Working for More Than a Paycheck

I started working when I was 15 years old. I had my learner’s permit and I needed gas money. I had to get a work permit to even apply, but I got my first paycheck and never looked back. I’ve been working ever since. That is, until 4 months ago when I quit my job and moved to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Changing jobs may have been the part of this move I was most excited about. I worked my entire adult life, nearly 10 years, at MEDITECH, a leading Electronic Health Record vendor. It was a solid first job – normal hours, great benefits, excellent people, and more money than I would have made in any video production or PA job. When I started, back in September of 2005, I thought it was a stepping stone, a place to start my career. I had never wanted to work in an office and certainly not for a medical software company. I wanted to work in video. I thought I’d be out of there within three years.

I think a lot of people who take jobs at MEDITECH feel this way but it’s a surprisingly hard place to leave. The job comes with a lot of stability, progressively good pay, and possibly most importantly, all those excellent people. It’s an easy place to get comfortable. MEDITECH was the reason I was able to travel the country and buy my first house and meet some of my closest friends. I was able to get my first post-college job and transition into Marketing, where I finally got to work in video. In fact, I got to run video production for the company for a few years and then I had the pleasure of working with an extremely talented video team. As you can probably imagine though, despite supportive management, it wasn’t the most creatively satisfying place to work.

After years of working in a corporate environment, I realized I was sick of bureaucracy and promoting a product I wasn’t passionate about. I also realized I didn’t need to work in video to be happy. I wanted to do something that made a difference, something that gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of the day. That probably sounds incredibly naive, but I didn’t really see the point in working if it didn’t mean anything to me. Why spend most of your life doing something that means nothing to you? Why spend 40 hours a week sitting at a desk doing work that never goes anywhere? The obvious answer is money and that actually depressed me more. I never hated my job but I never loved it either. In fact, I always thought people were lying when they said they loved their job because after all, they call it work for a reason.

The truth is I probably never would have left that place if I didn’t do something drastic. It was too scary and too hard. Moving forced my hand and I’m so happy it did. There are a lot of things I’ve waffled on along the way, but I never once regretted leaving MEDITECH. Don’t get me wrong though, looking back at that chapter still makes me insanely happy because did I mention ALL THOSE EXCELLENT PEOPLE?? I miss them all very much.

So what did I want to do? Those of you who have known me for a long time know that I grew up being afraid of animals, dogs in particular. My fear got better as I got older, but it wasn’t until I fell in love with a dog-lover that I faced the reality that a pet dog would eventually be part of my world. I spent a long time mentally picking out exactly what I wanted in a dog until she wooped her way into my life in the form of Buffy. It was all over once we brought that ridiculous, adorable, goofy fur-face home. I’ve been an animal-lover ever since. I have a soft spot for rescues and the work shelters do in the community. About a year ago I read an article about the best places to work in Oahu and the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) was listed. It always stuck in my head as my ideal place to work when we landed here.

When we arrived, Trev landed a job within four hours. For me it ended up taking three months. On paper, Oahu’s unemployment numbers are quite good, but the reality is that everyone I know works multiple jobs to make ends meet. This article is a detailed look into the situation, if you’re interested. The price of housing is so overblown, it would be impossible to live on a standard middle-class $50,000 salary. The median home price is $700,000. The type of jobs available here are also very different than in most parts of the country. Of course, there is a huge tourism industry, which means many part-time resort and excursion jobs. I’ve also found many more college-educated adults working retail jobs here – whether it’s a first, second, or even third job. For the first month or so here, I was willing to take whatever type of professional job was available. I even applied (and failed to secure) a customer service job. Once Trev got his current job, I had the privilege of being a little more picky. He was making enough for us both to live off of, at least for a little while. At that point I decided I was only going to take a job I was excited about or a fun job that I didn’t have to think about too much (like those resort or excursion jobs). In the back of my mind, though, my goal was always HHS.

I applied for two positions at HHS before I decided to start volunteering. The first couple months of unemployment were pretty great. I spent a lot of time exploring and sleeping late and going to the beach. Then I got lonely. And bored. Trev was working long hours and once we were settled in our new apartment, there wasn’t a lot for me to do besides job hunt and spend lots of time with Buffy and Hobbes. The third month was rough and volunteering seemed like a good way to help a cause I cared about while getting me out of the apartment and meeting some new people. I decided to volunteer as an Administrative/Public Relations Volunteer just in case they liked me enough to hire me. I spent my volunteer time on some monotonous tasks like collating and spreadsheets, but I also got to write a story about a very cool foster family and edit some writing for the HHS website. I really liked the Communications & Events Manager I was working with, so when I saw the Events Assistant position pop up on their website, I awkwardly told her I’d love the opportunity to interview for the position. It was listed as part-time and temporary but it was more than I had.

A week later I came in for an interview and I was sure I blew it. I was actually really upset because I was sure I didn’t get the position. I had this dream that if I just kept trying, I would work there and it wasn’t panning out. To my shock, the next time I volunteered, the Communications & Events Manager told me I was still in the running. A few days later, I was officially hired and out-of-my- mind excited. I started in mid-July and so far it’s everything I’d hoped for. On my first day there were five puppies (!!!) in the office and we had cupcakes to celebrate a volunteer’s birthday. Since then, I’ve participated in two off-site events and I even think I’m starting to make some friends.

My position is assisting in planning, PetWalk, HHS’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It’s a ton of work and I come home totally exhausted at the end of each day, but I finally have that fuzzy feeling. Sometimes, when I’m at an event and my only job is to talk to people and their pets, I can’t believe I’m getting paid. HHS works to prevent animal cruelty and promote the animal-human bond. I go home every day knowing I’m helping animals in need. An added bonus for me is that people love the organization. Most people I’ve met on-island have adopted pets from HHS and only have great things to say about them. The job is a huge change from my MEDITECH job, which honestly only gave me about three to four hours of work per eight-hour work day. One of the big things I learned is that I’d rather be really busy and love what I do than have half the day to hang out with friends because I’m bored. I guess some people really do love their job, and I count myself as fortunate to be able to say I do.

If you want to help support me in my new endeavor, please think about making a donation to my PetWalk page. The Hawaiian Humane Society is not affiliated, and therefore does not receive funding from, any national or federal organization. We depend on caring animal lovers to enable our great work in the community and any amount helps. For those of you living on Oahu, I’d love to see you at PetWalk in October. Let me know if you’d like to join us!

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6 thoughts on “Working for More Than a Paycheck

  1. Love this post! I appreciate your honesty about your work at Meditech, especially only having 3hrs of work per day! It’s nuts, I think that’s pretty common, unfortunately. I’m on the Board for our local shelter in Hopkinton, and love it! I am the chair for our 5k event in October. I’ll be thinking of you! 🙂 Sarah

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I thought it was just MEDITECH where the workload was like that but the more I talked to people with office jobs, the more I found it was the norm. I hope the 5K goes well, Baypath is a great shelter!

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