Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday Factoid: Decision to Work

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?

When I moved to Tampa in 2006, I had just spent six years in a retail job and was pretty tired of the low wages, difficult work, and disrespectful people (both customers and management). I wanted a new scene, and I wanted an opportunity to build a future with my wages instead of just subsisting, so I looked for something more stable and specialized. I wanted to try using my skills in organization, language, and technology to do administrative work.

I mainly wanted a job in some field of administration because I perceived it to mostly be not very stressful and to function as a support position for someone or a group of someones who had big decisions to make. I would therefore be able to be helpful without needing to occupy a lot of my mental space in making decisions. (And what's funny is I had to put a LOT of effort into decision-making as a retail employee, even though I was not in management.)

I applied for a host of administrative positions when I first got to Tampa, from support in the office of my old high school to secretarial work for medical offices. I registered at two temp agencies. I responded to online job openings. And finally I was offered a position as an administrative assistant for a transportation engineering consultant.

And I did that job for ten years.

After the Florida office was shut down by our corporate office, I accepted a similar job for another transportation engineering consultant.

I've been in this job for about two years.

Why? These kinds of jobs satisfy every requirement I have for a day job. They have been relatively low stress (though of course like any job there are pockets of stress if there's a deadline or some challenging training). They allow me to be useful and even essential sometimes supporting other workers (in this case, engineers). They are not physically demanding jobs. They pay very well and provide health care benefits. They allow me to retain the creative energy to WANT to apply myself to my other passions when I get home.

I do not believe that what puts cash in someone's wallet must also be what they're passionate about. I think a lot of people compromise a lot for the chance to work in their field, even if it doesn't satisfy what they love about that field. Like, as an example, if a writer wants to write for a living and they get a job writing for advertising even though they really want to write fiction, they may find that even though they're writing for a living, they're not able to do the personal projects they want to do--and on top of that, they're using their creative energy for projects that don't satisfy their creative urges, so they don't have the energy for their own stuff anymore. I'm sure plenty of people can compartmentalize and may not be affected by this, but this is just an example of how "working in your field, but not on your terms" can backfire. If I'm not being paid for doing what I want to do anyway, I might as well have a day job that is quite separate from my creative work. That's what's worked well for me, anyway.

And in the case of my current and former workplace, I have been fortunate to work for a boss who respects employees' personal lives. Both my previous and my current boss have been lenient when it comes to granting time off for personal needs and granting reasonable sick time. My retail job was so much the opposite of this that getting a day off required a fight or a negotiation, and then STILL sometimes a manager would literally LIE to put me back on the schedule after time off had been approved, claiming I hadn't actually gotten the approvals I'd gotten or claiming I'd failed to confirm a day off and only relenting when I submitted proof of my arrangements. It's nice to work for conscientious adults who don't try to manipulate or dishonestly pressure workers who deserve dignity.

It really makes me want to do a good job for them since they create a pleasant working atmosphere for me.

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