Friday, May 09, 2003


After a nine-year hiatus . . . or, "just a dollar a day"

Today I had a job interview. I am a grad student with minimal summer funding/employment. So, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do for some cash over the summer. I considered applying for internships, getting a job waiting tables, even temping. I ended up deciding I didn't want to spend 40 hours a week in an office, and that I really didn't want to do anything too academic - I'll give my brain a break. So, I began searching the want ads online - monster and hotjobs and the local online papers' classifieds. I found a listing that evoked long-dormant memories of sitting in a sweltering room in New York City, reading a free weekly (the Voice I think). Nine years ago, I applied for a job at Greenpeace. They were my only option then - no one else wanted to hire an eighteen-year-old girl with a very limited employment history who had recently moed, bag and baggage, to New York City with her seventeen-year-old best friend. Last week I found an ad that, I knew, was for a canvassing position. I thought, "do I really want to do this again? I mean, it was ok when I was eighteen, but do I really want to spend my summer evenings knocking on the doors of suburbanite strangers and asking them for money?"

Surprisingly, I found that the answer was, "well, yeah!" So, I called, and expressed interest, and mentioned my previous Greenpeace experience. An appointment for an interview was duly offered and accepted, and so, today, at 4:30 PM, I was interviewed for a canvassing position with MPIRG. The interview went pretty well - I mean, I have pleanty of experience talking to unwilling or uninterested people - organizing for the union at Penn State, working for Greenpeace for about 10-11 months, and teaching (which is, sometimes, the most challenging persuasive task of the three!). I talked about active listening, maintained good eye contact throughout the interview, and all that.

So, on May 19, I go in for training: I'll get to partner with someone and go out canvassing with them. I was atrainer for Greenpeace, and now I am again a trainee. I was, for a while, the baby of the Greenpeace office, and I will be among the elders of the MPIRG group. I knew a whole hell of a lot about the different Greenpeace campaigns, and I know almost nothing about the current MPIRG issue - energy policy. It's such a weird reversal.

Why would a 27-year-old PhD student choose this as a viable summer employment option? Well, I'll get to know a whole bunch of people I would never know otherwise. I'll learn about current and important local issues. I'll get paid to be an activist. I'll feel good about myself this summer. I'll spend the summer being more of a part of the solution than a part of the problem. I'll get to study human nature firsthand and up-close again (a perk that few think about, but one of my favorites - well, when people are being nice, anyway).

Sure, I could be doing something to build up my vita and/or I could be earning more money. But there is more to life than money and professional development. Sometimes it's hard to remember this - especially in grad school, where the job market looms, daily getting closer and scarier. But being a well-rounded person with convictions and a willlingness to act upon them is part of being a good educator and researcher, in my oh-so-humble opinion.

Three weeks from now I might be whining about slogging through torrential downpours across a neighborhood depopulated by Friday night activities and bemoaning my decision, but I'll hope not!

So, this summer, it's back to asking, "if you could just support us with a donation of $365.00. That's only a dollar a day for the year; when you think of it that way, it's so very little, and yet your donation of $365.00 will mean so much, make such a difference." Hey, it's not a career move, folks, but it's summer employment with a conscience-soothing aspect. I'm satisfied!

- posted by laurie @ 5/09/2003 05:08:00 PM
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