Very few of you know that I’ve been planning to start a part-time job in May. Even fewer know that I turned it down on Monday. I wasn’t going to mention this at all, then I decided it’s a perfect example of the action steps in my post about when to walk away. So get out your gavels and robes, because I’m sure some of you will have some opinions about this one!
One of my favorite teachers from high school sent me a Facebook message in early February, asking if I might be interested in some part-time work. She had no idea I’d quit my job – she just remembered that I was a social worker. When I spoke to her on the phone, she told me about her side business providing DUI assessments and classes (her husband is an attorney, so it’s an easy solution for his clients who get DUIs).
The hilarious part is that, as a teacher, Marsha (fake name) isn’t even qualified to provide most substance abuse services. She has been paying a certified drug and alcohol counselor to perform the assessments and teach the court-ordered education classes, but he took a job elsewhere. Because we live in a very small town, there aren’t exactly tons of qualified mental health professionals available to take his place.
In the initial conversation, I was under the impression that I would be doing DUI assessments and teaching the 20-hour education class. I thought I would spend one day each week working at her office, with the rest of my week free for writing and blogging. Wow, I thought. This has come up at the perfect time and it’s a perfect fit! This is a sign.
But you guys know my luck with jobs in my chosen career field – of course it couldn’t be that easy.
The REST of the Story
Sunday night, I met with Marsha and her husband at the DUI office to discuss the specific terms of my employment. Turns out I was completely mistaken about exactly how “part time” this job would be, and how much would be expected of me.
A summary of the additional details:
- I would have to travel across the state for 2 trainings before I could even start, with reimbursement for gas and lodging but not the trainings themselves.
- I would have to pay out of pocket for 24 hours of continuing education each year.
- I would have to do the education classes on weekends – she was very firm on this.
- I would eventually take over the program Marsha started at the county jail, which involves several evening groups each week.
- I would be responsible for covering Marsha’s other groups when she was out of town, which means nearly every school holiday since she’s a teacher (and because they travel ALL the time). As in, every time Jayden is out of school.
- Instead of operating from the DUI office, which is 2 miles from home, I would have to drive to the next town over and use the basement of a Catholic church. She called this “expanding.” I call it “horseshit.”
- I would only receive roughly 35% of the fees paid by the clients for the assessments and education classes (which are already WAY too low).
- The kicker – I would have to sign a contract stating I wouldn’t open a private therapy practice in the county where I live for at least FIVE YEARS after leaving the position.
Considering the hours, the cost of continuing education, and the schedule, it would work out to minimum wage. And I’d lose way more than one day a week of writing time. Sunday night when I got home, I was absolutely sick to my stomach, just like Sunday nights when I was still working at my old job.
My Thought Process
Using the steps in my post about walking away, here’s how I made my decision to decline the offer.
1. Determine what values are at stake.
This situation was a fierce competition between my need for extra/steady income and my love of self-employment. I have been incredibly happy in 2012, more than I think I’ve ever been in my adult life. I didn’t want to give up that happiness for a job that sounded like something I’d hate, yet I didn’t want to turn down the money (however crappy).
2. Assess the level of risk.
Taking the job would be a risk because, for one, I know I’d be miserable. Also, this is a small town, and I have a lot of respect for Marsha’s status in the community (and her husband’s). If I hated it and wanted to quit, I’d risk making them mad and ruining my reputation. Not taking the job is also a risk because I’ve already said I would have to look for a part-time job if my income didn’t improve in March. (Luckily it’s looking good so far.)
3. Imagine all the potential outcomes.
I Take the Job
Best case: I make a little bit of extra money and learn to like the job.
Likelihood: When it’s already making me sick, not very likely to happen.
Worst case: I’m miserable and end up quitting.
Likelihood: Very likely.
I Don’t Take the Job
Best case: I continue making money from writing/blogging and live happily ever after.
Likelihood: Very possible, though not guaranteed.
Worst case: I end up living in a cardboard box because my online income tanks and I can’t find another job.
Likelihood: Possible, but I don’t see it getting this bad. I’m pretty resourceful when I need to be.
4. Set limits.
I had a long conversation with my parents about what conditions might make me want to accept the job. For example, what dollar amount would it take to make the job worth it? What schedule would I be willing to work? Questions like those made me realize that I really didn’t want to take this job, even if they paid me $100 an hour. I just escaped from a career with weird hours and time away from my son; I really didn’t want to do it again.
5. When all else fails, go with your gut.
My gut was screaming bloody murder on this one. Even though I could use the money, and I very well may end up working a cash register at the Dollar Store, I was surprised at the way I reacted physically to the thought of doing anything therapy-related.
What Do You Think?
On Monday, I emailed Marsha and let her know that I won’t be able to accept the position. I feel guilty because I know they’ll have trouble finding someone else, due to both geography and the low pay. Honestly, I think both of them are planning to retire soon, and they see this as an opportunity to rake in a bunch of money while someone else does all the work. I just can’t find any way to make it worth it.
So, did I make the right decision? Am I an idiot for turning down money when my income is so shaky? I want to know what you think! (Just be polite, please!)