  Science then on to earn an MBA. I’d worked hard to put my past behind me. Now, here I was, painting houses again. All my education and years of experience and I was right back where I started.

Once I’d completed the job, a strange sensation came over me. I was actually going to miss having a job to go to each day. As much as I hated the painting, I loved having something to do that generated  an income, even if it was a meager income.

What did I learn from this?

We need to work. If we are deprived of work, we are miserable. I’ve heard that people do not die because they wear themselves out. We tend to “rust out” through lack of exercise, poor nutrition, alcohol abuse, tobacco and a number of other health damaging behaviors. My grandfather-in-law was an insurance professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He studied longevity and applied statistical proof to what most of us have observed. People who retire, tend to rust out quickly. Their days are full of nothing or nothing important.

So, if you are a job seeker and spending endless hours in front of the computer, sending resumes into the cyber black-hole, let me encourage you to stop! Do something that makes you get dressed and get out of the house and be somewhere at a specific time. Volunteer or go to networking events. Pick up a modest part-time job. Help an elderly neighbor…commit to be there every Friday at 9:00 AM to mow their lawn. Do something that yields an accomplishment you can see, even if that accomplishment is a small paycheck or weeded flowerbed.

But most of all, learn something. Keep your brain growing. Take a class at a community college (there are cheap or free classes for job seekers in the Dallas – Fort Worth area). Go to MeetUp.com to see what groups are meeting in your geographic area. Take classes on Social Media Marketing from Hubspot (they are on-line, self-paced and FREE). Take free on-line classes from Harvard. Or learn how to use social media and do it right. Get your LinkedIn profile at 100%. Make your Twitter micro-blogs interesting . Start a blog and invite me to read it. Figure out how to create your own webpage by using some of the free services.

Stretch and exercise your brain. You’re going to need it for the rest of your life.

James Snider
Business Development Director
817 203 4944

About jamessnider

James Snider is the Vice President of Business Development for Engstrom Trading, LLC. Engstrom imports products from Scandinavian countries and builds a market for them in the USA and Canada. http://TFXNonStickUSA.com View all posts by jamessnider

7 responses to “What I Learned from House Painting

  • Allen H.

    James,
    I particularly appreciated your observation that “I’d worked hard to put my past behind me. Now, here I was, painting houses again. All my education and years of experience and I was right back where I started.” Amen! My wife and I couldn’t agree with you more. Kind of feels like “ground hog day” all over again. I read some place we repeat situations until we learn the lesson that the situation is meant to teach us… Or maybe its like Steely Dan sang “You go back Jack do it again,
    Wheel turnin’ ’round and ’round…”
    A fellow quester…

  • Darren Wilson

    Good advice.

    I helped build a large shed today (then went into the office). While not looking for a “job” per se, I am finding there is something inherently valuable in doing purposeful and physical work with positive results each day. Although more difficult to quantify, this value goes well beyond what you’re being paid to do it.

    I think too many folks are working so hard at, or to find, jobs which may exact the opposite effect (e.g., the money is good – but the meaning and satisfaction is not there).

  • Yasmin Ghahremani

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s exactly what I need to hear, as I prepare to move around the world to Austin, where I have no idea what I’ll do for work. But you’re right – doing something active and physical will be much better for the world and for me than constantly churning on the Internet or phone in hopes of getting the “right” job for me (and I’m not even sure what that is anymore)!

  • Rick M.

    Thanks for a revealing post. Emerging after a couple years of semi-retirement into the working arena again with this interesting notion floating around that ‘recent’ and hireable is ‘within the last 6 months or fewer, else you’re no good,’ is not at all a happy thing for a recruiter anywhere. Where these silly notions come from, who knows? but they have no relation to what the real world is, certainly. I’m glad for you that you passed muster, though.

    • jamessnider

      Hi Rick, Thanks for the comment. I “passed muster” by partnering with three other job seekers to form my own company. Sometimes you have to go in a new direction when the old paths are gone.

  • Matthew Decuir (@MattBasically)

    this is great advice. For about 4 months after I graduated, I struggled with finding a job. I sat on the couch or laid in bed in despair, wondering what I’d do. I finally ended up going to networking events. Like you said, it forced me to be at a certain time and place, which helped. I then took a full-time job in collections – a completely unrelated field to Marketing, which I studied. Though I didn’t learn a thing about marketing, I DID learn about collections, mortgages, and a little about credit, which are things that will help me in the future.

    I definitely agree that submitting resumes into the black hole isn’t the way to go.
    Great advice.

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