interviews with a prison librarian, a brothel receptionist, an Arctic Circle lab worker, and other interesting jobs

Do you know this site has a whole section of interviews with people with interesting jobs? Here’s the complete list:

a former receptionist at a legal brothel

a lab worker at the Arctic Circle

an incredibly diplomatic person … or how to agreeably disagree

a former professional matchmaker

a prison librarian

a children’s entertainer

a professional belly dancer

a 16-year-old working her first summer job

a budget and money coach

a private investigator

a nanny for a famous psychic

an office admin in the adult industry

an employee at a majority-autistic company

an employee at an employee assistance program (EAP)

a person who responds to Glassdoor reviews for her company

an ombuds

{ 46 comments… read them below }

  1. Oryx*

    If anyone is interested in reading more about my experiences as a prison librarian I wrote a memoir called Reading Behind Bars that came out in 2017. Alison provided a blurb for the book so you know you can trust her reading taste ;)

    You can find links to various online bookstores on my website:

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’ve been tangentially paying attention to (and donating $ to) a couple of books behind bars non-profits. Covid hit them hard because it was harder to arrange volunteers to process individual requests for books, and now I’m hearing more and more rules going up about restricting sources for materials going into prisons.

      Heartbreaking when I think of how much books can provide a balm against the trials of incarceration.

    2. irene adler*

      Irony here is that the book is in hardcover. No paperback. Hardcover books are flat-out not allowed at the federal prison where my brother is serving his sentence (40 years).

    3. fullaboti*

      I just read your memoir a few months ago. I was reading this interview thinking “I know who this is!”

      I still need to read your running memoir, but it keeps getting pushed lower and lower on my TBR list every time I listen to your podcast.

      1. Oryx*

        Hahahaha well hello listener! Don’t worry, that podcast has been the best and worst thing for my own TBR too

    4. MsnotMrs.*

      Hey, I’m a prison librarian too! I have to say, this is one of THE most accurate things I have EVER read about the trade. x1000 everything you said. I will probably link people to this in the future when they ask me what the job is like.

    5. IN Hernandez*

      I’m a librarian (not in a correctional facility though, for several reasons) and my first published paper was on prison librarianship. Still an issue I care very much about. Glad to hear there are more and more people paying attention to this issue, in and outside of the field.

    6. Mockingjay*

      I did read it a few years ago. I was completely fascinated at the blend of mundane library problems and the unique, sometimes (often, always?) dangerous environment.

      I had to order a copy through interlibrary loan and told my local librarian that she must read it before returning it!

    7. A*

      1. How did you get into the industry?
      2. Are there any safety regulations do you think are a little excessive?

  2. Rona Necessity*

    Can you do an interview with yourself? I’m constantly wondering about what your day-to-day looks like.

      1. RB*

        Sounds good. My first question would be, how do you have time to read all those books? Are you just a really fast reader?

  3. CatCat*

    What a great compilation! There are some I must have missed and have to check out. The children’s entertainer interview was a fave!

  4. SaffyTaffy*

    I still browse the job section for that zinc mine up in Red Dog. I don’t know why, but I’d love to live up there for a while. The cafeteria and dorm life seems really appealing these days.

  5. JustAnotherThurs*

    Long-time fan of AAM. I work in Tech, as a Product Manager, and so I’m especially like reading posts from readers in similar jobs (although I’ve also really liked many posts from library science, academia, and government!). I’d love to see more from tech professionals. In addition, I’m happy to answer any questions people might have about working in tech (start-ups, FAANG, and all the companies between), being a Product Manager, or anything else.

    1. zutara*

      Speaking as one myself, PMs are a dime a dozen. What’s interesting about the jobs that Alison posted interviews for are that they’re unique and offer insights into how that experience can transfer to more traditional roles.

      1. JustAnotherThurs*

        Probably close :-) In FAANG, I’d estimate that 2-4% of employees are in Product Management roles (Project Management and Program Management are different tracks). So while PM roles are not particularly unique, I have noticed curiosity about what PMs do and interest on how to break into Product, which is why I posted.

    2. Wren*

      I would be interested in learning about your career journey to being a PM. Where did you start? Was PM the plan or did you pivot at some point?

      1. JustAnotherThurs*

        Big Tech: After college, I landed a FinOps job at a FAANG company. I realized I liked the PM route of defining products and features – how it all works at the intersection of technology, design, and business. Because I had developed some domain expertise in backend systems in FinOps, I was able to rotate to a PM team that I was previously working with. In FAANG companies, most PMs either had a CS background or switched from an XFN team.

        Medium: After 10+ years at a large company, I was ready for a change. With a few years of PM experience, I was able to get a more senior PM role at a mature start-up (and onboarded remotely during the pandemic) that IPOed, and grew to be a medium-sized company. It was small enough to avoid a lot of red tape, but big enough to have business structure and rigor. Also, I liked having broader responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, there’s an inverse relationship between the size of the company and how much product ownership you’ll have.

        Small: An ex-coworker started a small startup, and I joined as the first PM, so this job was through my network. As a small start-up, I deal with a wider variety of “blocking and tackling” tactical problems, as well as foundational product decisions, as well as helping out in the BizDev side. It’s exciting, but PMs at startups have greater responsibilities to move the business forward, too.

  6. bastian*

    In the spirit of sharing (somewhat) odd jobs, I’m a full-time safety and health professional. I’d be happy to answer any questions folks have about workplace safety, OSHA, ergonomics, general weird safety questions, whatever. It’s kind of my jam. (I was that weird kid growing up who made sure to read all the rules before getting in the pool, and always read instruction manuals…)

    It’s interesting because safety feels like a very technical skill, but it’s actually about 50/50, in my experience, between technical skills and soft skills. There’s so much more interaction, engagement, diplomacy, negotiations, etc than I ever imagined when I started in this field!

    1. A*

      1. How did you get into the industry?
      2. Are there any safety regulations do you think are a little excessive?

      1. bastian*

        1. In my experience, people usually “fall into” the role. Often they’re assigned it as part of their “other duties as assigned” and they fall in love with it, or it otherwise just randomly crosses their path. I’ve only ever met one person who legitimately planned to go to college for a degree in safety from the get-go. I personally had started in a public health masters program planning to focus on epidemiology, and found that it actually wasn’t a good fit for me. We had to do occupational/environmental health courses as part of our general requirements, and I fell in love at that point. Then once I went to my first industrial hygiene class and they had all the equipment, tools, measuring instruments etc. laid out on the table I was hooked.

        2. There’s plenty that are excessive, but they’ve all got reasonings behind them. When you’re looking at it from an ethical, reasonable person’s standpoint, a lot of regulations can seem like complete overkill. When you look at it in the least charitable light, assuming people give 0% care about their employees or the environment, it makes a lot more sense. It can be frustrating to make sure to maintain compliance with small details of OSHA standards, but I try to remind myself that they’re there for a reason.

        1. A*

          Thanks bastian. Yeah, I was thinking about some of the building code or playground safety rules, and they can seem a little overkill. But yeah, without it, there wouldn’t be an incentive for unethical employers to do the right thing.

    1. Just Me*

      I have a million questions. Are they primarily violent offenders? What does education and rehabilitation look like? What is a normal day in the life of a child in a detention center like? Not sure what country you’re in so I don’t know about your sentencing laws, but what happens when they become adults–are there ever instances where they have to transfer to adult facilities or are they all released? Do you have any interesting stories about any of the children you’ve worked with? What are their families like–do you find that they’re often “normal” parents who are overwhelmed by children with, say, behavioral issues, or do you find that they often come from families with lots of issues?

      1. letmedomyjob*

        Yes primarily. they typically have higher level charges (what these are called varies on your country) rape, murder, arson, sexual assault, higher level drug charges, trafficking etc or they are so high maintenance that they cannot be contained in other settings -ie they keep escaping from places with laxer precautions and are placed with us.

        School is contracted out through local teachers supervised by staff, usually done with paper packets and golf pencils, sometimes we have vocational skills training for lower risk more hands on kids.

        Normal day if we get one is similar to an adult in detention, routine meals and processes and meetings, get up, shower, meal, school, court, meal, school, meetings with staff, snacks, school, meal, recreation.

        majority of them are near ages to be transferred but we try to keep them here as much as possible as it is a lot less cushy, less attentive if they age out of the system. we see them reoffend with adult charges all the time, usually they are then in with those charges and then need to serve the remainder of the under ages crime with us. they transfer all the time.

        Plenty of interesting stories, some may go against the rules.

        Families are usually checked out from the kid or are in jail themselves. some for the same time periods. They are often overwhelmed by lack of support, lack of care access, the kids needs, they often lack coping mechanisms and impulse control. Rare to find a kid from a ‘good family’, typically it’s extended family looking out for them and asking about them. Abuse is cyclical and rampant.

    2. Rose*

      What do you do/how did you get into this work?

      You mentioned most of the kids families are checked out or in jail… do you think most of this could happen to most, or at least many, good kids if put in bad circumstances? Do you often see kids that you’re like “no matter what, you were going to be awful?”

      Rationally, do you feel more bad for the kids, or that they essentially are where they belong? What about emotionally?

      My mom teaches in an underserved area of a wealthy city and her stories are so interesting. Some of the kids are totally insufferable, or worse, but she loves them and feels for them because they’re good kids at heart, in horrible circumstances. She had one sixth grade boy who could be very violent and would threaten to shoot up the school, talk about practicing his aim, where he would get guns, etc. He also had days where he would just rock in the corner sobbing, or be totally catatonic. And despite it all, he was often a very sweet, thoughtful boy, who my mom genuinely loved. His mom was a heroine user and very physically and mentally abusive. He would step over her body on the way to school and mention it to my mom causally. It took over a YEAR of her and other teachers begging various city employees to take action before he was out into foster care and a special school. She checks in often and he’s doing great now. No violent threats, just his sweet nature. His mom has passed.

      Then she has the occasional kid from wealthy seemingly stable families who she can’t stand and seem to be inherently awful/bullies (although obviously no one knows what is really going on at home!).

      1. letmedomyjob*

        There’s recruiters that come around but I simply just applied through a job ad as I had the care experience and could meet the physical demands.

        Yes it could happen to anyone, they are swallowed by compounding intergenerational circumstances in every area of their lives – they didn’t have a chance. They are where they belong because they are a danger to the public and more so to their peers or rival gangs in their communities. It’s great where they are but where they are isn’t up to me, that’s for the system to decide. We try to provide as much stability, healthcare, schooling, therapy etc as possible. Often kids are too far gone whether it’s mental health, lifestyle, illiteracy, etc. Some will commit a crime simply to get back into a stable environment rather than be in their home town.

  7. Prison Librarian*

    I’m also a prison librarian and can’t believe I never stumbled upon the interview with Oryx previously!
    Everything she said is 100% legit

  8. The Prettiest Curse*

    Another vote for a Q&A with Alison! And I would love to read an interview with someone whose research means doing really unusual field work. For example, people who do studies with marginalised populations, and how they manage the ethics of that type of study.

  9. RB*

    Did anyone else read the prison librarian one and immediately picture the scene from Out of Sight? Or read it hoping the librarian had overhead people planning an escape?

  10. Renee Remains the Same*

    My dream is that one day Alison will ask me about my exciting career as a genealogist. While I routinely do research for family and friends, I’ve never been paid. Though, I do have a certificate from Boston University and one day I may document the thousands of hours needed to get certified. One day. One day.

  11. My Boss is Dumber Than Yours*

    All my Utah friends raise your hands when you thought the Arctic Circle one was an interview with a fast food scientist.

  12. English Rose*

    Hadn’t read the one with Hildi before (incredibly diplomatic person) and it is fabulous! I had forgotten about the task vs relationship dynamic. I’m incredibly task driven and this notion that you can work effectively with people without liking them is so alien to relationship folks. Lots to unpick and revisit here, thanks.

  13. MyDogIsCalledBradleyPooper*

    I just read “the lab worker at the Arctic Circle” and I work at the same company. I am at the site that processes the concentrates that Red Dog mines. I have not been up to the Red Dog Mine yet but hope to at some point I just have to find a valid business reason.

    Allison any chance we can get a Where Are They Now update on these people and their interesting jobs? HI am hoping Kevin is enjoying retirement in a warmer state!

  14. Sue D. O'Nym*

    I doubt anyone’s interested in my stories, but I’ve got a few unique former jobs:
    – Employee at a Packing/Shipping place that had the outgoing mail service contract for a large state university (and it’s equally large athletic department)
    – Theme Park Ride Operator (and Trainer, and Supervisor)
    – Hotel Front Desk Supervisor

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