I talked in my introduction post about several of the areas of my life that I would like to change. A big one for me is my work life.
As I said earlier, I graduated Cum Laude from Kent State University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. I also have minors in LGBT Studies and Jewelry/Metalsmithing. At the time, I had planned to go on to become a professional activist, working for organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, or the American Civil Liberties Union. What I soon found out was there really weren’t any opportunities for me there.
Part of this was because I was living in Akron, Ohio at the time, and there’s not really anything going on in that area. While I was willing to relocate, I didn’t really have the means to do so. Another part was that they positions I saw all seemed to want experience working directly with the organizations as a volunteer, which I didn’t have. I had plenty of experience working with student organizations, having risen to leadership positions in several of them during my college tenure, but none with local or national political organizations. And then of course there was the matter of pretty low, or even nonexistent pay through internships.
I wasn’t really able to leave my decent-paying (at the time) college job to take a significant pay cut and work in the field I studied. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for making that mistake. Here it is six years later, and I still am working at that college job.
Foodservice is a great college job. It is a reasonable pay, and a flexible schedule. But there’s not really much of a future in it. I certainly have gone as far as I want to go down this particular path. I’ve been asked a few times why I don’t go into management, and the simple answer is I really don’t want to. I want out of the industry entirely, but haven’t been able to make that leap.
Partly this is because I’ve done a poor job of trying to get a replacement. I have a resume, and I’ve submitted some applications, but nothing like the systematic full press that it takes to get things moving. I’ve actually gotten some callbacks, and a few interviews (a higher ratio than I expected, really) but I never seem to be able to move past the first interview. I already have a lot of anxiety around the whole job search process, and each rejection is just a little more demoralizing.
Another part of the problem is that at this point, I don’t really know what I would want to do. I know I don’t want to work in sales. I don’t want to spend my career convincing people to buy things that they don’t want or need. Whether that’s a bottle of wine in a restaurant, or a piece of candy at the checkout counter, or a new car. That sort of job isn’t in alignment with my values. But knowing what I don’t want to do doesn’t tell me what I do want to do, or how to get there.
I have considered going back to school to get a master’s degree, but I do not want to make the mistake of getting yet another degree that gets me nowhere. I do want to go back to school at some point, but I want to do it when I’ve entered a field that I enjoy and know I want to persue that path for a long time.
Back at the end of 2013, I met with a career counselor to talk about what I should do. We went over my resume, and my experience, what I had studied and what my interests were. When we talked about my small jewelry business, he said that we had landed where my passions lie. He told me that I light up and become animated when I talk about my jewelry work. And it’s true, I do love my jewelry work. But I honestly don’t know if it’s the best idea to make it my career.
There is a big part of me that wants to move forward with it. I love the time that I spend in my studio space, designing, creating. I love being at Art Shows and interacting with my customers. It’s a totally different experience from working as a server. The people who come into my booth by and large respect what I do. They see me as a real person, and not as some servant to order around. As the owner, I have the ability to set boundaries around what I will and won’t do. I also get the experience of collaborating with a customer to create something unique for them that they get to feel like they had a hand in designing.
But there are significant downsides to become a full-time Jewelry Artist. I have to develop the discipline to keep working on pieces even when inspiration leaves me. I have to learn so many more aspects of the business than just the simple creation of the jewelry, because I am responsible for everything. And there’s no steady paycheck. I only get paid when pieces sell, no matter how many hours I may put in.
While I do want the Jewelry business to continue to grow, I don’t really know what the stopping point for that growth is going to be. And I am miserable in my foodservice job right now. Even if I end up becoming a full-time Jewelry Artist eventually, I need a bridge to get me out of my current position and give me a steady paycheck while I build the business.
I had thought that I had found that bridge, but it isn’t working out that way. Back in February, I took a second part-time job in the frame shop of a craft store. My food service job has been giving me fewer and fewer hours over the past two years, and I’m not really making ends meet. When I started the framing job, I was working three days a week in the evenings. The pay was only minimum wage, but I enjoyed the work, and I thought it would get my foot in the door and be a path to a management position.
I love the framing job. I get to create, to design, to work with my hands. It hits so many of the things that I love about the jewelry business, but includes a steady, if small, paycheck. But I don’t make enough money there to leave the serving job. I’ve already been asked about a management position, but while they would be offering me full time hours, they only want to pay $10 per hour. I just don’t think I can live on that wage.
So this is where my career stands now. I’m not happy where I am, and I’m not sure where I’m going, or how to get there. This is the start of me reforging my career path.