Plots and Thoughts

Yahoo’s Annoying @Work Series

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Warning, fusty language below the belt:

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ZOMG Dream Job

Posted in Musings by Captain Optimistic on February 16, 2010

A rather dear friend of mine sent me a link to a blog post about moving towards your dream job.  While the sentiment is appreciated, the post itself doesn’t paint a complete picture, and it leaves out some very important points:

If you stuff your hours full of one thing, but find yourself wishing you were spending all of those hours each week doing something else, you absolutely should devote every spare resource you can to (1) getting yourself out of debt and on a very stable financial playing field and (2) putting the pieces in place so you can live that dream.

Yes!  Definitely devote yourself to making your dream a reality.

Think big. Do you need that large of a house or that large of an apartment? Do you need that car? Keep going down the scale. Do you need to eat out? Do you need that cable bill? And include the hundreds of small things, too. Do you need name-brand paper towels – or paper towels at all?

The essence of the advice is: “cut back on your monthly expenses so you can do with less”.  This assumes that your dream job pulls in any kind of funding.  If it doesn’t, then your current job must be amenable to less hours a week.  In this economy a high paying part time job is far, far less likely.  Meaning you might find a job that lets you work on your dreams part time, but with the amount of money you’d be pulling in you’d really need to work at least 40 hours to take care of even your lesser expenses.

Let’s make this concrete.  Say you find a part time job that pays $20 an hour (and that’s being pretty generous  You are far more likely to find something paying half that).  Let’s be very conservative and assume you get to keep around 65% of that after taxes and etc.  At 20 hours a week for 4 weeks, you monthly income is roughly $1040.  Keep in mind with a part time job you’ll need to pay for health insurance (if you can get it – which means you either live in a civilized state or have zero pre-existing conditions).  Depending on what you need that could set you back anywhere from 100-300 a month.  Perhaps more.  Let’s stick with $200 for this example.  So now you have $840 to live on for the month.  3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, works out to 84 meals a month.  So with rent entirely out of the picture your meal budget puts you at $10 a meal.  Factor in $400 monthly rent (everything included – in NYC this means renting a room as far from Manhattan as possible) and your meal budget is $5 a meal.  Forget forgoing paper towels, on this kind of budget bandaids could send your carefully laid plans spinning out of control.  Oh, is there any money in there for internet access?  A phone?  Nah, neither of those are necessary.

Ouch.

Getting out of debt is a good goal,  but with credit card companies able to legally commit robberies if you make a single late payment, and college debt continuing to soar, you find that escaping debt is an incredible steep mountain to climb even for those with high paying jobs.

Cutting expenses certainly helps.  But its not the sort of brash insight that suddenly opens up your dream job.  Saving up while working at a high paying job you can stomach isn’t that viable either.  Come up with a base salary you’d need to make to survive.  Do you think you can save that in a year?  Two?  How about five?  Savings run out fast.  Especially when unexpected expenses crop up, like medical bills insurance won’t cover, emergency trips, transportation issues if you aren’t lucky enough to live in an area with solid public transit.  The list goes on.

The way I see it, to work on your dream job, you need to identify sustainable and substantial revenue streams that can replace your current job’s income or come respectably close.  Everyone can cut expenses, but there is a limit.  We need to be honest with ourselves about how close to that limit we are likely to go (and whether approaching that limit might restrict our dream job in other ways).

If you do want to start moving towards making your dream a reality, there are steps you can take:

  1. See what you can cut out of your monthly expenses.  Keep a firm eye on expenses that you are likely to cut out.  Be brutally honest.  Can you really get rid of that cell phone and still function socially and professionally?  Start a spreadsheet in Open Office (you best not be paying for software at this point unless it falls under the next point:).
  2. Now assess any expenses your dream job might incur.  Will you need to travel?  Attend conferences?  Will you need any additional supplies?  Will you need a degree or particular training?  Add these expenses to that spreadsheet.
  3. Start identifying potential sources of income.  Create an income column in that spreadsheet.
    1. Could you do your job part time?  Some companies are amenable to this, some only appear to be and will grow to resent not being your number one priority.  Contracting is risky, but if you can find 6 months of full time high paying contract work, and take a few months off in between gigs, that could turn into a very workable compromise (Allow me to repeat again how risky that can be, and note how unlikely and option that is for most jobs and experience levels).
    2. Can your dream job provide any income?
    3. Are there any small jobs you can take, or products you can create, that are related to your dream job?  If you’d like to write, could you teach a writing course?  If you’d like to be an artist, could you sell some crafts on etsy?
    4. Are there any part time jobs that would pay you enough to work 20 hours a week or less, affording you more time to spend on that dream job?

Looking solely at cutting expenses and ignoring income is so…. Republican.  You need to take a fiscally responsible look at where your income is coming from if you want to make that dream job a reality.

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