Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Does anybody know what they want to be when they grow up?

Some recent conversations with friends have prompted me to wonder how many people truly love what they do. Not like, not manage, not deal with, but are truly passionate about the work they do and look forward to going to work most days. I like my job just fine and I learn a lot, but I can’t truthfully say it’s my life’s passion.

Life wasn’t supposed to be like this. Growing up, our parents, teachers and Sesame Street told us we could be whatever we wanted when we grew up. How many of you knew exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up? If you were like me, you always had a clear idea. It might have changed as often the weather, but if someone asked you, you knew you wanted to be a chef, or a dancer, or a nurse or whatever.  Where did that confidence go? Is it lost in the responsibility of needing to pay bills and keep a roof over our heads? Is our imagination and passion slowly being whittled down by the pressures of being an adult? It’s sad to me. I was always sure that I would never be one of those people who just tolerated their job because it paid the bills. I would be one of the ones leaping out of bed in the morning, eager to get to work and make a contribution to my chosen field. I don’t mind my work; it’s fine and given this economic climate, I’m grateful I have a job.  But I have to wonder on when I comprised on finding true happiness in my job. Maybe it’s just part of growing up.

Fortunately, I’m young yet and we live in an era where it’s expected that people make multiple career jumps. I have a great education and I’m gaining good skills that could be useful in almost any field. I have no plans on leaving my current job; like I said, I like it just fine. But I’m still hopeful that one day I’ll find a job that I’m truly passionate about, whatever that might be. In the meantime, I think I’ll go back to daydreaming and imagining my ideal job. That way, when it comes along, I’ll be ready for it.

I’m interested, kind readers, if any of you love your job. Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing when you were younger? If not, what’s your dream job?

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Turning Over a New Leaf…

Today (or yesterday, as you’re reading this) was a momentous today. I turned in my resignation letter. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll recall that I haven’t been thrilled with my current job. I suppose I’ve been looking for a new job on and off for the past 5 years or so. I was a very bad job-seeker. As I got frustrated with my job from time to time, I would throw a few resumes out into the world and hope something would come of it. I didn’t often follow-up and I didn’t do much to actively expand my network. All in all, if it was a good job-seeker practice, it’s likely I didn’t do it.

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when the HR department for the School of Business at New York University called me. They had a few Assistant Director positions open and my resume came to their attention. I’m still not entirely sure how this happened. I attended grad school at NYU and also applied for another job there in recent months. I guess somehow my resume floated in front of the right person. My first interview was 4 hours long and I spoke to 9 different people about 4 separate jobs. It was a bit intense. Fortunately, one of the jobs I liked the best of the 4 was interested in speaking with me again. I had a second interview, this time with 6 people over the course of 3 hours. I thought it had gone well but that feeling was confirmed when HR called me around 6:30 that same night to ask if they could start calling my references. I received the offer letter the next day and after taking the weekend to think about it, I signed the offer letter this afternoon and turned in my resignation letter. I will soon be the new Assistant Director of Custom Programs at NYU Stern, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Just the same, it’s a bit surreal. I’ve thought about leaving for so long, but now that it’s here, I’m a bit overwhelmed. My next two and a half weeks will be spent giving our Staff Assistant a crash course on my job. It’s a bit tricky because I’m the only one working on my program. It’s not like I can just hand the reigns over to someone else in the department, because the department is me. I just hope I don’t do my current clients a disservice. Despite my frustrations with my job, I’ve always wanted them to succeed in creating their own independent, vibrant nonprofit organizations. My fear is that I’ll forget something and leave one of them in a huge lurch. Or that I’ll not train my replacement on some critical, but easily forgettable, component of my job and my clients will be the ones to feel the impact. I’m making my lists and I’ll leave my contact information with my co-workers so if things get really bad they can get a hold of me, but I’m still a bit anxious. Guess I’m going to have to let go and trust that I’ve done all I can to put my clients in a good position to succeed….and get excited for my new job!

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Status Report: Resolution Style

So this week we’re looking back to see how we did on our resolutions. I re-read my post stating my very simple resolution (“Find a job”). So did I follow through with my resolution? In a word: Yes.

I rather quickly found a job up here in CT and within a month of writing that post I was trying to find an apartment. The transition has been exhausting. Moving to a new place is as difficult as I thought it would be. The job isn’t quite what I expected it to be but I’m slowly figuring out how to make it work well. I’m really mostly tired. I had a long weekend recently where I was able to get away. It was just long enough to make me realize that I needed more time off. It also gave me a chance to reflect. I didn’t become totally refreshed but it was enough to make me change my perspective on my new home. I haven’t done much exploring and that doesn’t really help a person to learn a new area. So I’ve decide to try something new in the area once a week or at least go exploring in my car.

The job has had its ups and downs. Some days get to the point where I second guess my decision. I’ve decided this is also a waste of energy. The decision has been made. No matter how bad some days may be I’m getting good experience that will make me that much more marketable in the future. Builds character right?

I look at that old post and am reminded of the whirlwind of emotions I was dealing with that day. Some of them come back. I really do miss the people I used to work with. We really had a great time together. I was having a conversation with someone and she said, “It may be over but you can at least be grateful that you had it. Not many people get to work with a group like that.” I think that’s a pretty good way to see it. who knows maybe someday I’ll find it again. It’s amazing how things can change. I just need to look at the last 6 months to know that.

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This belt is too tight

The money thing is always there. 

There’s never enough of it, no matter how much there is.  Just as we expand to fit the space we have–if you have a large apartment, you buy things to fill it, so when you move, you need an apartment at least as large as the one you’re leaving–we spend to match the money we’re making.  Well…at least I do. 

When it comes to money, some people are good at saving; I’m good at spending.  Some people are prudent; I’m impulsive.  Some people plan; I fly by the seat of my pants. 

To make matters worse, now there’s less money than there was before.  I was pretty smug while the whole “economic meltdown” was happening.  I had a steady job, I was working hard, and I didn’t see any danger of a layoff in my future.  Then we were asked to take a pay cut, or to eliminate staff, or to close one of our projects (which was de facto staff elimination, just more structured).  We were given a few days to consider these (objectionable) options.  To no one’s surprise, everyone on staff offered to take a pay cut, rather than see our colleagues (or ourselves, but we didn’t want to think that way) dismissed.

Now I’m making 5% less than I was.  After taxes, it doesn’t amount to much of a change, but I still feel it.  I’m tightening my belt and trying to change some of my money habits.  (I started with a yarn diet, which actually makes a huge difference)  Because of the unique structure of my job, taking a part-time second job to make more money won’t work.  I’m doing a little free-lance work at home, but not enough to make a significant difference in my bank balance. 

But, like everyone else, I’m weathering the storm.  I’m hunkering down and doing a little less and trying to be a little wiser. 

It feels like personal growth.  Or something equally painful.

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Re-evaluating

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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