Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Money vs. Happiness

I’ve been thinking about money vs. happiness a lot lately. All in terms of ones job.  Some people hate their job but it pays well so they stick with it. The good pay allows them to do what they want outside of work and buy shiny fancy things. Others get by on very little pay but love what they do. It makes some things harder in life but they enjoy going to work everyday and tend to be happier outside of work.

Recently I had to face the option of money vs. happiness head on. Based on the circumstances at work I need to start looking for another job. A company I had interviewed with was working on making me an offer. They knew where I needed to be salary wise so presumably planned to match it. I knew a phone call was coming so I seriously pondered how I felt about this job. All the people that know me and this company said it was a great fit, a great opportunity for me. So many things seemed right, in a nice area, close to friends, and a stable company that looked out for their employees. The job was something I’d done for years so I knew I was perfectly capable. All of my potential co-workers seemed very nice. They were even willing to wait for me to become available in 2011. All of these things were checked off in the “pro” column in my mind but something didn’t feel right. All signs said I should be  excited about this opportunity and I wasn’t. Part of me was even dreading the call with the offer. Hoping it would be delayed so I could have something else pop up and I could put off giving them an answer and keep it as a fall back. I finally realized all the pros were things  I was trying to use to convince me to take the job. Nothing about the job itself excited me.

When they called to make the offer they wanted me to come back in to make the offer in person. I had to be honest. I told them I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t going to waste their time or mine anymore. I didn’t even want to keep it as a fall back. I thanked the manager for her time and the opportunity. She left the door open in case I change my mind later.

I really hoped I had made the right choice. Then a co-worker said something to me after I told him what I decided.  He said, “Whatever decision you make will be the right one. Don’t worry about it.” He was right. No one knows me better than me. As long as I trust my instincts I’ll be OK.

I’ve realized that being happy in what I do is ultimately more important than making a bunch of money to buy shiny things.  I’m going to spend way too many of my waking hours at whatever job I find for it to be something I don’t enjoy doing. I’m not sure where I’m going to end up but I feel like I’m at least in a better mental frame of mind now. I know I can’t wait forever for the perfect shining job to come along but I’m not to that point yet. For now, I’m going to be picky and look for something that will make me happy.

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Back to the Workforce

Eckstein Middle School, Seattle, Washington. T...

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For awhile now, I’ve been praying I’d be able to write the following:


I am now employed by Seattle Public Schools. I work as Special Education Generalist (read: I teach all subjects) in a north Seattle middle school.  Soon, I’ll have a paycheck and benefits! I’ll be able to go to the doctor! I can get new glasses!

Seriously, though, it all happened pretty fast.  I applied a couple of weeks ago.  The position was opened to applications for exactly one week, and it closed on Friday after school had started.  I received a call from the school on the following Tuesday and was scheduled for an interview on Wednesday afternoon.  I was subbing for a former colleague all that week, so I left school, ran home and changed into my interview suit, pet the dogs, and headed down to Seattle.

The interview went really well.  The principal was there, as was two of the three asst. principals and one of the special education team.  We went through the questions, all of which I feel I answered reasonably well.  After a particular question about behavior programs, the principal commented on my behavior experience.  I asked my questions – mostly about number of students served and case load size.  I left, feeling good about how the interview went.

I got home and ate my dinner. Afterward, I noticed I had missed a call on my phone.  It was the principal, requesting me to call her back to discuss something.  I did, and during our conversation, she unofficially offered me the job.  “Unofficially” because any offer has to go through Human Resources and the District Office.  She told me I’d hear officially in the next two days.

I heard the following afternoon and accepted the position immediately. I was scheduled to come into HR on Monday morning to sign my contract and turn in my other paperwork. From there, I went to my new school! The substitute that had been there since the first day of school was scheduled through the end of the week, so the transition would go smoothly.  I spent the day meeting new people, desperately trying to remember everyone’s names and not get lost in the confusing building.

So, my position is a new one, as is the program that I am working in.  Previously, my school had a large number of inclusion students, meaning that there was usually a co-teaching situation – one content teacher and one special educator to help with compliance and modifications.  However, they decided to expand their program to include those who need a more intense situation.  Thus, the self-contained program was born. The students started out all day in my room, but over the last three weeks, have slowly been integrated into general classrooms as appropriate.  I teach one period each of Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, Study Skills, Literacy Support, and Study Hall. The number of students I have in any one period varies from one to eight.  I’m getting a new student next week who will have more intense needs than most of the rest of my students, so my position continues to grow and change.

I admit, I’m nervous about my job. It’s not that I don’t think I can do it – it’s just that there’s a lot going on, I’m three weeks behind, and I’m trying to catch up as quickly as possible. I already have an IEP meeting week after next and I don’t even have access to the IEP system.  So far, I like my job very much, but ask me in about two months for a more accurate assessment.

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When does your job become your CAREER?

My Dad: “Aren’t you glad I got you that job?”

Me: “No, dad.  I’m happy you got me the interview. I got myself the job.”

The search for a job is never easy. At least not for me.  I have a friend into whose lap jobs just seem to fall like so many acorns from oak trees.  But, she also has a vast network of friends and professional acquaintances who know and like her and make connections with and for her.  She’s great at networking, without even trying.  That, I think is the secret to her success.  She networks because she loves knowing and meeting people, not because she’s trying to get something out of it, so it works.  I’ve always been a bit more retiring, less extroverted and less adept at following up with professional connections.  So, for me, it’s a slog.  Always.

Until three years ago, I was working at a foundation in New York.  It was a job that lacked challenge.  I learned all there was to know about my job and my organization within 6 months of starting, then kept at it for another two and a half years after it became obvious that there were no more challenges coming and that there was no opportunity for growth.  I went through waves of job searches, but it was exhausting and after months of applying, I’d take some time off and resign myself to my job for however long it was going to take.

Then, my father called and said that an organization in his building was hiring, was doing international something and wanted my resume.  I sent it to him, and three days later, I got a call from their CFO.  We talked for about two hours before I was invited to come to Boston for an interview.  This was a Friday afternoon.  Monday morning, I had my interview, and Tuesday I had a job offer.  Three weeks later, my life moved 250 miles north, and I started work.

When I was hired they said that they wanted a two-year committment, that it could be a springboard into some other work in the field.  After a year and half here, I was promoted, and sent to work interviewing people and running meetings in foreign countries.

Now, like everyone else, my organization is feeling the crunch of the economy.  We just moved into a smaller office this week, we’ve been asked to take temporary pay cuts and now, even though I really don’t want to, I’m thinking again about updating my resume and looking for something else.   I’m going to wait until I absolutely have to start looking though.  I love my job, I like my co-workers and I feel, for the first time in my professional career, like I’m doing something important.  I’m helping contribute to the body of knowledge that will change how people do their work, make them want to do better, to be better, to think more and work harder.  I’ve already felt a personal transformation from my work here.  It’s starting to feel like I’ve found what I want to be doing with my life.

I’ve stopped having a job.  Now I have a career.

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The United Nations, New York, NY

I more or less knew that I always wanted to do something that “mattered” as a career, but after nearly 6 years working for a nonprofit, I’m beginning to re-evaluate my definition of what “matters.” As I mentioned in the last post, I work with emerging nonprofits, both in the US and worldwide, and help them become more effective organizations and increase their ability to serve their communities. While that all sounds very warm and fuzzy, my work has a large administrative component to it. Even though I work for these start-up nonprofits, I have a hard time rationalizing to myself that paying a client’s phone bill or providing a vendor recommendation to them is really making a significant difference in the world. I also have to admit that even though I wanted to work with nonprofits, I didn’t want to personally be nonprofit.

I thought after I got my Masters degree, I would have a wealth of possibilities open to me: the UN would be begging me to work with them, the country’s most prestigious think tanks would be competing with government agencies to capture my expertise and every Foundation with a global focus would want me as their Senior Program Manager. Ok, I wasn’t that naïve, but I certainly didn’t expect to still be working for the same organization that I started working for after I completed my undergraduate degree.

The economic meltdown is certainly having an effect on my job search. Last year, I really didn’t find anything to even apply to, but even though I’m starting to find some interesting opportunities, now I’m competing with more candidates than ever before. It’s frustrating. I know I can do these jobs and do a great at them, but for some reason, I just can’t seem to convince the hiring managers of that.

I’ve considered going to the “big, bad corporate world” and making tons of money and then making lots of donations to charity. This way, I can still make a difference, but I can also support my family better. These thoughts are then challenged by my fears of selling out. It’s complicated, and makes me feel like I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. I’m sure everything will work out eventually and that this is probably not an uncommon experience for people in this age group. I also agree with Isabel – I’m thankful to even have a job right now. I know plenty of people who don’t, and the fact that I’m whining that I don’t like my job makes me feel like a self-indulgent whiner. So…..I’m going to buck up and refocus my energies on finding a job I really want. Thanks for reading. This has been rather cathartic. Hopefully, before too long, I’ll have some positive news to report!

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