That One Piece of Paper: Step 6

 

Step five is all about where I would want to live and work. That particular question is one that needs to be answered as a family, and in order to give us more time to do the exercise, I decided to skip ahead to something that was easy to finish.

Step six is all about your place in the world. It’s about why you’re here. It’s everything existential boiled down into a simple ranking exercise. The question posed says, “What goals or purposes would you most enjoy setting your energies to?”

The book makes an interesting point that we all have our own talents, gifts, and skills. However, it’s a different question as to what we want to accomplish with those skills. Do you use your powers for good? Or evil? (Of course, that’s a matter of perspective.) The book says, “[Your Skills] can be made to serve any goal or value you choose.”

What values do you have in your life? What do you want “the broad outcome of your life” to be? “What kind of footprint do you want to leave on this Earth, after your journey is done?”

The author lists nine, which I think is a pretty complete list:

  • Mind. When you are gone, do you want there to be more knowledge, truth, or clarity in the world, because you were here? If so, knowledge, truth, or clarity concerning what, in particular?
  • Body. Do you want there to be more fitness? Less physical suffering (i.e. more feeding of the hungry, more clothing of the poor, etc.)? What particular issue concerning the human body do you want to work on?
  • Eyes and other senses. Do you want there to be more beauty in the world? What kind of beauty?
  • Heart. Do you want there to be more love and compassion in the world?
  • The Will or Conscience. When you are gone, do you want there to be more morality, more justice, more righteousness, more honesty in the world, because you were here?
  • The Human Spirit. Do you want there to be more spirituality in the world, more love for the human family in all its diversity?
  • Entertainment. Do you want to be part of lightening people’s loads, giving perspective, more laughter, and joy? What kind of entertainment?
  • Possessions. Is the often false love of possessions your  major concern?
  • The Earth. Is the planet on which we stand your major concern? When you are gone, do you want there to be more protection of this fragile planet?

The process to sort them is the same that was used in the working conditions exercise — again, since the chart CLEARLY says copyrighted on it, I’m not going to show the chart or explain the process. But this is how my list turned out:

  1. Will/Conscience. I want there to be more justice. More righting of wrongs — there is no reason why someone should be hungry when there is enough.
  2. Heart. I want there to be more love, compassion, and acceptance. I think this really goes hand-in-hand with justice above.
  3. The Earth. I am convinced that climate change has already occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. I think that we are definitely past peak oil. We need to learn to adapt, and pull back. This is important.
  4. Mind. I want there to be more truth, knowledge, and clarity. This goes with my analytical side.
  5. Spirit. I want there to be more love for the human family. I care less about people worshiping God, and more about people doing the first two things on the list.
  6. Entertainment. I want there to be laughter and joy.
  7. Eyes/Senses. Beauty is important, sure.
  8. Possessions. I want people to be simpler (it’s one of my style statement words), and content with enough, but I dont’ think it’s a major concern.
  9. Body. While I care for suffering to end, I think the real task is justice. And while I think caring for our bodies is important, it’s not the broad goal of my life.

The instructions say to put your top three, in your own words, in a way that makes sense to you on your flower. Here’s mine.

 

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That One Piece of Paper: Step 4

Step 4 is called, “What Level (Of Responsibility) do you Most enjoy working at, and at what salary?”

The instructions say:

Salary is something you must think out ahead of time, when you’re contemplating your ideal job or career. Level goes hand in hand with salary, of course.

1. The first question here is at what level you would like to work, in your ideal job? Level is a matter of how much responsibility you want, in an organization:

  • Boss or CEO (This may mean you’ll have to form your own business)
  • Manager or someone under the boss who carries out orders
  • The head of a team
  • A member of a team of equal
  • One who works in tandem with one other partner
  • One who works alone, either as an employee or as a consultant to an organization, or as a one-person business

Enter a two- or three-word summary of your answer, on the Level of Responsibility and Salary petal of your Flower Diagram.

This is easy. Having already noted that working by myself or with one other (occasionally) was miserable enough to end up on my working conditions list, the bottom two options are out. My summary on my flower will be: Manager, team leader, and/or a member of a team of equals.

However, salary is harder.

2. The second question here is what salary would you like to be aiming for?

Here you have to think in terms of minimum or maximum. Minimum is what you would need to make, if you were just barely “getting by.” And you need to know this before you go in for a job interview with anyone (or before you form your own business, and need to know how much profit you must make, just to survive).

Maximum could be any astronomical figure you can think of, but it is more useful here to put down the salary you realistically think you could make, with your present competency and experience, were you working for a real, but generous boss. (If this maximum figure is still depressingly low, then put down the salary you would like to be making five years from now.)

Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now, listing what you need monthly […].

I could type you the list from the book, but that seems a little boring to me, and in my opinion, it wasn’t very complete. I like the list I found here after a little Google digging: Free Sample Monthly Budget Template. I wouldn’t download anything from that site, but I like the list.

I pulled out our YNAB4 budget, I asked Tim to pull out his pay stub, and I opened up our electronic bill pay and accounts to figure out how much we’ve been spending in each category, and filled out my spread sheet.

(Apologies with not sharing the numbers, but I am sensitive to potential comparisons.)

 

Next steps:

Multiply the total amount you need each month by 12, to get the yearly figure. Divide the yearly figure by 2000, and you will be reasonably near the minimum hourly wage that you need. […]

Parenthetically, you may want to prepare two different versions of the above budget: one with the expense you’d ideally like to make, and the other a minimum budget, which will give you what you are looking for, here: the floor, below which you simply cannot go.

My income from this career will be the second income in my family. We live comfortably on my partner’s income, and don’t have any interest in having more stuff, or “increasing” our standard of living (though, my knowledge of economics says that is inevitable). Having a small child, we’re going to incur the expense of child care when I work, which is my major concern with salary. And, it would be nice to lower our debt load, and save for emergencies, vacations, and retirement.

I need to work for personal security reasons — Working now will make sure that I have a good retirement income, either from savings or social security. Working is important, in case of the contingency that my husband dies, because entering the job market is difficult, especially after a long break. Also, knowing these numbers is critically important to valuing my own work. I deserve a salary for skilled, educated and qualified workers.

I decided, using math, and considering above, that my contribution salary would need to be approximately $40,000 per year at the low end. Using a little bit of research (on salary.com and cbsalary.com), I found that the upper quartile of people with “Program Assistant” jobs (which is a title I could have) is probably about $75,000.

[Aside: This is so privileged! I’m talking about making four to seven times the poverty level for one person ON TOP of the salary of my partner. Not only is it a privilege to know how much money you’re going to make in a year (i.e. not have to fight for hours), this is before/including benefits like paid vacation and insurance. We so need to put policies in place for the women who cannot make this choice between staying home and working, because working is an economic necessity.]

Finally, the book talks about an optional exercise in which you think about other rewards, besides money, that you hope for — nontangibles that can’t be converted to cash. These include: Adventure, popularity, intellectual stimulations from the other workers there, a chance to be creative, etc.

Adventure is one of my family values, so I’m going to add that to my flower. Intellectual stimulation from the other workers sounds like a nice benefit. And a chance to help others is important to me.
Now my flower looks like this:image

That One Piece of Paper: Step 1

 

All five sheets of paper laid out on the counter. Step 1 is called “What knowledges that you already have in your head, do you most want to use in your life and work?”

The idea is to figure out what you already know so you can see what kind of jobs align with them. I had a lot of fun figuring out what I already knew.

The suggested categories to think about what you already know are this:

Studied in High School or College or Graduate School
Learned on the Job
Learned from Conferences, Workshops, Trainings, and Seminars
Learned at Home: Reading, TV, tape programs, study courses
Learned in my Leisure Time: Volunteer Work, Hobbies, etc.

I like to collect information, so I didn’t want to tackle these lists just off the top of my head. I knew I had most of this written down, but the question was where. Here’s the list of where I knew I could find things, basically lined up with the above list:

High school, college, and grad school transcripts
My “master” resume that lists all the jobs I’ve ever had
My Evernote account, where I keep notes on all the things that interest me
My list of e-courses I’ve taken
My Goodreads account, which lists all the books I’ve read in the last five years
My home, which has all my hobbies and projects strewn around

What Color Is Your Parachute? says, “this chart is asking you what subjects you know anything about, not whether you like the subject or not. […] Put down something you’ve only read a few articles about (if it interests you) side by side with a subject you studied for three semesters in school.”

So I did.

And I came up with a chart that is too long to share with you easily. I tried taking a picture, but I used a separate price if printer paper for each category. I ended up making a page for this, which you can find at this link and on a tab at the top of the page.

Take a look, it’s long and ungainly. But no matter, there’s still work to be done.

The next step is to make a matrix, which will help to identify what I’m enthusiastic about, and what I have expertise in. This is what that chart looks like, for me: It isn’t supposed to be used like an axis, but I kind of did it that way. Of course, administrative tasks aren’t really my most enthusiastic and expert knowledge, but I am pretty serious about canvassing being something I am an expert at but one of my least favorite knowledges.

As you can see, I have a lot of things that I am enthusiastic about, but do not consider myself an expert in.  I am actually probably something of a “scanner,” which is what Barbara Sher calls people who like to learn lots of things, and feel stiffled when they’re asked to choose. Which made the next part difficult.

The next part was to choose my three favorite knowledges, and begin thinking about where they might intersect. You’ll see from the picture that I didn’t choose three. I chose three categories of favorite knowledges.

I think that some of my favorite knowledges are: peer coaching/tutoring, adult learning, research, and communication. I also think that social policy, family and marriage, pregnancy and parenting, and self-compassion are also things that I really enjoy knowing about and using. And finally, in the third circle, I put that I know a lot about seeing the big picture and pulling out meaning, and that is something I want to do in my grown up job.

I think these are all subjects that are related. I think that I could perhaps boil the first circle down to communication, the second circle down to policies that effect people’s personal lives and the third one is pretty boiled down.

And actually, this relates well to the things I discovered in step zero. These all seem to be about the creation of meaning, forging connections with others, making the world a better place, and the creation and collection of knowledge. Pretty cool.

This is what my “One Piece of Paper” Looks like right now:

What are some things that you know about? What are the favorite things that you know about?

(As a reward, I bought myself another dress. It’s this one, also from Target. I should get it tomorrow in the mail!)

 

Why I am not looking for a job right now

It’s not because the Michigan job market is crap, and most of the jobs I’m qualified for skill-wise wants me to have a Master’s Degree, though all of that is discouraging. It’s more like this:

1. The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 does not apply to me.

FMLA was hailed as a great thing early in President Clinton’s term. It granted 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave with benefits intact and job security for persons who worked for a public agency, a business with 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius, who had worked for the company at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months.

In other words, you have to have worked some place for a year, and that place has to have 50 or more employees, or be public agency in order to qualify for these federal benefits.

My term of service for my national service with AmeriCorps ends February 3rd; I have worked with a nonprofit for the last two years, and probably qualify as a public employee — but since my service is ending, much like a contract position does, it is all a moot point.

The jobs I want are in nonprofit or public service; nonprofits rarely have more than 50 employees, and if I were to work for the state government (where there are plenty of job openings due to retirements), I would not qualify by time-served.

Long story short: the federal government would not protect my job security or benefits, nor my right to the time needed to care for a child after birth. Some states have extended the benefits; most not enough.

2. Individual Employers may extend FMLA-like leave to non-qualified persons, but it’s risky business.

First of all, the fact that any law exists — even a law as admittedly as flimsy (on a personal, policy, and international scale) as FMLA — shows that individual employers were not protecting their own employees. As it stands, the law only begins to apply to what I’d believe you call “second stage” businesses — no longer start ups or small companies, but neither are they big companies either.

From an economic point of view, it does not make sense to hire a 7 month pregnant woman, train her, and then allow her to take 2, 6, or 12 weeks off (debates about how long the postpartum period last are on-going) to take care of her child and adjust (or readjust) to motherhood, and then return to work. First of all, training someone is a huge investment in and of itself; it’s why many companies require contracts of 2 years in order to train people in the first place. Then, there is no guarantee of loyalty; with the way motherhood is treated in today’s society, it isn’t certain that the mother will return to work — thereby costing her employers the money and time spent on training, even if the leave is unpaid and benefits are suspended for its duration of the leave.

From a functional and managerial point of view, it’s quite possible that the job held by the pregnant women is vital to a small company, and will need to be filled while she is away — either by a temporary employee, covered by another employee at the company, or possibly hiring a new employee. This last option is prohibited by FMLA — but let’s remember that I’m not covered by FMLA, and neither are many people working at companies with <50 employees. Temporary employees are expensive (training, remember?), and delegating a leave-taking member’s responsibility may cause resentment if not managed correctly. Conventional wisdom says it isn’t really good management to let employees take a leave of absence like the one described by FMLA.

From the employee’s point of view, especially mental health-wise, more than 12 weeks is ideal — a baby at 12 weeks hasn’t smiled spontaneously, yet. But, without the protection of FMLA, or even the NEED to work because going without income for 3 months is impossible, 2 or 4 weeks just has to suffice — leaving mothers separated from their children and at greater risk for postpartum depression and other complications. Perhaps individual employers could work with employees for longer periods of leave; but because of the above reasons, it would need to be a seriously enlightened employer to make that happen.

If I were to apply for a job, I’d have to hope that they would look past my being pregnant to hire me in the first place; that they would train me, that they would keep my job for me, and give me sufficient leave for me to become a confident parent and protect my mental health. It seems too much to ask, and it’s a lot to hope for.

3. A new job and an infant at the same time is a recipe for Postpartum Depression.

Let’s be honest, I’m a prime candidate for PPD. I’m already depressed and anxious, my medications don’t cut it, I haven’t been in therapy (but I’m going back!). One of the first things they tell you to help prevent PPD is to not change too much in your life at the same time you have the baby — you know, like move (done last month), end a job (2/3), or start a job (not happening).

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when caring for an infant. It’s easy to be overwhelmed while beginning a new job. Hint: attempt only one at a time.

4. It is because I am privileged that I can make this decision, to not look for a job.

This is a choice I can make because I have a committed partner whose job pays most of our bills. It is because our rent isn’t unaffordable, because we have health insurance through Tim’s work, it is because we don’t go hungry when only one of us works that I can say, “I can’t work right now.”

I want to work, like many other mothers out there. Many mothers need to work. But public policy does not support women who need to work to make ends meet; and then vilifies them for being on welfare.

I wish I could apply for job after job and be the top candidate always and when they deny me the leave that I need to make sure I don’t spiral deeper into depression, I could walk away and teach them a lesson. I wish I could stand up and be an example, to cause discrimination to occur and start filing lawsuit after lawsuit. Would I be teaching them the right lesson — that it is important to take care of your employees? Or would I be teaching them that what their mentors told them about pregnant women was right — you can’t trust them to keep to their commitments? (That double standard is a whole post in and of itself.)

I’m not strong enough to make an example of myself; to live through the day to day of poor policy. And I can avoid it — I am privileged enough to avoid it, to become a housewife and a stay-at-home mom.

But, damn it, as soon as my baby is old enough, as soon as I’ve regained my mental health, I am going to do something about all of this — I’m going to Grad School and study the social policies that got us here, I’m going to intern and work for nonprofits and advocacy agencies that stand up for women’s rights, for the rights of those in poverty. I’m going to volunteer where I can, and I’m going to challenge this disgusting status quo.

Babies need Mamas, and Mamas need money to care for their babies. Can we please make it easier?