Category Archives: Work

Working in the Trenches Pays Off (Or At Least A Little More…)

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I’m apparently in feast-or-famine mode when it comes to blogging.  I’ll have ideas for half a dozen posts and then just stare at the site for a couple of weeks.  Anyhoo…

It can be hard to do smaller jobs that seem “beneath” us.  But sometimes when we are in debt or (and?) trying to build up a professional reputation, we get in our own way if we don’t make these small and tedious efforts.

I try to impress this on my students.  They are annoyingly optimistic millennials, so they assume they’ll graduate college and walk into a job automatically making about $75,000.  The reality is often much lower.  I try to tell them one of the biggest mistakes they can make is being “too good” for that get-your-foot-in-the-door job.  Sometimes we are victims of an unfortunate series of events that keep us broke and in debt; but in many cases, hard work does pay off for those willing to put in what it takes to get there.

As a small example, back in the summer I started taking on some copywork to make ends meet.  It wasn’t a lot of money.  My first job was actually probably a negative wage, given how badly I screwed it up and the time it took to redo it.  But once I figured out how the work best got done, my writing-time-to-compensation value started to rise.  After all, if someone gives you, say, $7 for 400 words and it takes you an hour to bang them out — yuck.  But if you can do it effectively in 30  minutes, your wage is essentially $14/hour.  It’s a matter of getting fast at it.  This work paid a few bills for me, bought a few groceries and a few treats.  It was not reliable income and it still isn’t.  But it was something I could do when I had time off anyway.  I can sit on my ass for nothing, or I can sit on my ass for 30 minutes and make a little cash.

I took jobs that did not pay well and that were not very interesting.  I wrote about industrial sunscreen and window tinting in Arizona or personal injury lawyers for bicycling accidents in California or even bed bug exterminators in Missouri.  I wrote articles about a prominent diet product.  I did these things because I wanted to establish a work ethic with my copywriting bosses.  And it worked.

I just found out that one of this firm’s big clients wants me as their exclusive copywriter for their ‘net content.  This is especially fortunate since other boring and lesser paid work has all but dried up over the past six weeks.  In exchange, this client will pay me nearly 90% more than what I normally make to bang out a blog post or article.  It’s not yet money with which you can plan your Bermuda retirement.  And it probably will never be.  But it’s definitely money you can stick in the bank and watch it grow 90% faster than your previous wage!

Sometimes money just happens and you get an unexpected windfall.  Many times, though, money happens because you make it happen through diligence and elbow grease.

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Craigslist Gigs

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Holy Crap, where was I when these things came out?!

Apparently Craigslist now has “Gigs,” which are, I guess, temporary/seasonal types of work where you can do a one off event like help someone move something, staff an event, etc. or more involved work like helping someone edit an online magazine or being a field researcher for some study group.  There are loads of entries for writing and surprisingly some jobs I might be pretty good at, including a community coordinator position for visiting exchange students and a contract field research position.  How exciting!

For someone looking to make some part time cheddar, this is definitely worth a look!

Of course it comes with the usual caveat — job seeker, beware!  There are ads on there for housekeeping that includes things like “must be beautiful..”.  Uh, yeah…because toilet scrubbing is all about the looks.  Hello, scam!  But otherwise, what a great opportunity to pick up some tutoring, part time work or otherwise use these “gigs” to fill in and beef up a resume, an emergency fund, or to save for a big trip!

I’ve applied for two positions already.  It’ll make for a busy fall, especially with this new work from her Deanliness coming up.  But busy people get things done, and hopefully busy means less spending money on sushi and more stashing pennies away for debt reduction and emergency savings!  Whoo hoo!

Nice Try But No Cigar

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A former student who is now a resident assistant in her dormitory invited me to come and speak to some of the students about end of semester portfolio tips during one of their social events a little bit ago.  Though the event was at 7:30 in the evening on one of my longest work days, I agreed to it.  I was really pleased to see my student again, as she was one of my first generation college students a few years ago.  And it’s a good thing to do, not to mention I can put it down in my portfolio narrative as “service.”  Whoo-hoo!  While this activity is a “good thing to do,” it’s a shame the university committees aren’t so recognizing of plenty of other volunteer work done in the community.  I can help run parents’ meetings for the Boys and Girls Club, help out in food banks, tutor people, you name it; but it doesn’t count if it’s not somehow explicitly tied to my university and my job.  They define “service,” usually, as “university committee meetings.”

So anyhoo, I show up just before start time walking through campus and I notice how warm it is that night.  Unseasonably warm weather usually means very poor student turn out, and such was unfortunately the case for this event.  Not a single soul showed up, all preferring to go out elsewhere in skimpy duds, I suppose.  I left my student a copy of what I was going to present as a handout and headed home.  Outside the frat houses were absolutely blaring their music.  One group even had a megaphone and some sort of siren going.  The noise was practically deafening.  I can’t imagine trying to sleep through it, though I suppose I’m old enough now to worry about such things.

I never realized just how much of a party school we were until I tried to get back to my car. I was right in the middle of campus, and the frat houses ringing the campus were incredibly loud.  I think they pretty much get a nuisance party citation, pay it out of their dues, and do it all again the next day.  Everywhere people were headed out, some clearly already drunk.  I’ve never really been on campus during these times.  I’ve either been in class or already at home.  Watching some of the girls wobbling down the sidewalk at about 8:00 was kind of…scary.  And sad.  And apparently preferable to popping into your carefully planned activity at your resident faculty leader’s little pad.  They were supposed to have a game of some sort and my little presentation.  Given this was just past midterm, many of them probably should’ve been sitting through my fun and short presentation … THEN going out to wobble down the sidewalk on a Wednesday evening.

Sigh.  It’s getting harder and harder to pull students into any event like this, no matter how well designed and fun it seems, even if you offer free food.  They’re just not interested.  If you don’t compel them to come by dinging them with loss of points or something, they don’t show up.  It would be one thing if they didn’t later on in the semester complain and whine about how there just isn’t any help here on campus, and somehow that is responsible for the sad state of their final grades.  The worst are the seniors who complain they aren’t prepared to enter the job market while simultaneously ignoring every single presentation and service the Career Center offers over the course of their time here.  They even do mock interview sessions and they bring all kinds of companies to campus.  But good luck getting the majority of students who need such help or contacts to take advantage of them.

I walked to my car thinking “Sigh, Nice try BG, but no cigar.”  And then I realized that’s exactly what life is going to say to the kiddos who don’t take advantage of these services now but feel entitled to better grades or jobs later.  Nice try, honey.  But no cigar.

I Refuse to Work With Myself (Tales from Student Crazyland)

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My decluttering success has finally spilled over to my office at work.  I share this office with my co-slacker and our desks could not look more different.  His is very minimalist, very straightened, few decorations.  Oh, except for the new pseudo-vintagey University of Iowa kitsch he’s brought in recently in homage to his illustrious MFA.  If his current university employer won’t recognize it, he can at least build a small shrine to it on his desk.  Whatever.

My desk is quite cluttered.  It’s one of those “don’t touch my piles” workspaces.  I do actually know where “everything” is.  But clearly it cannot go on like this.  I have a whole host of books ranging from social issues to actual composition/rhetoric related material to things I keep thinking “some student would want.”  I have loads of student writing.  I’m required to keep portfolios for a full year, so since I have on average 60 – 80 students, that’s a lot of damn folders.  I keep my own work portfolio in a little tray that I basically throw stuff in as “evidence” for later writing.  I have lots of stuff pinned to the cork wall — cartoons, mostly cards from students as well as brochures on things like scholarships.  I have pictures of my own kiddo and other students who I grew close to.  I have candy.  I have a homemade vase from my son’s 5th grade art class.  I have a bobble head of Ernest Hemingway.  You get the idea.

So I was busy decluttering the other day while I was enjoying some of my pack and go foods, another recent success on the health front, when I ran across a saved student paper.  I only save student papers past the year I’m required to for two reasons:  a) examples for future classes and b) crazy.  This one I had labeled across the top in pencil “crazy.”  I read the paper and it all came flooding back.  He was one of those students who was just NOT ready for the college atmosphere.  He’d stopped coming to class after the first few weeks and had turned in no major essays and only a handful of short writing assignments.  I had sent him a “drop or die” email at midterm.  He didn’t drop.  But he also stopped coming to class.  I thought that was that until about four weeks before the semester was over.  Then he suddenly started showing up again.

I think my head went sideways when he walked in after weeks of being gone.  So did all the other students’ heads.  Yet he never said a word, just sat down and acted like nothing had changed.  We were working on the last major essay, which is a partner project.  All the students got into their teams.  He was clearly without a team.  I decided he needed to step up and ask me what was going on instead of having me call him out.  He was determined to just blend in, so a passive aggressive standoff ensued.  He attended most every class after that, not asking what was going on, not emailing for missed paperwork.  He would just look around for ten minutes or so while the others got into teams and then start doodling in his notebook until class was over.  When it came time to turn the papers in, he had nothing to turn in.  Before we turned them in, I passed the partner evaluation forms out.  I noticed he was filling one out…

This is what he said:

Your Name:  (Student fills in name)

Name of your partner:  ?

1)  Describe how you and your partner worked together.  Did your partner stick to the workload you agreed to or were you bailing him/her out at the last minute?

Answer:  My partner and I got along great and we didn’t have any conflict but he/she bailed out on everything and stuck me with the work.

2)  How easy was this person to contact?

Answer:  I never had to contact anyone.

3)  Did any conflicts arise?  If so, how were they handled?

Answer:  No. 

4)  Do you feel that your partner was fair to you in this project?

Answer:  No

5)  Regardless of how you feel about group work, would you choose to work with this person again?  Why or why  not?

Answer:  No

6)  Anything else I should know?

Answer:  blank

???!!!!???  I had no idea what to make of this.  Maybe he thought he had somehow been assigned a partner who was an even bigger slacker than he was.  He never asked.  And of course he never turned in his own project.  There is still something I find amusing even after a couple of years about the thought that he knows he’s such a big slack-off that he won’t even work with his damn self again… LOL

Midterm Mania

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Midterm grading has come and gone, but the stress, she lingers.

For whatever reason, I fell behind on midterm grading, making the process even more wretched than it already is.  I think it’s a combination of residual stress as well as odd assignment timing.  I tend to put my nose down and start working only to look up and see stressy things ready to pounce on top of my little head.

Energy is flagging in the classroom, as well.  I don’t know why the Spring has always been the more difficult semester for me to finish out, but it is.  The students are feeling it as well.  Our Spring Break is in a few short weeks.  I cannot wait for it, and my goal is to go into Spring Break NOT having to grade a single thing!  I’m not exactly sure what I would do, but…surely there are such things besides working one’s tukis off?

Wherein I Whine and Moan and Bitch About My Coworker…

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My bit of internet absence recently has been due to an overwhelming amount of grading.  How on Earth does it manage to pile up so?!  When I wasn’t suffering through various magazine analyses, too-short short writings and holding forth on logical fallacies, I was busy trying to take small baby steps toward this new course the Deanly Lady wants.  This new Mission Impossible will be the subject of many forthcoming posts.  At least, if I can get past bitching about my colleague first.

I helped hire him as a partner for my original first generation student retention program.  The first year he was wonderful — a regular little brick thrower!  In the two years since, however, he’s gotten progressively more disgruntled with the position, with his salary, his recognition, the course material, with what is expected of him, you name it.  He has some valid points. I, too, loathe having to use Pearson’s largely useless and cluttered website and online textbook.  I, too, thought the orientation course we teach served little value in its presented form.  I agree we’re not getting paid enough.  I am also enraged by the lack of administrative support outside of my own department.  The difference is in how we’re dealing with these issues.

I redesigned the orientation course to provide the content I thought they needed to know while trying to honor the website material they’re forced to purchase.  One of my student evaluations this year says, “The website was worthless, but I’m really grateful I had Ms. BG.  What she gave us in the course helped a LOT, and she didn’t close the class down weeks early, like some other teachers I heard about.”  What?!  There are other teachers who are just shutting things down early?  (A secret part of me thought “Damn, how clever!”)  I put a lot of effort into the reporting of our little program, making sure it got into the hands of the right people.  I cannot control what they choose to do about it.  But I can ensure they get it — and consequently, as many upper admin as possible see what we’re capable of doing.

So far his way of dealing with it seems to be to bitch about it to me.

So, because of previously mentioned reporting efforts and student evaluations, Her Deanliness has asked us to head up the project to put new Mission Impossible class into place.  Coworker has been heel dragging ever since.  As he didn’t get his way when it came to getting more money than me or a reassignment of his job title, nor did he get the volume of classes he was expecting to teach…well, let’s just say he was told “No” in virtually every category he tried to negotiate…he’s moved on to what seems to be Phase 2:  Labor Strike.

Now again, I understand his point to a degree, and on the surface, he seems to be making a valid observation about the work we’re expected to do.  We’re paid this Spring for the teaching contracts we’ve already signed off on last year — not for new work.  The problem is, some new work is going to have to happen in order to do the summer work.  If we want those research and teaching assistants, for example, the department will have to know NOW — not in the summer.  If we want to be brought up to speed so we know where we need to start in the summer, we’re going to have to have a few meetings NOW.  He wants to do none of this, on the grounds we’re not paid to do it.  I’ve tried to point out to him that we are, in effect, doing work NOW.

For example, we have to come up with a work plan that will enable us to be paid for the summer.  It’s the one concession we got (and only one of two I’d asked for personally) and it was easily awarded — no free work in the summer time.  A new work plan is technically work we are not paid to do in the Spring; but if you want summer money, cough up the work it takes to get paid in the summer!  So far, his grand contribution to the work plan has been to say “looks good” to the ideas I brought to the meeting.  The Chair asked me to put the work plan into more outcome oriented language and offered to help me with this.  Coworker is suddenly only available for meetings just before and just after his scheduled Monday, Wednesday and Friday teaching courses.  This has to be done, so I am going in next week on my office hour to meet and get it done.

Coworker is coupling a healthy dose of passive-aggressive behavior to his little labor strike.  He’s expressing worry that he won’t have any real input into what he’s being asked to sign off on in terms of work, while simultaneously making sure he’s never available to give input, such as suddenly reducing the number of contact hours he is available to meet.  He’s complaining about not really understanding what a work plan does and being “in the dark.”  So I offered to let him rewrite the plan himself, so that he would have full input.  No, no, that’ll be OK, he’s sure I’ll do just fine.  He just wants to register concern.  Duly noted.  The one meeting we held (unpaid, snicker) to talk about the work plan, I brought my grocery list of what I thought it might take to go from scratch to pilot project.  He brought his concern about teaching a 90 person class and his insistence that we do no work this Spring.  That was it.  No suggestions about research, little in the way of making connections, no ideas about content, no ideas about time frames to get this done in — just “I don’t want to do this.”

I’m getting more than a little pissed at his lip service toward labor concessions while fully letting me take the burden of labor on my shoulders.  We have to have a work plan to get paid.  I don’t know how to do one either, but it has to get done somehow.  We’re going to have to set a few things up in order to make sure other things happen.  What I *really* don’t like is that he’s making me paranoid.  I get a sinking feeling he’s holding back on doing anything so he can bail on me and claim his input was never asked for or taken into account, so he won’t sign off on doing any of the work.  What is more likely, but no less paranoid, is that he may be dragging his heels and naysaying because he’s trying to look for work elsewhere and hopes to have an exit plan at the end of the semester, leaving me holding the bag trying to get it all done.

To which at this point I’d say, “WHOOPEE!”

So, this weekend I await with bated breath his “comments, though they will probably be limited” on the work plan I will be reorganizing with the Chair come Monday.  I can hardly wait.