Today, I’m handing the clipboard to Jen from Another Jennifer blog. You’re in capable hands. I mean, these hands once steered the Wienermobile. How cool is that?
I found out about Jen’s jealousy-inducing summer job out of college, and just had to have the story on my page. I mean, this is a blog about fatherhood, futbol, and food. The last is the final pillar of the holy trinity of my pages.
Check out her work at Another Jennifer. I’ve said it before – she’s not just another Jennifer.
My first job after I graduated from Syracuse University was driving the iconic Wienermobile. I was a Hotdogger, to be more specific.
I traveled the southeastern part of the United States with two other recent college grads and auditioned kids to be in the next Oscar Mayer commercial. We mainly visited zoos, amusement parks, military bases and baseball parks.
As my classmates prepared for their fancy management training programs in corporate America (the economy was much better back in 1998), I had a week to dump my stuff at my parents’ house in Massachusetts and make my way to Madison, Wis., for my own two-week corporate training program, Hot Dog High. (For those interested, I am a Hot Dog High XI graduate.)
When I look back on the experience now, I realize how incredibly lucky I was to even be offered such a job. I actually read in an article that it’s statistically easier to become President of the United States than to become a Hotdogger. The experience most certainly set me up to become the entrepreneur that I am now.
I probably learned more in that summer than I have in all my other years combined. Here are six life lessons I took with me from driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile:
1. Be yourself
My first interview with Oscar Mayer was more of a random conversation than an actual interview. I left the room in the SU Career Center thinking there was no way I would get past the first round, which I was told included more than 1,000 resumes.
I got a call two days later telling me they’d like to fly me out to Madison for a second interview. In that interview (which lasted two days), I sang on camera in a conference room and talked about my most embarrassing moment.
You can’t prepare for an interview process like this. My resume got me in the door. Being comfortable with myself got me the job.
2. Don’t take life too seriously
When your primary mode of transportation is a 22-foot long hot dog, it’s hard to let the little things bother you. There’s no such thing as a quick trip to the store to buy deodorant, and when you break down you have to explain where to find the engine to the mechanic.
Our old Wienermobile, Bologna, was steaming hot (pun intended) and the radio barely worked. We worked long hours, seven days per week. Do you think we complained? Heck no. We were driving the freaking Wienermobile while our friends were at their “real jobs” working in air-conditioned cubicles.
3. Drink lots of water
I’m a New England girl. I’m not used to the heat of the south, which is where my team was stationed for the summer. The heat index, along with the fact that everyone wants to buy drinks for the drivers of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile at the end of the day, taught me the importance of having a large bottle of water with me at all times.
(Note: We had a stipend for cab rides so we could go out sans hotdog in the evenings we didn’t pass out from heat exhaustion.)
4. Break the rules every now and then
The kids were supposed to have a limited time to sing either the “Wiener Jingle” or the “Bologna Song.” That’s it. We often had big lines and needed to keep things going. But when a 4-year old triumphantly grabs the mic and belts out a five-minute version of “I Believe I can Fly” or when a 7-year old girl messes up the words and sings “Cuz if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be making love to me,” you let that go.
Sometimes the experience is more important than the results.
5. Always look on the bright side of things
We weren’t alone in our travels that summer. PETA actually sent out protestors to most of our events around the country. And my team happened to have the route that included a stop in the town where PETA was headquartered.
Instead of being intimidated, we looked on the bright side. They got extra media coverage for us, helped reinforce our theme of “food, family and fun” (not really their intention, but that’s what happened) and the kids got a kick out of the protestor dressed up like a pig.
Thanks, PETA! (Note: Yes, I got to see how Oscar Mayer makes hotdogs and bacon. Yes, I still eat it.)
6. Human interaction is good
When I drove the Wienermobile, there was no Twitter or Facebook. We weren’t blogging. We had a cell phone that we only used to make calls when we broke down or to check in with Madison. Most of our media and event calls were made in the hotel. By today’s standards, we weren’t very “connected.”
Yet I probably connected – really connected – with more people in that one summer than I ever will again.
People still don’t quite get what I did that summer. And that’s fine with me. Perhaps the most important life lesson I learned that summer is to grab an opportunity when it presents itself. Because you may never get that chance again.
What’s the craziest job you’ve had?
Jennifer Barbour is a copywriter, blogger, aspiring author and new media consultant. She aims to inspire, to entertain and to make you think. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome family and bacon, though not necessarily in that order. You can find out more at anotherjennifer.com.