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October 25, 2011 / Melissa Leeanne

Write for my supper

For a few months this year, I had the privilege of working under the amazing communications director of a non-profit organization as her assistant. Due to lack of funding, my position wasn’t able to be renewed, leaving me unemployed and, worse, hoping for another job I would actually enjoy.

I’m going to assume that we’ve all held jobs we didn’t much like, for the sake of paying those pesky bills. Especially with the whole economic recession thing. Working as the communications assistant for this organization was one of the first jobs that gave me the satisfaction of feeling like my skills were being utilized. Sure, I can competently file documents or answer telephones or enter data, but I can do things that a number of people cannot.

Still, after this position, I was in the mindset that I needed to find another job in the non-profit field, even if it was back to administrative drudgery. It was kind of a blow to the ego when I didn’t get a job for which I was qualified at the same organization, but it wasn’t an insult at all. The office manager knew, my old boss knew: I wouldn’t really be content with administration. I might sleep well at night knowing I was indirectly saving the world, but I’d be sleepwalking at work doing a job that wasn’t challenging enough.

I value administrative professionals for their competence and contributions, and at that organization especially, most people did a lot more than basic administrative work. They were often also grant managers, working on interesting projects, and they were integral to the organization running smoothly and being as successful as it was. It wasn’t right for me, though.

For a few months after this failure, I stagnated in unemployment, applying only for jobs that seemed particularly interesting or challenging while sleeping until noon and losing all ability to function as a contributing member of society. I am really bad at unemployment. The only productive things I did for three months were learning to bake sourdough bread and continually changing my resume in my copy of illustrator. I occasionally worked a little retail or even babysat for my former boss’ daughter. One day at her house, she suggested I apply for a job at the paper. The paper had three or four openings at the time, two of which interested me, though both were a bit of a stretch.

Without getting into the gritty details about the application process, the wait, the interviews, the peeing in a cup – I got a job offer. I am the neighbors editor for the daily paper and, honestly, I am so glad to have had a mentor who encouraged me to apply for positions outside of my comfort zone. As it turns out, I’m a fine writer, AP style isn’t too difficult to pick up, and layout grows less exasperating with each week. My job includes writing one or two features a week (sometimes more if I’m feeling particularly productive), editing my section and proofing the A section twice a week, plus doing layout for my section and occasionally some of the A section. It’s a job that is almost never dull and it encourages me to learn and be creative.

I wish everyone could spend 40 hours a week doing something they love and getting paid for it. I don’t think I can ever turn back.



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