That Time I Took a 90k Pay Cut

That time would actually be now.  I am going to chronicle my journey from working at a job that opposed every value I stand for to working for something I believe in.  Oh yeah, the dream job pays about 90k less than the other.  I repeat, it pays a generous full time salary less than what I was previously earning.  Why did I do it?

Happy Job, Happy Life

When I was 18 and a student at the University of South Florida I got a part time job on campus for an organization called Soberride.  Soberride was created to safely drive drunk students home from bars.  It was the Uber of the 90’s, except it was free.  I loved that job.  Every time I clocked in for my $5.25 an hour gig I was excited.  I not only got to drive a 12 seater van all around Tampa for 4 hours but I got to meet some really interesting, and mostly drunk, people.  I credit that job with keeping me sober for many years to come.  Because my job was enjoyable it enabled me to balance everything else in my life.  And then I graduated and entered the dreaded real world.

For the next 12 years I would endure painful commutes, irate bosses, and cubicle hell.  My only solace during the early years of my career was the move Office Space.  At least I knew that someone got it.  I remember finding a lamp in our jumbo office supplies magazine that mimicked daylight.  Basically, we were cut off from sunshine so this was the next best thing.  Now you might think, ‘why didn’t you change careers or find something else to do that you loved?’.  The answer is simple.  I am a Canadian citizen and was on a temporary visa that would be revoked if I did not stick to my software career.  Basically, it was suck it up or get deported to Canada.  Yes, there is such a thing.

Possibilities and Roadblocks

Eventually, 17 years down the road, I got my green card and the ocean parted before me opening up a path to do just about whatever I wanted for a living.  And then I got laid off, married, and pregnant.  Suddenly, the responsibility of a baby overshadowed everything known to man and I needed to find a job as soon as possible.  And I did.  I was hired as a Senior Project Manager for a small consulting firm, working from home.

I was doing great, learning new technologies and managing the firms entire internal staff as well as every project and client.  I worked long hours and treated each client, even the nasty ones, with the utmost respect.    When I let my employers know that I was pregnant their initial response was ‘you know we don’t offer maternity leave, right?’.  Yes, I know that this is the USA.  The only developed country void of maternity benefits.  Here I was working for two guys who cared about what most corporations care about:  the bottom dollar.  Suddenly it was a scramble to find an interim replacement for me, which I assisted with.  I worked up until the day I was in labor.  I actually was in labor but finished my work day before heading to the hospital.  I recall feeling a bit of guilt when I emailed my bosses informing them that I was in labor and would not log in on Monday.  As if I didn’t have other issues to worry about?!  I felt so dependent on this job and afraid of not having steady income that I made it a priority over my mental and physical health.  I know that I am not alone here.  Fear is destructive.

After having my baby I returned to work and the projects continued to pile on.  I worked long hours, making sure that my managers, our staff, and all of our clients were happy.  Then something happened.  A client asked me to report the hours we were billing against a project, and I did.  The owner of my company found out and berated me over a phone call, stating that I was never to disclose our actual hours.  He was asking me to lie about the number (50% more than actual) so we could bill them for more time.  It was evident in my tone that I was not on board with this practice, and two weeks later I was laid off.

The Shift

This was 4 months ago, and since that time I have not worked.  I was relieved to be out of that unethical company but stressed out about income.  I began to scale back on my spending, eating all of my meals at home and cutting back on travel (a big part of my life!).  After a couple months of clearly not enjoying this well-deserved time off I shifted my perspective.  I looked at my present moment and realized that I live in a nice place, have clothes to wear, food on the table every day, and family and friends.  It occurred to me that I am rich.

After gaining this new attitude of gratitude I began to live as I was before.  I allowed myself to indulge in good food when I was out, buy a new outfit since I was finally losing my maternity weight and, in general, let go!  Something amazing started to happen around that time.  I began to land gigs.  Not just any gigs…PAID GIGS!  One after another I was earning money through work I could do in the evenings at home.  Coincidentally, I decided to pick up and read a book I had bought last year called The Power of Intention by Dr Wayne Dyer.  In his book Dr Dyer describes intention as a force in the universe that we need only tap into.  He explains that the Universe is benevolent, and whatever you put out is what you receive back.  I could not believe the words I was reading as I had just witnessed this phenomenon in my own life!  It was my reassurance that I was doing something right.

New Opportunities

Now back to the title of this post.  Since last year I had been working, pro bono, on a movement started by a team of working professionals.  The founder is a long time friend of mine and I believe in him and his vision.  Since I was laid off I began putting more time and energy into the movement and last week we had our soft launch.  Because I have done so much for this movement and continue to work hard on it, the founder asked if I could continue working on it for a few more months.  At that point we could determine if the movement is a success or not.  If it is, I would get fairly compensated for my work.  In the interim, he offered to pay me out of his own pocket.  I wasn’t expecting any compensation at all, as this movement could very well lead to a better world for all of us.  I didn’t even consider getting paid for making this happen.  So, what sounds like a massive pay cut (specifically, 90k less than what I was previously making), I look at as a lot more than nothing.

What is the alternative?  Find another office job working for people who probably don’t want to work either?  Sure, my bank account would continue to grow but my soul account would be depleted.  I have already proven to myself that when I enjoy the work I am doing, and I work with purpose, there is no such thing as hard work.

I am also starting to pick up more speaking gigs!  That is where I flourish.  I had a successful event last week, which I will document in a separate post.  For now, I want to share my testament to the idea that attitude is everything.  It’s not the amount of money in your bank account but, rather, the quality of your life and your thoughts.  Like attracts like.  I will continue posting about how this journey unfolds.