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 and, 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 3


Look, my one piece of paper is filling out! Step 3 is entitled, “What working conditions do you like best, because they enable you to do your best work?”

Just an observation before we get into the nitty-gritty. Most of my concerns about the working environment have to do with relationships — both between managers and employees, and also between coworkers. I think this has a lot to do with my work history. But a few physical considerations did appear, like needing to eat whenever I need to, and also ergonomics generally.

The book suggests a chart with four columns. In the first column, you list all the jobs you’ve ever had. In the second column, you list all the distasteful working conditions in those jobs. Here is my list:


I decided to eliminate the things I couldn’t control (like rude customers), and tried to come up with broad themes for others (like the idea of a distrusting and disrespectful boss instead of each smaller idea), and listed ten broad distasteful working conditions to prioritize. What Color is Your Parachute has a great way to help you prioritize those ten items, but it very clearly says “copyrighted” on it, so I’m going to skip showing you that step.

After prioritizing, I now have this list:

The last step to identifying the working conditions that allow you to do your best work is to come up with opposites for the distasteful list. Mine looked like this:

Which I further simplified on my “That One Piece of Paper” flower:

I’m actually really excited about this list, because it is going to help me with part of interviewing that I always struggled with. I never know what questions to ask about the company/organization, but now I have some idea. I’m going to ask, “Tell me about the opportunities that your employees have to enrich themselves,” and “What kind of time do your supervisors invest in management and leadership?” Or, “How accessible is your supervisor in this organization?” It also gives me some idea of what to ask during informational interviews at companies or organizations I’m interested in working at. “Please be as honest as you can, I won’t repeat this. Can you trust your coworkers?”

Yay! I am becoming an expert in my own best work, which was one of my goals for the summer.

(Reward time! Uh. Maybe a work blouse? I need to get shopping! Even better, I have PERMISSION to shop for things. :D)


That One Piece of Paper: Step 2


Step 2 for creating That One Piece of Paper is called “What are your preferred People-Environments that you are most like to work with, or serve and help?” The basic idea is to figure out what kind of people you want to be surrounded by.

What Color is Your Parachute? suggests a scientific categorization and quiz developed by Dr. John L. Holland to describe six different people-environments. These environments are:

Realistic: People who have an athletic or mechanical ability, prefer to work with machines, objects, tools, plants or animals and prefer to be outdoors.
Investigative: People who like to observe, learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate, or solve problems.
Artistic: People who have artistic, innovative, or intuitional abilities and like to work in unstructured settings, using their imagination and creativity.
Social: People who like to work with people — to inform, enlighten, help, train, develop or cure them, or are skilled with words.
Enterprising: People who like to work with people — influencing, persuading, or performing or leading or managing for organizational goals or economic gain.
Conventional: People who like to work with data, have clerical or numerical ability, carrying things out in detail, or following through on others’ instructions.

The author of What Color is Your Parachute put together an exercise that helps people decide what group of people they would like to be with. The book reads:

Below is an aerial view of a room in which a party is taking place. At this party, people with the same or similar interest have (for some reason) all gathered in the same corner of the room.

I redrew it here:

1) Which corner of the room would you instinctively be drawn to, as the group of people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? (Leave aside any question of shyness, or whether you would have to talk to them.) Write down the letter for that corner.
2) After fifteen minutes, everyone in the corner you have chosen leaves for another party crosstown, except you. Of the groups that still remain now, which corner or group would you be drawn to the most, as the people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
3) After fifteen minutes, this group too leaves for another party, except you. Of the corners and groups which remain now, which one would you most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
The three letters you just chose, in the three steps, are called your “Holland Code.”

I have a tendency to cheat on activities like these, and put how I would LIKE to be instead of how I actually am. So, I skipped to using what the internet has to offer based on the suggestions in the book. I took two tests. One was at, which cost $4.95 and one was at, which cost $9.95.

My results for Self-Directed Search looked like this:
R = 10, I = 25, A = 21, S = 37, E = 26, C = 26

My results for the Career Key test looked like this:
Artistic = 9
Conventional = 6
Enterprising = 3
Investigative = 5
Realistic = 5
Social = 16

It was clear, by far and away, that my first letter is “S” for social. But after that, all the scores bunch up. In fact, one of the explanation of scores for SDS said that a difference of less than 8 was negligible. (An aside: Barbara Sher says that her Scanners tend to have high scores in most categories on most aptitude tests. Confirmation bias?)

So I thought about it. And I ended up deciding that at the party, I would definitely like to hang out with the Social crowd. I like helping people. And then, I decided that I would probably like to hang out with the Investigative crowd. I like learning new things and solving problems. And finally, to be honest, I probably would like to hang out with the conventional crowd. I like things that are clear cut and having specific instructions. I put that Artistic is probably a close fourth, considering that one was one I WANTED to put in, perhaps as the second one, and that I do think of myself as a creative.

Now my party looked like this:

Which resulted in writing the following “temporary statement” on my flower: I would like a job or career best if I were surrounded by people who like to work with people and help them (S), like to investigate and analyze things (I), and who work with data and details and instructions (C). (And sometimes people who use imagination and creativity (A).)

Now my flower, my “One Piece of Paper” looks like this:

(I haven’t picked out my reward yet. But I will soon! I’m thinking a shirt for more casual wear.)


#reverb11, April: What’s blossoming?

Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with variously col...

Image via Wikipedia

The last date of frost for my area of Michigan is May 15. To plant swiss chard, spinach, and lettuce in my garden, I need to plant them soon — 6 to 8 weeks before that last frost. After the frost danger passes, I can plant tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers.  There’s a new challenge this year, with my garden being on the ground floor — squirrels and other animals will be able to get to my plants. Nothing is blossoming yet, but I have the necessary permissions to build a raised bed garden behind my condo.

Of course, I would be remiss if I said that my little girl was not blossoming. She is growing, and we are beginning to understand her wants and needs and what calms her. She will slowly grow out of premie clothes, and into all the clothes that well wishers have bought her. She is thriving, the word I chose to manifest for this year, and my little family is thriving too.

Finally, I am blossoming — as a mother, as a student. I am beginning to figure out the line between self-compassion and the self-denial that is necessary in motherhood. I am taking care of the details that are necessary for me to go to Grad School in the fall.

It’s good to know that April is spring in this way, a time of birth and renewal and growth. It is a good reminder as the month goes on.