Although I my employment has been primarily academic for most of the past 35 years, I did have two extended brushes with professional employment outside of the so-called Ivory Tower (where I have encountered very little ivory and very few towers, by the way). The second of these -- at the end of my doctoral program -- was in various roles at The Wornick Company, which was then (and probably still is) the largest purveyor of combat and humanitarian rations.
I learned quite a lot at Wornick that I still use in my teaching, but I learned even more at Dames & Moore, where I worked just prior to starting my doctoral courses. It was a civil engineering firm with offices worldwide, which had recently (I believe) started to develop expertise in environmental regulatory compliance. I worked in Cincinnati, as part of a team of about 10 "regulatory analysts" within an office of about 80 employees. We were mostly geographers, with the rest of the group mostly engineers and a few geologists, graphic artists, and clerical staff.
I remember my first day on that job; I started on a day when several of the people I would normally work with were gone. So I was left -- almost like a substitute teacher -- with some simple tasks so that I could be at least somewhat productive. Proctor & Gamble had recently bought Fisher Nuts, and I was to make some phone calls about a particular packaging facility in Kentucky.
That kind of investigation for property transfer became a large part of my work during what turned out to be year full of learning experiences. I also worked on applications for permit applications -- I remember power-line routing, sediment remediation, and hazardous-waste treatment -- but most of my work was what we called Phase I Site Assessments. Whenever a client (or a client's client) was buying a company, we would be given addresses of specific properties that were included; in some cases -- as with Fisher Nut -- this would mean several of us dividing a list and spreading out to different jurisdictions. In most cases, though, we just had 1-3 addresses in the same area and a very short turn-around to conduct that Phase I.
As soon as I got such an assignment, I would immediately schedule a visit, buy plane tickets, and book a rental car and hotel. I would do the client a favor of doing the visit on a Friday or Monday if possible, so that I could include a Saturday-night stay. Back then, the economics of flying was such that a short-notice reservation was much shorter if it included weekend travel -- so much cheaper that this would more than pay for my extra day. As a geographer and insatiable explorer, I almost always did this -- and still have fond memories of exploring on my own. In Charleston, this meant dinner with a friend I had met in Mexico and in Texas it meant knowing my way around the Rio Grande Valley before we ended up moving there a few years later. In fact, because these trips usually involved a visit to local libraries, I had actually been in the reference department of a library where my spouse would later become head of reference.
The visits were always scheduled quickly, because our work would take place only after a sale (or a loan or an insurance policy) was imminent. We also had to be very careful about asking questions, because in many cases we had news of a sale that could be considered insider trading -- and none of us expected to be treated as well as Martha Stewart if we went to jail. (I mention Fisher Nut freely, because this was over 30 years ago.
I would then prepare FOIA requests for every public agency that might have information about the property or its neighbors. This was part of helping the client -- who was usually a buyer due diligence,
Insomniacs might enjoy scrolling through my Fun Jobs List, where I list all of my jobs, including those mentioned above and many others of a more fleeting and often less rewarding nature.