I have a very part-time job. I work a few months at a time, throughout the academic year, as a college career counselor. Since my only job is to meet individually with students, when the demand for student appointments goes down – think final exam weeks – I go on break. I’m off over summers and the college’s winter and spring breaks. While this is not a particularly lucrative work schedule, it comes with tremendous flexibility. I’m able to get my daughter on and off the school bus every day, and I can adjust my work days as needed to accommodate school holidays, half days, and sick days. (Read more about my job here.) For this stage of my life, it’s the perfect position.
In the lead-up to final exams, the demand for student appointments decreases, so my winter break inevitably begins before the students’. Mine started late last week, and I return to work on January 10th. What am I going to do with these two months? Well, there’s the holiday season and all of the school events, celebrations, and preparations that come with this time of year. But that still leaves plenty of unstructured time on my hands. As a person who craves structure, I find it
helpful critical to give myself some goals for the next two months. So in addition to the standard holiday preparations, here’s what I plan to accomplish:
- Empty, clean, and organize the cabinet under the kitchen sink. This hasn’t been emptied since we moved into our house seven and a half years ago, and it’s jammed full of cleaning supplies, bags, and who-knows-what-else. Frankly, I’m afraid to see what’s back there.
- Clean the ovens. Please don’t judge me, but I haven’t thoroughly cleaned the ovens since we moved into the house. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) While we have two, one gets most of the use – and it shows.
- Finish my fall reading list. I have two books left – The Power of Habit, and The Mindful Child.
- Complete six, small-space organizing projects. There are countless cabinets that have not ben emptied and organized since – you guessed it – we moved into our house, or shortly thereafter. Occasionally I’ll reach into the back of one of them, and I’m surprised – sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not – by what I find.
- Try five new baking recipes. Although the holiday baking season is a time for traditions, I regularly come across hundreds of recipes that I would like to try. Now is the time to do it.
When was the last time you scrubbed your oven? Are there any cleaning/organizing projects that terrify you?
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In just over a week, I’ll be returning to my (very) part-time job as a career counselor at a liberal arts college. This will be my seventh academic year in this position, which still amazes me. After all, when I took this job, it was supposed to be a ten-week, temporary position.
When my husband and I moved upstate, I did not have a job lined up. (He did.) Once we were settled in our new home, I got in touch with staff members in the career centers at all of the local colleges. The Capital Region has quite a few colleges and universities, and I met with people at almost all of them – two community colleges, a state university, and five private colleges. Ultimately, I took a job working with a very different population – low-income adults – which I left just before my daughter was born.
I had always planned to stay at home when I became a mother, but when my daughter was about nine months old, I started getting stir-crazy and bored. Parenting is challenging in many ways, but I didn’t find parenting a baby to be particularly intellectually challenging. Even though I never thought I would work outside the home when I had small children, I was ready to make a change. So when my current boss called to offer me a part-time, temporary position while someone recovered from back surgery, I knew it was my chance to try out being a working (outside the home) parent. (Important note for people who hate networking, from a career counselor: My boss was one of those people I met with on my networking tour about a year and a half earlier. This is the power of networking in action!) I hired a babysitter for my daughter, dusted off my business-casual attire, and headed back to work.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this will be my seventh academic year in this position, and I’m going to keep going back for as long as they’ll have me. I love my job for several reasons:
- Career counseling is a perfect fit for me. I have a graduate degree in clinical social work, experience working as a recruiter, and experience working in marketing. I love writing. I love teaching. I love listening to people describe their experience, and helping them package it to sell themselves to employers.
- I really enjoy working with college students, particularly at a liberal arts school. College is a time of great discovery and personal development for most students, but figuring out what they want to be when they grow up can be confusing and frightening. I find it incredibly rewarding to help students make sense of this process and “find” themselves. I also love helping liberal arts students identify their many skills, and see the value of these skills to employers.
- I only work one-on-one with students. Most jobs entail meetings, projects, and events. My job requires just one thing: that I meet with as many students as possible, and work with them on whatever aspects of the job (or internship) search they need help with: identifying their goal(s), writing a resume and cover letters, developing and implementing a networking strategy, and/or preparing for interviews. This is what I love doing, and it’s the only thing I have to do.
- This position is very flexible. This is key for parents, and I feel very lucky to have happened upon such a position. I generally work two or three days per week, and most years, I’ve been able to choose my work days. I was able to schedule my work hours so that I can be home when my daughter gets on and off the school bus. If my daughter is sick or has a day off from school, I can reschedule my work days to accommodate her.
- I have summers and college breaks off. Because I’m paid to work with students individually, when the demand for these services drops off, I don’t work. (Apparently my boss doesn’t want to pay me to sit at my desk and surf Facebook all day…) This means that I have summers and college breaks off. This is great for me as a parent, because my daughter’s school breaks often overlap with the college’s breaks. And when they don’t overlap, I can generally switch around my work schedule to fit it with her school’s schedule. (See reason #4.)
No job is perfect, but this one is pretty, darn closeto perfect for my current season of life.
Do you work outside the home? What do you do? Has networking ever helped you in your career?