Why You Need At Least One Crappy Job

The things you learn from your first crappy job will help you be a better adult the rest of your life.

A bad job will crush your soul.

It will leave you feeling stressed out, worn down, and ready to throw in the towel. It will make you re-think your career, sabotage your relationships, and generally make you question whether or not being an adult is even worth it.

What if bad jobs aren’t always a bad thing?

Much like a near-death experience, a really bad job can give a needed dose of perspective. It can tamper unrealistic expectations, and set you up to be happier and more successful in the long run. It can even teach you a thing or two about yourself.

A bad job makes you humble.

I worked as a newspaper reporter on my first job straight out of college, where I quickly learned a harsh truth: cub reporters have to pay their dues. We all had to work holidays, and those with the most seniority got to choose which holiday they worked. Because I was the newest, I had to take what was usually left: Thanksgiving.

That first year, I worked Thanksgiving and Black Friday while my co-workers spent those days with their families. I was also the one to fill in for our night cops reporter when he left, so I worked 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. my last few months on the job.

I was miserable, but I soon came to understand why I was in that position. It wasn’t malicious. No one took joy in the fact that I ate McDonald’s on Thanksgiving. In fact, every single person above me on the totem pole had gone through exactly the same situation.

It’s easy to feel like you deserve a better gig, especially if you worked hard in college. I spent most of my time in school working at the daily student newspaper and my summers interning at various media companies. I thought I deserved more after college than covering school board meetings in some Podunk town.

In reality, that was precisely what I deserved. Having a crappy first job experience brought me down a peg, and taught me the dangers of unrealistic expectations. I realized that a comfortable, satisfying job right out of the gate wasn’t just unusual; it was practically unheard of.

A bad job makes you grateful.

Having that job made me more thankful for my next opportunity at a nonprofit, where I didn’t work nights, weekends, or holidays. I was so happy to be somewhere else that I didn’t even care I was still earning less than my friends.

The feeling of gratitude lasted until I left three years later. It sustained me when I did have to work long nights or the occasional weekend. That perspective has stuck with me through every crappy job experience I’ve had in my career. I can be grateful that it will never be as crappy as that first job.

A crappy job teaches you to create your own happiness.

During my newspaper gig, I started a blog chronicling how I was trying to save money and pay off my student loans. My bosses loved the blog, and it was the one thing I really enjoyed writing. Covering car crashes and house fires was not exactly fulfilling.

Six months of blogging about frugal living for the paper led to me starting my own blog. That has now morphed into a freelance writing career covering personal finance, where I make twice as much money with half the stress. But I had to take charge of what really made me happy in order to find that path.

If you’re in a job you hate, take on new opportunities to see what really gets you fired up. It may take some experimenting, but you’ll come out the other side with a clearer view of what truly makes you happy.

And you may never have to take a crappy job again.

When Someone Dies and You’re Not Sad

Feel bad for not feeling sad? When someone dies, don’t feel guilty about your emotions.

“I have never killed anyone, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.” – Mark Twain

Jerks die, too.

I was walking home from the grocery store the other day while listening to the latest Tim Ferriss podcast. It was a beautiful day with no clouds in the sky. The air was warm. I was content.

Suddenly, my phone started blowing up. Text message after text message interrupted my listening pleasure. It was a series of announcements that a resident in my building died. “Jim died.” “Jim passed away last night.” “Jim pulled a Jacob Marley.”

I was mildly shocked and didn’t immediately respond. I had to absorb the news. I was surprised to find that I wasn’t sad or even emotional. When I realized my feelings, I responded to each text with, “Thank you.”

I was sad that my neighbor died because it’s sad that people die, but I wasn’t necessarily sad that it was Jim who died. Jim was a pain in the ass. The people who texted me about his death also think he was a pain in the ass. No one was crass enough to dance on Jim’s grave, but people have died in our building before without the word of mouth not seen since Steve Jobs’ passing.

As the evening continued, I wondered what my lack of sadness said about me. Was I a horrible person? Did I not value life? I kept thinking the same thing over and over. I was sad that someone died but not sad by who died.

I wrestled with my lack of sympathy for a few days. I didn’t discuss my dilemma with anyone for fear of being outed as detestable.

Cherish good people.

After doing yoga one morning, a black and white picture of my grandparents on my living room shelf caught my attention. My grandmother is sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders when he’s home on military leave. The scene looks as 1940s as it can. Cars, clothes, and hair, all period. It’s special because it’s a candid moment with my grandparents laughing and goofing off.

I remembered how sad I was when they both passed away. I had to take a day off when my grandmother died because I was such a wreck.

It occurred to me that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t sad about Jim’s passing. If we’re responsible for our own actions, we’re responsible for the reactions. Newton’s Third Law of Motion says that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, we attract that which we put out. This is also known as karma.

Death holds lessons.

Jim’s passing wasn’t a time for me to mourn. It was a time for me to learn. The lesson for me was to learn to live a life that when it’s my turn to pass the people in my life spread the news with sympathy and not relief. I want people to celebrate my life and not relish my death. My lesson is to live life in such a way that people cherish my contribution.

It’s not wrong for us to not mourn someone’s death. What’s wrong is to not reflect on why we don’t mourn the death. There’s a lesson for us in our lack of mourning. Is your lesson to do or not do something? Is your lesson on the celebration of life? Love? Impermanence? Acceptance?

We’d all do well to ask ourselves these three questions when anyone passes:

  • How do I feel about this death?
  • Why do I feel this way about this death?
  • What can I learn from my feelings about this death?

Every death doesn’t need to be sad, but no death needs to be in vain. There’s a lesson for us in each case. It’s our responsibility to learn the lesson.

Why You’ll Love Working From Home

Authority issues and people issues. It’s a good thing I work from home.

I never lasted more than a year or two in a traditional job. Even in high school, I got tired of working for “the man” when it interfered too much with my swim practices and social calendar.

Rather than stick it out, I quit and “worked for myself” teaching piano lessons. I made more per hour, and arranged matters so I only had to “work” one day a week – the day I picked.

Through college and even after, it was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to stick with anything approaching a real job. I went to grad school, got my master’s degree in journalism, and haven’t had a real job in years. Even now that I’ve accepted a salaried position with an online publisher, I still work from home and enjoy a freelance lifestyle.

Working from home is clearly the right choice for me, and maybe you, too. Here’s why:

I hate people.

Okay, I don’t actually hate people. But I struggle when I have to be around them for hours at a time. Even my son, whom I love, gets on my nerves. I need alone time to recharge. As an introvert, working around others can be extremely draining.

I prefer to work at home, in my own space. No one demands my undivided attention when I’m at home. I can ignore emails and texts in a way that I can’t ignore a coworker walking up to make small talk (which I hate and am awkward at).

Working at home allows me to go at my own pace, interact with those I want to talk to, and avoid actually having to deal with people on a regular basis. Do I sometimes have a video meeting or phone call? Sure. But at least it’s not Every. Single. Day.

I have authority issues.

I’ve never enjoyed having people tell me what to do. I can take direction, and I try to provide what my clients ask for. However, I don’t do well with a traditional “boss” in my life. I naturally rebel against authority. Not great when you have to see a supervisor each day.

Turns out, working from home is great if you are a self-starter. It’s even better for those who can problem solve on their own, and don’t need someone to tell them what to do all the time. Working from home is the ultimate adult experience. For the most part, no one is going to make you do anything – especially if you don’t have a boss. You have to be in charge of the situation on your own.

Of course, when you have authority issues, you can’t blame anyone else for your failures. If you don’t get out of bed and get your work done, it’s on you. If you can’t figure out a solution to your problem, that’s on you, too. It’s great when you don’t have to worry about a boss walking by at any time. But you still have to perform.

I value freedom and flexibility.

The two most important things in my life are freedom and flexibility. I care about freedom more than I care about money. I prefer flexibility to security. Working from home is great for me because it offers the ultimate in freedom and flexibility.

I set my own hours. If I want a spa day on Wednesday afternoon, I take a spa day on Wednesday afternoon. Ready for a nap around 11 am? It’s sleepy time! Feel like eating chocolate for lunch? No coworkers to judge me.

My dad recently retired, and that means that I am available to go to lunch with him. If my sister needs emergency childcare help, I can provide that.

Because I set my own schedule while working from home, I can be involved in my community and help my family. Sometimes it means I work on the weekend or at night, but the truth is that a “traditional” week holds no real meaning for me. The only reason I know what day of the week it is nine months out of the year is because I need to make sure my son gets to school.

Staying on top of everything.

The downside to working from home is that sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of everything. I can’t just leave my work at work. I get distracted by other things and sometimes struggle. And sometimes my family and friends, God love ‘em, don’t respect the fact that I have to work and I can’t always take care of things. Or they get upset because I have to work right now or check my email because I’m expecting something vital to my career. They get annoyed at how there are times I really don’t stop working.

Working from home isn’t for everyone. It works for me because I like the time to recharge by myself and I like the freedom and flexibility involved. To me, it outweighs a time-intensive job that might pay more. And there really is no substitute for avoiding people most of the day.

Do you work from home? Would you like to? Why or why not?

[A038] Advocate for Yourself: Don’t Be Bullied at Work

Make work a better place. If you are concerned about bullying in the workplace, here’s what you need to do.

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Have you been bullied at work?

You might be surprised to learn that almost everyone has experienced bullying in the workplace. Bullies aren’t always overt in their efforts. Some just sabotage efforts, while others are more interested in browbeating or threats. Only a very few people actually experience physical assault in the workplace. Most bullying at work is more subtle.

You don’t have to be bullied at work, though. It’s possible for you to stand up against a culture that allows bullying and become an advocate for yourself. Once you understand yourself and your abilities, and learn to respect yourself, you can help create a culture of wider respect in your workplace.

Here’s how you can learn to be an advocate for yourself and for others.

Concepts

  • A look at a culture of bullying, and how it comes to pass.
  • Different ways you might be bullied at work, and how bullying manifests itself in a workplace environment.
  • Realities of workplace bullying.
  • How to understand your own best qualities, and how to leverage them to reduce how you are bullied at work.
  • Tips for dealing with a bully at work.
  • How to work toward changing the culture at your company so that others don’t have to be subject to bullying as well.
  • What to do when your supervisor is the bully.
  • When it’s time consider leaving your job if the situation is too toxic.
  • Tips for talking to HR.
  • Ideas for creating a workplace policy related to bullying.

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Resources

ForbesHow workplace bullying looks
ForbesHow not to be bullied
ASHA: American Speech-Language Hearing AssociationHow to be your own advocate
TimesUnionWorkplace advocacy

Cover Your Assets

A single hospital visit can bankrupt you. What happens if you total your car and can’t afford a new. Make sure your assets are covered.

The idea of insurance doesn’t necessarily jive with the mindset of a young person. It took me way too long after college to really get serious about insuring my stuff. What’s life without a little risk, right?

In reality, that mindset doesn’t usually last through the first emergency or disaster that strikes while you’re uninsured. It’s easy to laugh it off when you’ve been lucky, but one bad day teaches you the importance of making sure you cover your assets.

Being a fully functioning adult requires that you be ready to protect what’s yours.

Why insurance is important.

Insurance is like wearing a helmet while you’re biking. You may not need it, but you’ll be glad you put it on when you take a tumble.

“Having quality auto, health, renter or homeowner, and life insurance is vital to protecting yourself and your family — or your future family — from the unexpected,” says blogger Eric Rosenberg of Personal Profitability.

But choosing an insurance company is hard work. First, decide what coverage you need. If you need both renters and car insurance, can you choose the same company and save money with a multi-policy account?

The two most important factors with insurance are the premium (how much you pay each month) and the deductible (how much you pay to file a claim and receive money from your insurance company). Your car insurance premium may cost $100 a month with a $500 deductible.

That means if you get into an accident and do $600 worth of damage to your car, you’ll have to pay the $500 deductible before your insurance covers the rest.

Car insurance.

Most companies offer a multi-car discount for families with more than one automobile. Premium rates vary based on how much coverage you have, so don’t base your judgment solely on how much you’ll pay each month.

For example, coverage for uninsured or underinsured drivers is optional, but often a good idea. When I got hit by an uninsured driver, my car suffered $3,000 worth of damage. My insurance company handled everything because I’d opted for that extra coverage.

This is a common theme in every area of insurance: risk tolerance. You need to toe the line between how much you’re willing to pay monthly, and how comfortable you are with the risk of being caught uninsured. In an ideal world, we could all afford comprehensive coverage in every area, but the real world is a little more restrictive.

Renters insurance.

Lee Huffman, who owns several rental properties, says he always recommends renters insurance to his tenants. Most renters policies cost less than $20 a month, but can reimburse you in case your valuables are stolen or damaged.

“As a rental property investor, we remind our renters that the landlord’s insurance covers the building only,” he says. “It does not cover any of the personal items of the renters, nor does it cover the renter in case someone gets hurt and tries to sue them.”

Take pictures of your most prized possessions and keep receipts for anything valuable. Those will help if they’re lost or damaged and you need to file a claim.

Health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act requires that you have health insurance or pay a fine. This year the fine will be 2.5% of your income or $695 per adult — whichever is greater. For example, if you have an adjusted gross income of $40,000, your fine will be $1,000.

One hospital visit can bankrupt you when you don’t have health insurance. You are your most valuable asset, so make sure that’s covered. Millennials in good health are often fine purchasing a high-deductible plan and paying a smaller premium. You can use a Health Savings Account in conjunction with your high-deductible plan for even better results.

Life insurance.

This type of insurance is vital if there’s someone relying on your income, like a spouse or child. If your spouse dies, can you afford to live without them? Can you pay the mortgage by yourself? Can you raise your child on one income? Single parents should consider purchasing life insurance so their children will have protection in case they pass away.

Rosenberg recommends term, not whole, life insurance for millennials. The younger you are when you purchase a policy, the cheaper it will be.

“You are never as young and healthy as you are today, which is the best time to lock in a 30 year policy,” he says.

Don’t let the unexpected ruin your finances. Cover your assets with the right insurance and you can shore up your finances from disaster.

Adulting, Doggy Style

Why do I like dogs more than humans? Because they know how to live and love.

The other day I went to the grocery store and, as is usual, there was a dog tied out front of the store.

Our eyes met, I immediately forgot about the jelly donut that had consumed my entire being all morning and said, “Hello puppy dog.”

I walked into the store and passed several humans, all with whom I didn’t make eye contact and to whom I certainly didn’t say, “Hi.”

On my way home from the store, I thought this was a curious behavior of mine. Why am I more inclined to say hello to a strange dog than a stranger?

The next morning, I went for a five-mile run. It was morning rush hour or, as I call it, “mourning rush hour.” The new school year had started and this added stress to the commute that wasn’t there the previous months.

Drivers, in general, were driving faster. Having to stop at the stop sign upset them. It pained some drivers to wait for a human to cross the street even though that human was running. I became a defensive runner.

On that five-mile run, I heard two drivers honk at other drivers and saw some adult sign language. It was then that I noticed my internal anger. I wasn’t angry at any particular person.

I just wasn’t feeling the love.

I asked myself, “Why don’t I feel the same sort of happiness about my fellow homo sapiens that I did for that canine? Why aren’t we humans waving good morning to each other? Why does the privilege of taking young people to school make for a bad commute? Why can’t we drive with as much care as dogs sniff each other’s butts?”

This is when I thought we could all learn a few things from man’s best friend. I thought of that Facebook meme that says, “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

Assume strangers deserve unconditional love.

Assume everyone deserves your unconditional love and would appreciate a wave or a smile (the human version of licking strangers). Be the first to be friendly. This will make you happier and, over time, your disposition will rub off on others.

Live in the moment.

Dogs only care about the here and now. They’re not depressed about yesterday’s mistakes and certainly aren’t stressed about tomorrow’s maybes.

This is a lesson taught in many of the world’s oldest religions. Lao Tzu, the author of Tao Te Ching, said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

Dogs have mastered living in the present. Be the dog.

Enjoy the simple things.

Our fast-paced, high-tech, constant-consumption world hasn’t made us happier. Some argue that being so connected on social media makes us less happy.

You’ll never see a dog missing Facebook. They do get excited by the sound of someone at the door, though.

You don’t need social media or textual relations to be happy. Connect with the people in your life for increased happiness and deeper relationships.

Forgive easily.

Forgive yourself and others as easily as a dog loves you after it’s scolded. Anger is a cancer that eats the soul. It does no favors. It is both a great example and great relief to forgive.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. – Alexander Pope

Don’t be quick to anger.

I was angry during my manic morning run. The dogs I saw were walking with their tails in the air and sticking their noses out car windows. They were just smelling the world as happy as they could be despite all the chaos around them.

We humans would all have better mornings if we were more like our canine companions. Do yourself a favor and push away anger and focus on joy.

Smother your loved ones with love.

Dog owners know this feeling. No matter how good or bad their day is, when they walk in the door their dog couldn’t be happier to see them. Dogs practically jump on their owners with so much pent up excitement built from the time they hear the key enter the keyhole to the time their owner walks across the threshold.

Be this way with your loved ones each and every time you see them, even if you’re just passing through the kitchen for that last jelly donut. Both your days will be better.

If you adopt even one of these behaviors, you’ll be amazed at how your life improves. If you master them all, you’ll live in a dog’s paradise.

Tools to Help You Dominate Your Bills

No one likes paying bills, but it’s a fact of adult life. Here’s how to make bills your bitch.

Paying bills sucks.

But proper adulting means you need to stay on top of your bills. Dominate them. Paying your bills on time can help you with your credit, and it ensures that you still have access to things like a place to live, your cell phone service, and electricity.

Your life will suffer if you get caught too far behind. When you don’t pay your bills, you can lose your apartment or house and all the other services you pay for. If you want to make your own decisions and live your life on your terms, you also have to be responsible and handle the business of paying bills.

You don’t have to do it on your own, though. Here are a few tools that can help you stay on top of your bills.

1. Make it automatic.

One of my favorite tools is automation. So many companies will let you automate you bill pay. My cell phone, Internet, car loan, and rent payment are all automated. Grocery delivery? Automatically taken care of each week. Same for the delivery from the dairy. Many power companies also set up recurring billing. I was even able to set up recurring automatic payments for the medical bills I incurred earlier this year.

The main downside to automation is that you have to stay on top of your bank account. If the money is coming out of your bank account, you need to make sure the money is in there and available. I like to use credit cards for most of my automated payments. This gives me a little breathing space when it comes to paying.

2. Use just any personal finance software.

If you aren’t tracking your spending and planning your bills, there’s a good chance you could wind up in trouble. Use personal finance software to track your income and expenses. You can also use it to plan ahead and test out how your bills will impact your cash flow later in the month.

My personal finance software (Moneydance) allows me to set up reminders and automatic transaction entries so I can look ahead and see what bills are coming up. You can also use your own personal finance software to remind you when bills are due.

3. Check out a calendar app.

paying-bills

There are plenty of calendar apps to set up reminders that can help you stay on top of your bills. Google Calendar and iCal from Apple are both good examples. If you do use these apps to pop up reminders for bills, set them to remind you at least 10 days in advance. You want to allow plenty of time for you to make your payment.

Whether you automate, schedule payments ahead of time, or write a check (really, though, who DOES that?), it’s important to look in and make sure everything is squared away. A little calendar reminder can be just the thing to keep you on top of the situation.

4. Designate a specific bill-paying time.

Pick a time of the week or the month to sit down and take care of money matters. I’m to the point where I mostly just check things out once a week. I have a specific time on Sunday (my least busy day) where I look into my accounts to ensure that there are no fraudulent purchases. Then I look in my personal finance software to see what bills are coming up. I verify that they are still on automatic withdrawal and that everything is on point. It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes.

Picking a time to have a sit-down with your money can at least help you pay all the bills due that week. You can also pick a bill-paying day and get everything paid for the whole month. Then you only have to worry about it one time each month, and that can help stay on top of your bills without a great deal of stress.

5. Ask for new due dates.

As you track your spending habits, eventually you’ll notice that sometimes it just doesn’t work out with due dates. Your bill due dates may not mesh with when you have money coming in from your job. If you contact your service providers, you might be able to choose your own due dates. Choose dates that allow you to get money in the bank so it all works out.

Paying bills is never fun, but it’s part of what you have to do as a proper (or even not-so-proper) adult. With a little help, though, you can get it done on time.