Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Am I Delusional?

I went to a job fair today that was sponsored by, a site sponsored by Action Without Borders, with members who "seek to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect." The organizations at the job fair were non-profits involved in some really wonderful work -- organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, PATH, Childhaven, and Compassion & Choices of Washington.

As I walked up and down the isles, resume in hand, "elevator speech" at the ready, I realized that my desire to do good work that matters and my need to support my family and put three more kids through college are completely at odds with each other. There are very few full-time jobs available (most were volunteer and internships) at any of these organizations, none that seemed to focus on my specialty areas of youth, media, and content development and, as far as I could tell, none that paid well enough to support a family.

So how on earth do I reconcile my desire to do good work with my need to make a decent living?

I left completely discouraged. Sure, I've worked at Microsoft and made a whoppin' salary. But I really, really don't want to go back to a job in which "killing the competition" is my expected motivation in showing up at work every morning. On the other hand, I know I'd end up hating a job that demands my passion and my expertise but can't pay me what I'm worth.

I know that there are positions out there that focus on good stuff -- and not all are non-profits. Hell, I spent two years designing games in which Blue and Magenta and Mailbox and Steve (Blue's Clues, silly!) taught pre-schoolers how to count, add, subtract, match and make patterns. That was definitely good, important work -- and really, who cares if the company was for-profit or non-profit? The product itself enhanced kids' days. I'm totally cool with doing that again... if only all the educational software companies hadn't all died dramatic, tragic deaths a few years ago!

(And who says it even has to be software?)

I'm not delusional. (Am I?) Somewhere out there is the exact job I'm waiting for. Maybe it's writing a health education text. Maybe it's designing a kids' adventure game. Maybe it's producing a curriculum for teen activism. Maybe it's...

...maybe it's working for my brother, who just called and asked if I'd like an interim job as the "Publicity, PR and Communications Director" for his company, HD Environments. My insanely creative, highly ADD, completely scatter-brainy, totally enthusiastic, slightly manic brother, who desperately needs someone to take all of his glorious, crazy, outrageous ideas, bring them down to earth and implement them realistically and systematically, making connections with people, creating branding, and implementing strategies and identifying markets for the company.

If I help my brother with his business and his product (which really IS cool), can that be considered "work that matters"?

Keep in mind that this is the older brother who loogied on me and told me that tigers lived in the pipes! If I know what's good for me, I'd take it, huh?

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Big Sis said...

I share your frustration. I have real trouble with jobs that are me, filling a position that needed filled, and especially that mean I'll have to "sell" something I don't believe in. I can SELL things I believe in - volunteering, fighting poverty, working with at-risk kids. I can convince almost anyone that they have value in this work and can offer themselves at no cost. But you KNOW how easy those jobs are to come by, and HOW in the WORLD does one better-prepare herself for such a thing?
*I'm also excited that you went to an idealist job fair!

Jen said...

It probably IS work that matters, and you can save his employees from believing that there are tigers in the pipes. And after the college crunch is over you can look for something that matters. Look, you could be me... I'm trying to make a go with my FICTION right now. How loopy is that? (Of course, I'm still helping with the adjustment to high school, etc., and we don't have to have DS in college yet.)

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