The Working Life

StockSnap /​Pixabay The Working Life
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Work is a fact of life for nearly 1.2 million southwestern Pennsylvanians. Some love what they do; others, not so much. Either way, work consumes a healthy share of their time and energy. Their weeks are structured around it. It’s what puts money in their pockets.

What do Pittsburghers think about their jobs? Pittsburgh Quarterly’s Madison Nicole Snyder took to the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to find out.

What is the best part about your job?

I’d say the best part of my job is probably getting to mix my creative side with some chaos. I absolutely love it when things are hectic and we’re busy and you don’t really have two seconds to think about anything. It’s all kind of instinctual and reactive.”
- Patrick, an executive chef from Sewickley

Two things: being outside and meeting all types of people. It gives me a different perspective on the city.”
- Abbey, a Market Square park ambassador from City of Pittsburgh

The best part about my job is, since [Sewickley] is such a small community, I actually get to interact with people and business owners that come in daily. I get to hear about what’s going on in town and interact with them. Just great people in this area.”
- Logan, a head barista from Sewickley

The freedom to be able to do a lot based on my own decisions.”
- Nathan, a manager from City of Pittsburgh

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Since I’m new, it’s just learning the whole job still. I’ve only been here less than a year, so it’s really challenging just to come from a different area in the hospital to a new position. There’s so many ways of patient communication, provider communication now that it’s really hard to keep on top of the different ways, too. But it’s practice and you get better at it the more you do it, I’d say.”
- Alicia, medical assistant, from Ambridge

Medicine today has changed, as far as the insurance aspect. A lot more rules and regulations, which try to take your time away from patient care. That’s definitely the most challenging.”
- William, an ear, nose, throat physician from Sewickley

For a chef, the most challenging part is probably everybody thinks they know best. Everybody watches the Food Network and they know exactly what it’s supposed to be. You’re sitting there like, ‘No, I promise you that is how it’s supposed to be.’ But you got to keep a smile on your face and apologize for it not being right and kind of suck your pride down.”
- Patrick, executive chef from Sewickley

It’s a kiosk, so you’re by yourself all day. You don’t have that camaraderie you would with coworkers.”
–Becky, a macaron cookie kiosk operator from Shadyside, City of Pittsburgh

Sometimes interacting with difficult people can make it challenging. Sometimes, people can be very mean and it’s hard to take that sometimes. But it’s just something that comes with the job and you do it.”
- Courtney, a waitress from Moon Township

Would you want your boss’s job?

Yeah, it’s more purposeful.”
–Amanda, a membership recruiter for a health club from City of Pittsburgh

No. I work at [another restaurant] as well. I manage it. I’ve been there for four years and I’ve realized how difficult that title can be. You’re not just interacting with customers, you’re interacting with employees and that’s not always easy or fun. Sometimes, you just feel like you are doing things that aren’t fair, but you must do them, like suspending an employee.”
- Courtney, a waitress from Moon Township

No, because she has to be available all the time. I need to be done when I’m done.”
- Margaret, a store manager and barista from Sewickley

You know I tried to buy into a business and it’s a lot more work than what everybody thinks it is. But I still aspire to someday maybe move up a little bit.”
- Lilly, a lead server at a restaurant from Sewickley

No. He’s a big ball of stress.”
- Alyssa, a retail associate from Monroeville

What are the best/​worst jobs you’ve had?

Best: “Here, I hear from local people. I’ll see them in the streets. Everybody, politely, will compliment me and stuff about what I did that day. So, it’s just nice to have something that you feel good [about] that you that’s the same job. You just take it to a better place.”
Worst: “I’d say in the same dynamic, barista as well, but at a bigger chain. It’s soul draining. It’s something where you wake up and you have, say, nightmares about going to work so early. You just don’t appreciate it. The fact that I did the same exact job at [a bigger chain] and I got nothing out of it. There was no soul-​fulfillment. There was no technique base.”
- Logan, head barista from Sewickley

Best: “Being a costume character. I’ve been Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger, an M&M, etc.”
Worst: “Cleaning toilets.”
- Bill, from the South Side, who is responsible for promoting and selling cookie dough products

Best: “Working in a coal mine. It was completely different than sitting at a desk.”
Worst: “Shoe salesman.”
- Nathan, a manager from the City of Pittsburgh

Best: “Probably this one, because it’s what I like to do. I have a passion for makeup and I like to empower women.”
Worst: “I’ve worked in customer service for many years. You get yelled at a lot. It’s hard.”
- Cara, an independent makeup distributor from Cranberry

Best: “I sort of think this is probably the best job because it doesn’t seem like a job.”
Worst: “I was a court reporter for a little while. The pay was great, but I hated it because you have to sit still and listen to people complain all day.”
- Margaret, a store manager and barista from Sewickley

If you won the lottery, would you keep working?

If I won enough, I’d work, but I’d do something that I enjoy more.”
- Travis, a business analyst from Slippery Rock, PA

I would because I like to work. Even if money was handed to me, I’d like to get up every day and do something.”
- Emmau, from McKeesport, who works in provider services for a healthcare company

Yeah. I can’t stop. I was taught as a kid that that’s what you do. You get up. You go to work. You come home. You repeat. My dad yells at me now that I work too much and I always turn around and I’m like, ‘Well, I learned it from you, what do you expect?’ So, yeah. I don’t think I’d work the 7080 hours I work now; I wouldn’t work quite that much. But yeah, I’d still work.”
- Patrick, executive chef, from Sewickley

Of course. What are you going to do, sit around all day?”
- Rob, from Hampton, a regional sales manager for a virtual reality company

For a while. I just love being around the people. I wouldn’t slack, but I wouldn’t sweat the ancillary stuff that bothers me now.”
- Fritz, a pharmaceutical salesman from Cranberry

Are you generally satisfied/​happy with your job?

Yes, because it’s a job that allows for a lot of spiritual growth and putting a lot of things in perspective. I’m always growing intellectually, but more importantly, as a person. I’m always helping people and evolving in that way.”
- Mary Jo, an estates and trusts attorney from Cheswick, PA

Yes, because of the hours and the people are generally nice that come in. I guess it suits me. It suits me in my little life.”
- Lilly, a lead server at a restaurant from Sewickley

Currently, no. Most jobs in the past, yes.”
- Rob, a customer service representative from the City of Pittsburgh

Yes, just because I’m here by myself. I see great people every day. 99 percent of them are awesome. So, yeah, I think there’s really no down to it.”
- Margaret, a store manager and barista from Sewickley

Yeah, I don’t hate waking up in the morning like some people do.”
- Abbey, a Markey Square park ambassador from the City of Pittsburgh


Madison Nicole Snyder

Madison Snyder is a junior at Syracuse University studying magazine journalism and retail management. Her interests include reading, writing, doing yoga, and discovering new coffee shops around Pittsburgh. She interned for Pittsburgh Quarterly during the summer of 2018.

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