Reality Check

After last week’s excitement of starting a new job, I wanted to check back in and update you on some of the particulars.

I’m incredibly grateful for this job. I thought, actually, that I would be working sooner than this but that’s not how it happened. It’s interesting, but applying for work has changed even in the last 3-4 years. A lot of my applying happened through recruiting agencies on behalf of companies. I’d say about 75% of all of my applications were approached this a third party, which is not something that was so very prevalent the last time I was really looking for work.

But what I’m really getting at is this idea that circles back to the Millennial post. I realize that I did not pick the easiest of industries. I’m making up my career as I go along and others went to trade schools (or what I see as a trade schools – the doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, etc)  which seemed like the safer route – a route I often envy as it seems so straightforward. But here I am, two degrees (and I still believe that means something, that’s an investment in money and time I made in myself that not everyone does and it doesn’t make me better but I DO think it makes me more qualified in SOME cases), a handful of years of varied, relevant experience, and getting a job is still not a straightforward experience for me.

The job I have right now is a great opportunity.

But it is also a contract position for 6 months. Six months to hire is the plan and I Am absolutely hoping that that plan rings true.

I opted out of benefits so that I could make more money. I am lucky to have that choice and to have it not hurt me because I get my insurance through Kamel’s job. But! For someone else that might mean the difference between paying all of our bills and getting cavities filled or that sinus infection handled.

I don’t have any paid days off.

Not even federal holidays.

And of course, no sick leave.

I work for a major US company as a skilled, educated employee, in a relatively specialized department. This type of initial employment is not odd. About half of the jobs I applied to were contract and some were part time.

For me, the experience with the recession and the reconciling my expectations of what working and building a career would be and what it is, boils down to this. I’ve remained scrappy. I think my peers are pretty scrappy, and willing to work multiple jobs in order to pay our bills and also move ourselves forward. I did go through a period of humbling myself, of feeling to good for an internship. That was until I realized it was the only way to get experience. So I got one, and then was hired on as staff, and then I got another one – years after graduating from grad school.

And now I’m back in a temp position. With a big “C” before my email address for “contract” and I’m ok with it. It’s a good company, good brand recognition for my resume, a good position with opportunities for my own career growth, it’s a good paycheck. They have a nursing room in the office. They have standing desks. I feel respected and appreciated for my work (so far, let’s be real …. employment often starts off with rose colored glasses), and I’m doing what I need to in order to move myself forward.

I think there is an important distinction between entitlement and self-respect. I have a lot of self-respect, I know what I’m worth, and I am absolutely willing to do the work to get there. What they looks like right now is: No benefits, no time off, no job security. It continues to look a little scrappy. That is my millennial experience.

7 thoughts on “Reality Check”

  1. It’s a different way of life, that’s for sure. When my husband and I became engaged (Sept 2010), he told me that he’d had his two weeks notice in for a week. He was lucky to quickly get another job, but he works IT and it is all contract. He has worked a handful of jobs throughout our time together and we go through periods of unemployment. It is stressful, to say the least. He hasn’t had the option of benefits, sick days, or vacation for almost four years. He was lucky enough to be in a position that let him stay home for two weeks (unpaid) when the baby came. I like to think that we’re scrappy, too, and that helps.

    The hardest part, though, is that his most recent contract (he started Jan 2013 and we are still in the thick of it) keeps him out of town Mon-Fri each week. He does IT work for hospitals and when the new systems “go live” he is expected to stay and work 2-3 weeks at a time. He left us Easter afternoon and we won’t see him again until Mother’s Day weekend. He has a degree and eight years of experience after the degree. It’s so different than what I pictured it would be. It’s hard on a marriage, too.

    I think you get at a really important point when you mention the distinction between entitlement and self-respect. The local IT jobs want to pay him less than half of what he is making traveling and it just seems unreasonable to me. He is a good worker and knowledgable. He also struggles with wanting to feel like he is carrying his weight and is willing to take a job in which he is overqualified and underpaid. Where do you draw that line in the sand? Especially with a family? It gets a little murky…

    1. It totally gets murky and it is a risk – the contract risk – that employment will not always be steady. It is so much more common than ever before to have temp/contract/unstable jobs that were stable employment options even 10 years ago. Adjusting my expectations and figuring out how to play this new employment game has been humbling.

  2. I received an offer for my third job this week, because two of them just aren’t cutting it – two of them are casual and based on semesters and trimesters with no pay during the student holidays, especially the three months break over Christmas. I’m trying to be better with the uncertainty. But yay for jobs in the meantime!

  3. I just recently secured a new job that I’m totally excited about (but doesn’t start for another 6 weeks). I did a bunch of informational interviews to build my network at places I wanted to work and learn about what it would take to make it happen and any upcoming opportunities. I’m going to blog about it soon when I get my act together. It’s something I learned about from pals and I think it’s one of the many scrappy strategies we’ll have to create the world we want to see.

  4. I feel like the other side of this, is so many of us seem to be working for ourselves, myself included. It certainly doesn’t make it easier, chasing clients and leads, also not having health insurance (lucky to have it through my husband’s too). I see so many friends venturing out on their own when companies aren’t doing it for them. Granted, this depends on the type of industry you are in.

    It’s pretty crazy that not so long ago, you could get a job at a company, stay there 20 years, work your way up and retire with a pension! Something’s gotta tip the other way at some point right?

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