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A career change

Some of you know that for the past few months, I’ve been casually looking at full-time job postings. I knew finding the right job would be tough, so I wanted to take my time finding a job that would allow me to further my career, provide the financial stability I want, as well as align with my personal values. And I’m happy to say that as of late last week, I was offered a position with a Vancouver-based high tech company that I just couldn’t refuse. :)

First, let me backtrack a bit because ending my full-time freelancing career was not an easy decision. One interviewer even asked why I wanted to give up what seemed like a perfect location-independent career, and that’s a valid question. As a freelancer, I had the ability to create my own schedule, travel whenever I wanted – and I made more money this year freelancing 25-30 hours/week than I did at my 40 hour/week full-time job last year. It really was a tough lifestyle to give up.

Related: Why I’m quitting my day job and moving to Europe

But, working for myself over the last year has made me realized a few things about myself:

I don’t like working alone
It’s funny because I’m not a super social person, but I hated the isolation of freelancing a lot more than I thought I would. I get to network and converse with people online all the time. And often I’ll meet clients and colleagues in person. But it’s not the same as the social interaction of working with people on a daily basis. I miss bouncing ideas off of people. I miss collaboration.

I want to work on bigger projects
As a one-woman show, I’m always working on projects within my budgetary means. But, the high I get from working on projects way bigger than myself is something I’ve been craving more and more.

I miss stability
Knowing you’re going to get paid every other week is something I really took for granted before this year. Like I said, I made more money in 2012 than at my full-time job last year, so it’s not necessarily about the amount of money coming in. It’s the frequency, and the stability knowing that I will definitely get paid. Plus the medical benefits are nice. :)

I miss making more money
In the back of my mind, I keep thinking about how I need to be utilizing my (relative) youth to its fullest potential. Working hard now while I have the energy is going to pay off in the future. So by taking on a full-time job, and pushing my freelancing back into a part-time role, I’ll be creating a potential income level that will help me save significantly more each month. It would be silly of me to waste that kind of opportunity, because I know 10 years from now I won’t want to work 65 hours/week.

Related: A freelancing career isn’t for everyone

So there you have it. This blogger is moving back into the corporate world, and I’m really, really excited about this job. It’s in the high tech field of science and nuclear medicine – something I have no background in, but am extremely eager to learn about.

It’s a big chance to work with a company that aligns with my personal values, and work in a department with seemingly unlimited growth and potential for advancement.

As for freelancing, it will still play a big part of my life. I expected to have to work 40-50 hours/week this year to create the income I wanted for myself. But as it turned out, I only needed to put in as much effort as I did last year. So the idea of moving the 25-30 hours/week back into evening/weekend work is a definite possibility. BUT I will likely be cutting back on the amount of new clients I take in, and potentially scale back on my current projects because this full-time job is going to be extremely challenging.

Of course, this blog will continue as it always has. I expect new life to be pumped into it, because I’ll finally be able to grow my savings and achieve more financially with this added income. :)

The jobs before my career

Ages ago, I saw a cool post at Budgets are Sexy, where he listed every single job he’s ever had. I’ve had some pretty fun/weird jobs over my lifetime, so I thought it would be fun to list out all the jobs I’ve had before starting my career – and I encourage you to do the same on your blogs or in the comments! :)

Jobs Before College

Babysitter ($7/hour) -I babysat for a couple across the street who had 3 boys. They behaved themselves most of the time, but boys will be boys! I was lucky that the couple paid me minimum wage at the time, since most sitters were only getting $5-6. But then again, I was looking after 3 boys, so maybe the joke was on me! :)

Referee ($15-20/game) – When I was growing up, I spent most of my time at the field hockey field. From age 14-18, I was at practice or playing games at least twice per day, so I figured if I practically made my home at the field, I might as well make some money too. I took a 2-day referee clinic, and officiated everything from kids to adults to high school tournaments. I didn’t work as often as I would have liked because it often interfered with my own training… but I made some extra cash that helped me get through high school.

Department store salesperson ($8.90/hour) – I took a class in high school that was aimed at prepping students for their careers. It also included a 200 hour work experience placement. At that point, I wanted to work in the professional sports industry, so where did I get placed? In the shoes and luggage section of a major department store. :| But I worked there with a very good friend, and at the end of our (unpaid) work experience, we were hired on as part-time staff. My boss was great because she let me schedule work around my field hockey practices/games. Oh, and school work too.

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Jobs During College

Sports store salesperson ($8/hour) – In between my 1st and 2nd year of university, I worked for a local sports store. It was the worst 6 weeks of my life because I was still a pretty shy kid, and we all worked on commission. I remember they all clapped when I finally made my first commission – when I sold a pair of roller blades 2 weeks into the job.

Newspaper bundler ($8.50/hour) – Normally, you’d make $8/hour at this job, but I chose to work the graveyard shift for an extra 50 cents/hour. It was horrible and extremely lonely work. From 11pm-7am, I worked next to women who didn’t speak English, as we inserted flyers into newspapers, and bundled them in stacks of 25. I lasted 6 weeks before I quit because my fingers started to bleed.

Promotional Rep ($12/hour) – You know those people who do “special announcements” in movie theatres before the show is about to start? Well, that was me. I saw the ad in the newspaper, and decided to go in for the interview. There were about 20 of us in a room, where we had our photos taken, and filled out a questionnaire. From that group, two people were chosen to be the promo reps for Altoids mints – and I was one of them. Back when the minimum wage was $8, I felt so rich making $12/hour. Plus, I got all the free Altoids I could eat, so bonus?

Field hockey coach ($200/season) – I coached my old junior high team (age 13-15) for one season (1 practice, 1 game per week). It was a lot of fun, even though some of the girls were huge brats.

Cashier ($8-10/hour) – I was hired to work at a very popular local electronics store. It was the kind of place where people lined up the night before for the Boxing Day sales. I have nothing bad to say about the job. My boss was great, I made some amazing friends there, and the job was flexible over the years. I worked there off-and-on for about 4 years.

Call Centre Agent ($9-12/hour) – I know another fellow PF blogger who worked here too while I was there. :) It was a great job for a while. I was able to make a lot of extra money because I could take OT hours if they were available, and it was my first real full-time job. Every other job up until this point was shift work. This job made me feel like a real grown-up. I had great stats, got promoted, and felt like I could actually be worth something one day. But then they started dissolving departments (including the one I was in), and I left pretty quickly after that.

Admin Assistant ($17/hour) – This was my first taste of working for the government, and my first taste at a “real world” salary. I got a 4-month temporary assignment one summer. It was a fantastic opportunity, and when my assignment was over and they offered me another job, it was very hard to go back to school. That being said, I didn’t know what to do with all of the extra income I was making, so I blew a lot of it on clothing, concerts, and anything I could think of.

Promotions Coordinator ($10/hour) – I traveled to Northern Alberta for this 4-month summer co-op job with a non-profit. It was my opportunity to lead a team of other summer employees and see my projects through from concept to completion.

Beauty Advisor ($9/hour) – Well, this was a weird job! For a gal who wears minimal make-up, and is arguably never in style, for some reason I was offered the job of Beauty Advisor at a local drug store. I went to beauty school on the weekends, got tons of free product, and had a good time. But the time commitment got to be too much during school, and a few weeks after graduating from college, I landed a job back in government.

Event Coordinator ($10/hour) – This was with the professional sports team in the city I lived in, and I am extremely proud of the 5 years I spent at this job. I was hired during the first season of the club’s existence, and I led a team of 3-7 other people. It was part-time during the evenings and weekends, which meant it was perfect for school. And when I graduated, I could still work and have a full-time job at the same time. I loved this job so much that once I moved to Vancouver, I still went home on the weekends so that I could work at the games.

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So there it is. All the jobs I had before my career started. After I graduated from college, I started working in marketing, communications, and graphic design jobs – all while blogging in my spare time. Now, the roles are reversed and I’m a full-time blogger/writer. But working so many diverse jobs when I was younger really helped me communicate more effectively, and learn quickly. :) Plus it was super fun to learn about such random careers like promoting Altoids mints, and going to beauty school!

AND, I think with each job, I got more satisfied with what I was doing and where I eventually wanted to take my career. So that’s always a bonus. :)

What were some of the best (and worst) jobs you’ve ever had?

Thinking beyond your salary

Employee benefits like vacation time, RRSP match, medical and dental insurance, are standard packages negotiated when you begin a new job, as well as during performance reviews. But there are so many extra perks a job can have that can make it more satisfying, and taking the time to look beyond your salary range could mean saving tens of thousands of dollars over your career.

Here are a few examples:

Employee discounts

You might be surprised at what kind of discounts your employer offers, and not just on their own products. My ex-boyfriend’s previous place of employment offered amazing deals – sometimes 75 per cent off MSRP – with an assortment of different companies under the same umbrella organization. We were able to receive deep discounts on hiking, camping, and sporting gear that would have cost us thousands of dollars to buy elsewhere. Plus, we would get to pick and choose from the imperfect products that never reached store shelves.

A previous employer of mine offered discounts on certain hotel chains and car rentals – which would have been very beneficial to me come vacation time… had I actually taken the time to research the discounts offered to employees before I left the company. :|

Flexible work schedule

Many organizations offer options other than the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday. Being able to plan your work schedule around your life to some degree is a huge benefit. Especially to parents, and those considering a family in the future.

Your company might also offer compressed schedules – where you work your 40 hour work week in less days in order to get more days off. The most typical example is working 80 hours during nine business days. My mom works on this schedule, and she is also allowed to bank her extra days off!

The ability to work from home is also a perk coveted by many employees. Nothing beats saving money on gas, cutting out the crazy commute, being around your family, and working the entire day in your sweatpants.

Professional development and training

A lot of times, your boss will have a professional development budget set aside for each employee. This can be used for work-related seminars and training courses as it pertains to your job.

This can be extremely useful to help build your skills as an employee during one-off courses, or towards certifications and diplomas over a longer period of time.

A friend of mine gets a travel budget each year to go to seminars of her choice. Not only does she increase her knowledge as an employee, but she is also able to travel throughout North America. Another friend of mine had her master’s degree program partially funded by her employer – something she wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.

If your employer currently does not offer professional development opportunities, it might be worth bringing up with your boss. Not only does it show initiative and an interest in your job and in the company, but the extra knowledge and experience gained will improve your worth as an employee.

Travel opportunities

I was extremely fortunate with my previous job, because I was able to travel several times a year throughout North America. If I happened to be traveling to a city I’ve never been to before, I make it a point to tack on a few extra days of vacation to the end of my trip. It’s an inexpensive way to travel, because the company pays for the flight there – which is usually the most expensive part of the trip. Last year, I went down to New Orleans on business, and my sister even flew down to spend an extra 3 days exploring the city with me.

Miscellaneous perks around the office

Sometimes we take for granted what we have, until we move to a new job and all of a sudden the office perks that we were used to are no longer there. A few miscellaneous perks I’ve had over the years are:

  • Free gym membership
  • Games room and lounge area
  • Free coffee, tea, filtered water
  • Frequent department catered lunches
  • Car allowance
  • Bonus or free vacation day on your birthday
  • Monthly wine and cheese parties
One could also argue that having great co-workers is another non-monetary perk of a job! I’ve had some really, really bad co-workers over the years, but I’ve also had some amazing ones. They made my hours at work a whole lot better, and I’m still friends with some of them to this day.

Remember that your salary, vacation and extended benefits are a part of your compensation package, but so are the other perks of your job. By not taking advantage of them, you are potentially giving up on hundreds of dollars each year that you could be saving or utilizing.

Fully understanding and utilizing all of the perks you are entitled to will most likely go a long way to improve your health, quality of life and happiness. And that’s something both you and your employer can benefit from.

What are some of the best perks that your job offers you?