Victory Laps | What was your biggest accomplishment of 2013?
It’s pretty cool to look back at my year and be able to say, “I have to pick the biggest accomplishment of all these things?!”
I learned to ski. I learned to sorta mountain bike. I did not at all learn to surf, but I tried. I successfully planned a wedding. I became a member of Club 41, which is for the
suckers season ticket holders that had their tickets used at every Timberwolves game. I ran my first half-marathon. I became a regular bike commuter and met my mileage goal. I passed the Certified Health Education Specialist exam. I hiked the strenuous Kalalau Trail in Kaua’i.
It was a good year for gettin’ things crossed off The List, if I had a ‘The List.
But my biggest accomplishment of 2013 was getting my new job. For the first time in my (pretty short) career, I have a job that has benefits, stability, and is not grant-funded. In public health, this is a Mythical Job. Maybe more importantly than the compensation, it was the first time I really felt like I had a choice in whether or not to take a job. In 2010, I took my first job in my professional field because it was interesting and only idiots didn’t take high-paying student internships. And I kept that job, sans benefits, for a long time because I had hope it would turn into something more or I would find another, but neither happened before I was finally laid off. In early 2012, I took a part-time job in the same field after filling out over 70 job applications in the 92 days I was unemployed (and miserable). Later that year, my first big break came and I accepted a great job with the organization I am with currently. Even though it was a good job, I still felt like I had to take it. My health insurance would run out in a matter of months and my part-time, short-term position was heavy on both the part-time and short-term. Fast forward a year and a job in my organization opens up. I know the hiring supervisor well. I know my skill set matches. I know if I don’t get it, I already have a job I like and am good at.
I applied for the job and it felt strange because for the first time I wasn’t laying false confidence over extreme desperation. I was actually confident. I realized I had some power. For the first time in my career, I had the opportunity to say no, if I wanted to. The opportunity to say no makes the playing field seem a whole lot more fair. When an initial offer was made (huzzah!), I didn’t think it was my place to negotiate for better compensation, but I felt confident enough to be more assertive about some of my credentials and certifications that ended up earning me a better job rank and pay.
I thought that confidence and feeling of power (control might really be a better word) wouldn’t matter after I got the job and successfully advocated for better compensation. But I am actually more confident at work every day even now, 3 months later. It is invigorating to be in a job that I chose. It doesn’t hurt that I love the work I do and believe in the mission, but there is something about having just started on the right foot that feels so awesome, so right.
I was terrified to stick my neck out and to apply for a job in my own organization. I knew there were potential consequences– the rumor mill is as alive and well in my workplace as any other workplace on the planet– and it seemed easier to just leave the organization than cause ripples. I never wanted anyone to think I was ungrateful for the job I had or to think I wasn’t a committed employee (for staying in the position only a year). It wasn’t easy to have to be a bit secretive and then surprise co-workers with bad news. But I have really learned how important it is to advocate for myself in my career, and that is a skill that won’t go on my resume but will make a huge difference when I apply for the next job or promotion.