I was meant to return to work in late May. I was never going to be one of those people who don’t come back after parental leave.
But I didn’t, because my job was eliminated. (Along with many others, BTW … no discrimination or anything here!)
Waiting for the axe
It definitely didn’t come as a surprise.
A conversation with my boss a couple of months ahead of my scheduled return about changes in the business set the scene. Restructuring was taking place at management level, and once that was confirmed, the writing was on the wall for the rest of us.
The various stages of processing
Eeek! Time to figure out Plans B through to Z.
But realistically … they still need someone to take care of this function. Maybe I’m worrying for no reason.
And yet … they might change it up. It doesn’t need to be this particular title/exact role. Plus, Political Reasons…
Hey, it might be nice to … get a redundancy payout. And no longer have to deal with Annoying Thing X (every job has its own Thing).
Trust that it will all work out. For the best.
While I know it’s 0% personal and have no issue with that, I found myself randomly flashing back to 2015, when I resigned from a job that I really loved and didn’t quite feel ready to leave yet. However, a seriously made-for-me opportunity had come up, and I couldn’t say no.
I’d started crying as soon as I sat down in front of my manager and the entire meeting was a blubbery mess. I believe I came away having given the impression that I hadn’t 100% made up my mind, but in fact I had, which led to an awkward need to confirm where things stood a couple days later. *facepalm*
In this case, hearing the words “proposed disestablished” over the phone was a totally different experience. I wasn’t emotional; I just wanted to know the important facts … timelines, dates, and of course, $$$.
Sealing our fates
A few weeks ahead of my scheduled return, my fate was signed off. Our team was no more.
There was a bit of back and forth as the change wasn’t due to go into effect until almost a month after I came back, but in the end we decided it made little sense for me to be there for such a short time.
The only upside, really, would have been that it would be easier for me to interview for other jobs if I was back at work and already spending my days in the city … but all the other cons outweighed this.
This isn’t my first brush with redundancy – at literally every organisation I worked at prior to this, people around me lost their jobs due to restructuring at some point. But it’s still a shock when it finally happens to you.
The toughest thing is knowing that finding my feet as a working parent is now going to be extra difficult. The work-life balance I enjoyed was awesome and the environment of total flexibility and trust I knew I was originally going back to meant a lot. Working from home, working around daycare dropoff and pickup, or sick kids … all non-issues.
That just won’t be possible in a brand new role, those are privileges that need to be earned.
Taking redundancy, gaining time
The upside of getting laid off is obviously getting severance. It was a generous redundancy payout … I received a couple of months’ worth, plus some accrued leave I had banked.
It means I’ll probably get to be home with Spud for close to a year, after all. Even if not by designation or choice, I’m grateful to get this time. Especially as he had terrible separation anxiety right about the time I was originally scheduled to go back to work!
In the meantime, juggling job applications, freelance work, phone calls/Skypes, and in-person interviews has been a serious nightmare with a high needs baby. I’ve veered between serenity and intense fear/depression/anxiety/stress as various opportunities have cropped up, then fallen away. Taking it one day at a time, having faith that overall it will all come together … holding on to my goals and not succumbing to the panic, as I’ve always landed on my feet.
My most recent job hunt took longer than I expected. It consumed my life – monitoring listings, reaching out to contacts, crafting cover letters and tweaking my resume, over and over again.
Then the phone interviews (a nightmare to wrangle when you work in an open plan office with virtually no private spaces, and you don’t drive to work) and of course, the in person interviews!
Here are a few highlights:
The interview that never was. I had phone confirmation (but no email confirmation) and when I turned up the interviewer wasn’t there. I’d left work early and gone all that way (it wasn’t a super handy location) and she was a no show – she was in another city that day!
The interview that started super late. I scheduled this one for my lunch break expecting to be back at work within an hour, give or take, even with travel time. Nope! I turned up on time, but they didn’t. The longer I waited the more nervous I got, being painfully aware of time ticking on. We didn’t begin until about 20 minutes after the scheduled start and their lateness really threw me off – I spent half of the interview worrying about making it back to work at a reasonable time, and the other struggling to keep up with their aggressive interviewing style. Did I mention that the interviewers were not the same people HR told me I I would meet with?! Just a disaster from start to finish.
The interview on my birthday. I took annual leave so that I could have a day at home to chill out, but you know what? The day before I got a frantic email from a recruiter who had been ‘trying to reach me for days’ (they most certainly had not). Cue a phone call in which they declared that my birthday was the only day on which they were holding interviews. I opted for an early slot to get it out of the way, and trekked into the city and back on my birthday just for it. (I didn’t get that job, but later that day I got a call about an interview – for another company I’d given up on ever hearing back from – for the next day, which wound up being The One.)
Now I can look back and laugh, but dammit, it was grueling and disheartening at the time.
And it all worked out perfectly in the end, as it always has in this regard. #praisebe
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
It’s a sensitive topic – who wants to think that they’re not living up to their potential? ‘Underearner’ is not a particularly flattering label. But the key is about desire – many of us have the potential to earn more in different types of work but choose not to.
What is underearning?
Underearning, as I’ve seen it defined, is about earning less than you want to. Bringing in less than you need or than would be beneficial, despite attempting otherwise.
It’s not about raw numbers. Or the hours you work. Or ‘underachieving’.
It’s about the ability (could earn more) combined with the desire (want to earn more) but for whatever reason, it isn’t happening.
Especially in creative fields, I think there’s often a bit of reverse snobbery at play. Prejudices against money and toward the wealthy. We sort of believe and play into the idea of the nobility of poverty – of struggling for art. Making money is selling out. As Tessler points out, creative and self employed types often set fees too low – and don’t raise them often enough.
But as Stanny writes in her book, ironically, few people work harder or obsess more about lack of money than underearners do.
As the artist Willem de Kooning once aptly remarked, ‘The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time’.
Not having enough money is exhausting. Dealing with the realities of hardship is a constant grind.
I suspect as women, there may be an added dimension at play. We are, after all, relatively new to the workplace as we know it compared to men. Home is still considered the female domain, and we’re still considered the nurturers and caretakers. A point raised in an episode of The Broad Experience (a great podcast on women and success that I’ve recently discovered) was that often we perceive ‘doing well’ as being materialistic, or greedy. I’ve definitely encountered that in reaction to things I’ve written on the blog here and there! But more on that a bit later on.
How to overcome underearning
There are many external factors that affect how much we currently earn. Also, life happens and sometimes your income takes a hit.
Not to mention, there are factors that affect how much we CAN earn. Different fields are structured differently. Some will never pay much – choosing to stay in one of those will limit your options.
But as with anything else in life, it boils down to focusing on what you can control. That might mean steeling yourself to:
Ask for a raise
Start your own business and work for yourself
Staying in a job too long is a common trap – a job that’s comfortable like old jeans, doing things the way you’ve always done them. In most cases, changing companies is the fastest way to advance pay-wise.
But most importantly: learn to ask for what you’re worth. Even if that feels uncomfortable. Even if it seems outrageous. Negotiate salary offers, and ask for raises. That’s what it all seems to boil down to.
There’s a huge mental component to underearning. Most of us can’t just flick a switch and suddenly become a totally different person. Here’s where I’ve gleaned another tip from The Broad Experience: You need your own WWJD mantra. Think of somebody that you know – someone who’s direct and isn’t afraid to ask for what they want. What would they do? Channel them!
Enjoying what you’ve earned
Despite knowing the market, I feel ridiculously overpaid sometimes – like, how can my work be worth this much? And then I realise people around me are certainly earning 6 figures, and that reboots my perspective – and spurs me on. It would have been totally unfathomable before this; it almost feels like I’ve discovered a secret, tapped into a new level in the game of life, busted through a ceiling.
None of the six figure women interviewed by Stanny had any qualms about openly declaring their desire to profit. They took pleasure in reaping the rewards of their work. They knew that the more money they made, the more choices they had. Financial freedom is the ultimate flexibility.
Success goes beyond building up a bank account too; it also includes building up career capital, networks, etc along the way. And with more of these resources at your disposal, you can enjoy more freedom, security, and do more for others.
Have you struggled with underearning in your career?
Since graduating with my degree, I’ve managed to double my pay. Most of that growth has happened in the past couple of years, thanks to two strategic job moves. Here’s the process I went through.
I realised it was time for a change
It’s a long running truism that you don’t go into journalism for the pay. Young, energetic and idealistic, we rushed into the trenches with shining eyes and grand notions.
It’s thankless in those trenches. The work never ends. You’re constantly being forced to do more with less. Media organisations keep cutting back; the whole industry is struggling to find a sustainable model.
I loved my job, but it was tough. When I took a six-month sabbatical, the person covering for me quit after just a few weeks. For what it’s worth, I’d always worked at that pace and this was a bit of an awakening. It really did get me wondering what a normal workload outside of publishing might feel like.
When I started thinking about my next move, I looked around and saw no opportunities in journalism that excited me. Forget advertised positions; even just considering what roles existed and were currently filled, there was nothing that spiked my interest. Nothing I wanted to aspire towards.
And just as importantly, I saw little opportunity to increase my income. I was getting by fine, but in order to get ahead, or to afford a family or a halfway decent place to call home, I had to make a change.
I assessed my transferable skills
I took the skills I had and started applying to jobs outside of publishing. The decline of journalism has led to lots of new opportunities in all kinds of companies – as content marketing grows, editorial talent is in demand on the brand side. (The typical trajectory for ex-journalists is to head into PR or communications, but you could not pay me enough to do media relations.) They need people who can write, understand their audience, and manage digital channels.
I researched salaries as best as I could
I talked to people. I looked at salary surveys. I spent time on TradeMe and Seek just playing around with the filters and seeing how the results changed when I altered the salary band in my search parameters. (This works for real estate listings, too. In both cases you typically won’t see a number listed outright but you can use the filters to see when listings disappear from the results and make an assumption about the range based on that.)
I sucked it up and negotiated
Full disclosure: it took me until my fourth job to actually negotiate for the first time.
In Job 1 I was on union pay rates. My hourly rate wasn’t very high. But a few months into the job I accepted a change in duties that had me working weekend shifts. As a result, I actually took home something like 40% more than that every pay day unless I had a weekend off.
In Job 2 I was willing to effectively take a small pay cut for better hours, (though technically my actual base rate was higher).
In Job 3 – my first outside of journalism – I had every intention of negotiating. But the application form asked for a salary range and I was afraid to leave it blank. They offered me more than the figure I wrote down, and more than I would have even dared to expect, to the tune of a 25% effective increase. And so, I didn’t negotiate further. But this was a real eye opener. There was money to be made! My skills were valuable in the marketing world!
In Job 4 I negotiated and received the exact salary I wanted – a 25% increase again. Boom.
Life after journalism is sweet. I’ve been picky about the organisations I apply to and the kind of work I want to do – and as as a result I find even more meaning in my job now. Plus I’m better resourced to do it (though of course, as is the way, there’s usually still too many ideas and too much to do compared to actual capacity). I’ve been able to save more and start to build wealth. And that is incredibly important to me.
I know a few people who’ve struck out on their own in recent times, one of whom has gotten through the honeymoon phase and has now lost those pretty rose-tinted glasses about being self-employed.
It got me thinking about all the things I detest about doing freelance work (aside from chasing payment, obviously)! Bad clients are rife, especially when you first start out. And as a rookie you often don’t know the traps to avoid.
If you’ve ever freelanced, odds are you’ve come across your fair share of bad clients. Here’s three pet peeves I have that I imagine are pretty much universal:
The client who doesn’t actually have a clue what s/he wants
You know the type. Wishy-washy, lots of back and forth over email. Potential clients who won’t tell you what they have in mind, are super vague on the details of a project, and ask you for a quote without giving enough information to go on, probably don’t know what they want. And clients who don’t know what they need are prone to scope creep, blowing out projects way past budget and timeframe.
There’s always a client who wants you to cut them a discount because they’re a small startup, or threatens to go elsewhere because they can get the work done for half the price. Whatever the reason for their stinginess, it doesn’t bode well for your working relationship.
The needy one
Like a clinging partner, an overly demanding client expects you to be at beck and call, all the time. Last-minute changes and deadline shifts are all to be expected.
The single worst client I ever had ticked all of these boxes. I found myself groaning every time her name popped up in my inbox, and putting off responding to her emails as long as possible. Reluctance to even open emails from someone is a pretty good sign that all is not well. Unfortunately, since this client was a referral from another client – a GOOD one – I was reluctant to cut her loose.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t value your own time, how can you expect your clients to?
Here’s a post that’s been percolating for a while, based on observations I’ve made. I’ll broadly differentiate as white vs blue collar, though I’m counting, say, non-office-based sales work here under the blue collar umbrella.
Getting the job
The interview-to-offer ratio
In my experience in the white collar world, employers work hard to shortlist very few candidates and only interview a couple in person. On the other hand, blue collar employers seem to bring people in willy nilly. I am deadly serious when I say T has been to more job interviews in a single week of job hunting than I have in my entire career. So many interviews, so few offers. So much time wasted bringing someone in just for a chat. Ever heard of phone screening?
The sheer difficulty of interviewing
Interviewing when you’re unemployed isn’t too hard, logistically. But if you’re still employed?
Well, for me it’s never been a biggie. I can take my lunch whenever I want and have the flexibility to duck out to appointments during the day if needed, and make time up. For him? Breaks are strictly timed, usually at set times. That makes it pretty hard to get away for an interview during the day, unless it happens to be on the same street. And again, refer to the first point above about the sheer number of interviews required to get anywhere.
On the job
Speaking of that inflexibility, that often necessitates having a reliable vehicle so you can be sure of getting to work on time every day. And if you work anything outside of 9-5, you can definitely write off public transport as an option. Yet it’s probably a struggle – at the very least, when you’re starting out – to afford a decent car. So much irony: low-level job, strict hours, struggling to afford transport in order to keep said job.
Blue collar jobs are much more spread out over the whole city, whereas white collar employment is more concentrated in town. This further complicates the whole transport issue (‘just move closer to work’ isn’t that simple).
Tools of the trade
Even with discounts, we have spent hundreds, if not thousands, on gear and tools and training for him at various jobs. All that on not particularly high wages, really. True, you can take some of these with you to new jobs … but that’s if the stuff doesn’t wear out or break or expire first.
I’ve never been expected to pay for things that I need to carry out my duties at work. There was one time I paid for a design/photo-editing app out of my own Apple account and didn’t submit for reimbursement. DON’T do that by the way! It was certainly not expected, and I kick myself now for that. What was I thinking? (I was thinking that I felt grateful for the salary at my new job and I could easily absorb the cost. NOT the point.)
The TLDR version: It’s hard to not feel a bit hypocritical whenever I write about this, since I’ve always known basically what I wanted to do, followed it where it led and had it work out. BUT! I am married to a textbook Scanner who still doesn’t know what he wants to do for the rest of his life. At last, thankfully, I think we’ve weaned him off the ‘find your passion’ Kool-Aid (it’s so ridiculously pervasive). At some point I think you need to choose: spend a lifetime chasing that elusive and possibly nonexistent thing, or stick with something and be able to fund the other things in life you enjoy or aspire to, such as having a family, playing sports, travel.
We all know money matters
It may not always buy happiness, but a lack of it is a surefire path to unhappiness. Money, (or lack thereof) more than job dissatisfaction, sex, housework or any other issue you can name, has always been the toughest issue for us. It’s no coincidence the two times that nearly broke us were during times of unemployment.
T has always worked to live, rather than lived to work. Certain material things and being able to spend somewhat freely are important. Dog, kids, motorbike, project car – these things all cost money. And here, they boil down to needing to buy a house (not to mention all the other things that make renting here a genuine nightmare). Oh, and that in turn ties back into needing even more money. We cannot afford to wait around for years for my husband to figure out a dream job (which I doubt exists for him), and he knows it.
In short, we have dreams, and none of those dreams come for free.
Find a job that lights your fire? Fantastic, but if not, well, you’re not getting any younger and at some point you need to stick with something. The recession and layoffs aside, you can’t afford to bounce around from low level job to low level job forever, never increasing your income, or your earning potential.
What if you don’t have a passion?
When you know how you like to spend your money, but not what you want to do to earn that money, to me it only makes sense to search out a job that fits your lifestyle.
I rather like the plan laid out by Marty Nemko in Kiplinger:
My advice? Unless you’re a driven superstar, pick a non-glam career that you’d be good at… Pick the one offering as many of these characteristics as possible:
A kind, competent boss
Reasonable work hours
A short commute
At one point in his job hunt last year, I came across an advice letter penned by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, which seemed like it could have been written just for him. Here’s Mike’s response to a guy seeking excitement and flexibility but with steady pay; a hands-on type of person who hates offices and gets bored easily but wants to have a family at some point. No big ask, huh?
Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.
Harsh? Yes. But there’s truth in it. Job satisfaction is complex and happiness is not going to come from trying to figure out some inchoate passion. Every single job where he’s enjoyed the actual work has had major, potentially unsustainable inherent downsides. Lack of money/potential advancement. Physical exhaustion/danger. Less than ideal hours/schedule. And that’s before even getting to peripheral things like bad managers/colleagues.
As Penelope Trunk once wrote of his personality type, or very close to it: “The key to being a successful ENTP is followthrough. Because lack of followthrough is such a huge risk factor for an ENTP, it’s almost more important to followthrough on anything than to followthrough on the right thing.”
Finding happiness at work
Work is about so much more than your actual duties. There’s the environmental factors – commute, your physical surroundings, dress code, etc. The people factors – are you treated like an adult, does your boss micromanage, do you get along with colleagues? All these intangible elements that can make or break working conditions, and that’s before we even get to whether the job offers variety, autonomy, challenge.
What we’ve come to realise is that in a way, this is a bit of a crapshoot. As my career hero Ask A Manager lays out:
I’d even go so far as to say that there’s no such thing as a dream job that you can truly recognize from the outside. Because as much as you think you might love doing that work for that company, it might turn out that the boss is a nightmare, or your coworkers are horrible, or the company makes you sign out for bathroom breaks and bring in a doctor’s note every time you have a cold, or you’re abused daily by clients, or your workload is so unreasonably high that you end up having panic attacks every morning.
Dream jobs do exist — when it’s work you love, at a company that treats employees well, working for a great manager, alongside coworkers who are competent and kind, or at least unobjectionable — but it’s dangerous to think something is your dream job before you’re really in a position to know.
It doesn’t have to be a choice between extremes – a $150k job you hate and a $40k job you love – there’s usually options in between. It’s hard to place any hard and fast rules on this kind of thing, but for example, I’d personally trade a ‘dreamy’ $50k job up to an ‘okay’ $80k job any day. (Adjust the numbers accordingly for your area’s cost of living…)
‘Do what you love’ is a nice philosophy and it works for some of us, but I absolutely detest it as blanket advice. At the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.
We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America.
lthough my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates. I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives. Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpufAt the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.
Or how about letting your passion follow you? There is so much goodness to unpack in this Billfold piece on discovering job satisfaction, written by someone who was toying with taking up fulltime work in a field she volunteered in but came to realise that mission and purpose are not everything:
While I had always believed generally in the cause I was working for, it didn’t speak to a deep part of my identity. The day to day tasks, however, did excite me. I liked the variety, the creativity, the people I worked with, and the latitude I had in my role. I recognized that I had a lot more control and flexibility around my responsibilities than I had previously thought. I also loved my work environment, which included wonderful colleagues, a predictable schedule, and natural light. Ultimately, I realized that these elements were far more influential to my overall satisfaction and emotional health than working for a cause I’d believed in since I was a kid, but whose day-to-day responsibilities were a poor fit for my personality.
Life’s too short to starve for passion’s sake. It can be fun when you’re young but it gets old fast. Trading glamour/ego for more money/a normal workload is something I do not regret one iota. It’s also nice being on the side of a growing niche, rather than a struggling one – feeling positive and hopeful about lifetime career prospects rather than depressed.
At some point in my 20s, I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in soulmates. I believe there are a lot of people out there we could be happy with. If we waited for total perfection, nobody would ever get married. And likewise I suspect there are a lot of jobs out there that many of us could be perfectly happy with. I was pretty excited about all the possibilities when I started job hunting a year ago, and I hope I get to explore all those paths over the coming years (unless of course I lose interest in some of them, which is always a possibility).
Because don’t get me wrong: I need a lot of variety. Honestly, even if traditional publishing wasn’t in the state it is in now, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck around forever. I was ready for a change.
Having grown up in this era, I started out with rose-tinted visions of some unicorn of a dream job. Now I’m older and wiser and perhaps a tad more cynical and mercenary.
“The work world has become a battleground for the struggle between the boring and the stimulating. The emphasis on intensity has seeped into our value system. We still cling to the idea that work should not only be challenging and meaningful — but also invigorating and entertaining. But really, work should be like life: sometimes fun, sometimes moving, often frustrating, and defined by meaningful events.” – Po Bronson
Did you always know what you wanted to be/do?
Although my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates. I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives. Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy. – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpuf
Life’s biggest transitions, I’ve found, are usually conducted with an air of secrecy.
Take moving house, for example. You’ve got to find your next place to live, wait to go through the approval process, then give notice and line up the dates. Last time was relatively easy as we were crashing at my parents’ and could move immediately; the time before that we had to give notice, and balance this with getting a reference from the current landlord, who obviously didn’t know we were looking to leave. (I’m always paranoid that things can fall through at the last minute, and being homeless is my biggest fear. Like this, but without the happy ending.)
It’s a similarly delicate dance with changing jobs. Again, you never know how long it will take to find a job, and for all the processing to be done at the hiring end. Plus, that balancing of references is even more crucial here.
I’ve always had great bosses – but I have never had that kind of open relationship with them. Perhaps general chat in broad terms about career paths, ambitions, next steps … but I would never come right out and say I was actively looking elsewhere.
And yet, people do. I was recently chatting to someone who’s been in the same company for nearly 7 years. There were a few times, she said, when she was proactively interviewing elsewhere. Feeling stuck with nowhere to go, she’d voiced her frustrations to her boss – only nothing was happening. He was willing to act as a reference for external jobs, even. (In the end, she had leverage enough to get what she wanted, and accepted a counter offer to stay.)
Would you ever tell your boss you were job hunting outside your workplace?
I’ve been back in full-time employment for a whole year now, and I’ve been thinking about the place work occupies in my life.
I do not want my life to revolve entirely around work … but that said, I would much rather focus on work than the domestic front. Paid work can be frustrating (and a whole bunch of other adjectives) but I find it so much more personally fulfilling than doing household type work.
If money were no object, I would literally never cook or clean. I would pay to have all that done. Not because I think my time is super valuable, but because I simply don’t enjoy those tasks and I am not very good at them. Eating good food made by others = one of my biggest joys.
On a macro level, here’s what else I’ve been contemplating, more generally.
Your pay does not always reflect your worth
It’s common sense, and we all know this. You are more than your paycheck. But this REALLY hit home for me this year, having moved out of a field that is notorious for underpaying and overworking.
It seems crazy to me that people like the Starbucks barista profiled by the NY Times work so hard and get paid so much less than I do. Or that some construction foremen can earn less than me when that is objectively a much harder and more important job. And don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly rolling in it; I’m only now making the equivalent of a starting salary in many other fields. Yes, sometimes it’s because the higher-paying role genuinely creates more value/ROI for the business – but not always.
There is a LOT of money floating around out there
I have written about countless funded startups and interviewed both investors and entrepreneurs. T has sold stuff to people with (in my humble opinion) way too much money.
It’s clear to me that there is money to be made – if you can tap into it. That means getting into the right industries in the right kinds of roles.
Money affords happiness
There’s no such thing as ‘broke yet happy’ in my world. Never has been, never will be.
I earn more now. That reduces my stress levels. It enables me to live a more enjoyable life.
I hate scrimping. Don’t get me wrong, I am really frugal by nature, and I suppose that’s why I hate to have to cut back beyond that.
For years I thought T would outearn me – but that’s not how life has worked out.
Strangely enough, an unexpected benefit of what I do these days is that the things I struggled with previously – the external/outward facing stuff, coming up with story ideas – aren’t factors anymore. And for the first time I feel like I have the means to support (financially speaking) the creative things I love – bands, publications.
New Zealand can offer a great lifestyle, but it’s not a cheap place to live, particularly in Auckland. If I have the opportunity to earn more to fund a better life, then that’s not a route I’m going to turn my nose up at.
Also: at some point, I would like to work someplace that pays bonuses. Just to see what it’s like.