"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Monday, July 8, 2013

26 Years of Service

Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of my hire date at the credit union where I still work. 26 years. That’s a long time for anything. There aren’t many things that have been part of my life for 26 years. None of my marriages lasted that long--not even close. The only thing that comes close to that kind of longevity in my life, excluding my family and a few friends I’ve known since elementary school days, is my relationship with my hairdresser. We’ve been going strong for 22 years now with no end in sight!

When I reported for my first day of work back in July of 1987 I never imagined that I’d still be there all these years later. I was just happy to finally be working so my dad would stop pestering me to find a job. I was 17 and not having a job was becoming a source of contention between us. I was in no hurry to find a job. I knew what it meant. Then I’d have to buy a car, pay for my own gas and insurance, basically grow up and become more independent. Not that I was against independence, but I had a boyfriend that drove me anywhere I wanted to go and paid for pretty much all my entertainment. I didn’t want to work just so I could have a car. I was also very stubborn and picky about where I’d work. No working in a fast-food restaurant for me! I refused to consider any of the typical spots for teenage employment. Every time my dad brought up finding a job I had the same answer. “I’m going to work at the credit union. I can be a student trainee there when I’m a high school senior.” That was my plan and I was sticking to it.

I knew several other people who had started there as student trainees. It was the perfect high school job. I’d get work release from school four hours a day and get school credit for the time I was at work. I wouldn’t have to wear an awful polyester uniform or any kind of silly hat like so many of my peers who worked in restaurants. My hours would be easy. No super late nights. No missing out on social opportunities because of working nights, evenings or weekends.

Luckily, I did well in business related classes at school. My typing and 10-key speeds were fast. I’d worked in the high school book store so I had cashiering experience. I was horrible at math but understood accounting. It also helped that the human resources manager at the credit union was a friend of my dad’s. My business/office procedures teacher recommended me as a student trainee candidate, which the credit union’s student trainee program required. I submitted an application and waited, and waited, still stubbornly refusing to look elsewhere. I was confident they’d eventually call.

Finally, they called and I went in to take some screening tests and I think some kind of preliminary interview. Then I waited some more. In June I went to Colorado to visit my mom for several weeks. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when they finally called and offered me a job as a teller at one of their branches. I was crushed. I wouldn’t be home until after the 4th of July and they needed me to start sooner. Luckily, they had another trainee position opening up that I could start right after the holiday. As it turns out, one of my friends who had also been trying to be hired as a trainee ended up taking the teller job.

My first day of work. 
On July 7th I reported for my first day of work never imagining that 26 years later I’d still be there. Not only have I stayed with the same company all these years, I’ve worked in the exact same location! My entire career has been spent at the corporate office campus, which during the time I’ve been there has grown from two buildings to four plus one satellite building a few miles away. I’m now one of those “old-timers” who talks about the good old days when we were smaller and I knew the names of almost everyone who worked on campus. My three-digit employee number earns me bragging rights. Computers have become smaller and much more sophisticated. My trusty 10-key adding machine, which I took with me every time I moved from one department to another, is no longer. I finally gave it up about 10 years ago. I no longer have the phone extensions for half the campus employees memorized. There are just too many people and departments now.  

Some people can’t imagine staying with the same company for so long. It’s becoming more and more rare these days. I certainly never started out intending to stay so long. I’ll never be rich from working there, but I will be comfortable and stable. By the time I was 22 I was fully vested in a pension plan. I’ve always worked banker hours, Monday-Fridays, pretty close to a 9-5 schedule. From almost the very beginning I’ve had vacation and sick leave, which after 26 years accrues in almost obscene amounts. My commute has never been longer than 20 minutes. For the last 16 years or so I’ve lived only six miles from work. I’ve had great flexibility through the years and was able to work part-time while I went to college and then again for the first few years after I had my daughter.

The years between ages 17 and 43 have flown by. I started working for the credit union when I was practically still a child. I’ve literally grown up during my years there. So much of my life has been shared with people I work with, many of whom I consider friends more than co-workers. I’ve experienced high school graduation, college, marriages, infertility struggles, pregnancy, new motherhood, divorces, single life, dating woes, family struggles and deep grief with my friends there and shared many of the same things with them in their lives. Starting young and staying until retirement is fairly common, so I’ve known many of my co-workers for over 20 years. Many of us started as trainees during the same time, fresh-faced high school kids just starting on the road to adulthood. It’s funny to watch them age. Every time I see one of them and realize much they’ve changed, I’m reminded of how much I’ve aged and changed over the years.

When I look into the future, I can’t imagine even five more years in the same place. Part of me is restless and ready to move on. Okay, I’m not ready to move on, I just really, really want to retire! But then I think how fast the last 26 years have gone and realize the next 19 years will go just as quickly. That’s how long I have until I can retire with full benefits. I'll be age 60 1/2 and will have 45 years of service. I like to think I won’t stick around that long, but chances are I will.


  1. I was in my mid-thirties when I began working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. I was also amazed that I was there for 29 years before I retired at 65. When I would look forward toward retirement, it seemed so far away, but it snuck up on me! It will be the same for you, I'm sure. :-)

  2. Keicha, this makes me smile! I wasn't as young as you were when I started working at WKAR -- but like you, I never thought I would retire from there. Now, at 32 1/2 years, I'm looking forward to it this fall. I was so stupid -- I didn't start my TIAA-CREF till after 5 years, not realizing MSU matched it. Well, I'll pay for that in retirement, but still, anticipating it. You will, too.

    You are so fortunate that you found a job you love, that fit and where you could grow. Like you, I have many friends who I came through the ranks with; fewer now, of course, as you will find. You are at the right age to move on -- I think there is a window before we "age out" -- though no one will admit that! But even if you stay, if you are happy -- that's what counts. Congratulations on your time! That's quite an accomplishment (especially these days!)

  3. Tell me it isn't so. It doesn't seem like 26 years since that day. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. Look at the baby faced you. You look so confident. You always have been. I'm so proud of you. Good job! You are more than half way to retirement. Now, that really seems odd. XO


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