I Took a Big Pay Cut to Make a Career Change
I should admit up front that Abby Wolfe and I go way back. All the way to November 2015 when I began working for The Muse, and when Wolfe was an editorial intern. That fact in and of itself is hardly interesting, but Wolfe wasn’t a college senior eager to break into the world of editing upon graduation when she accepted the internship.
No, Wolfe was about to be a bonafide career changer. Exploring writing opportunities was a part of her path to breaking away from being at the beck and call of clients and corporate politics, where she’d spent the bulk of her relatively short career thus far. She felt undervalued and unexcited.
As an undergrad student, Wolfe says she “had no idea” what she wanted to do with her life. She studied that which interested her: criminal justice, psychology of spirituality, and psychology of exercise.
After a couple of jobs following graduation that Wolfe found anything but fulfilling, she began to wonder, “Maybe I’m the problem.”
As a project coordinator, Wolfe found herself frustrated constantly “chasing after people.” The work was repetitive, and she thought she might like writing.
Hence the internship at The Muse. 20 hours a week meant Wolfe could write, edit, participate in weekly pitch meetings, and get a really good feel for all-things digital media.
To find out what Wolfe is up to now, keep reading:
Did The Muse Internship Convince You to Pursue a Job in Digital Media?
Yes, it definitely did! After my first two jobs, I had a lot of skepticism about “the corporate world,” and I convinced myself I’d never be happy in it. The Muse changed that for me. I finally found work that not only didn’t feel like work (at least most of the time), but that also made me feel valued, purposeful, and happy.
The cherry on top was that the editorial team felt like an instant family to me, even though I worked remotely. (I still miss Tuesday evening pitch meetings, Google Hangout glitches and all.)
When looking for new gigs, my top three search terms were “health,” “writing,” and “editorial.” I interviewed for the job I have now and an editorial coordinator position at the same time. While only part of my current job is digital media work, it was the best fit for me for right now. And, though my full-time job box is checked off for now, I’m always looking for more opportunities in digital media.
What Are You Doing Now?
I’m a health education coordinator at university in Washington, DC. There are a lot of pieces to my job, but in a nutshell: I manage social media for the wellness center, I manage approximately 20 students who are peer wellness coordinators (coaching students on alcohol, drugs, sexual health), and I meet one-on-one with students sent to the health and wellness center for a variety of issues.
You Took a Pretty Significant Pay Cut for This Role, Yes? How’s That Working Out for You?
When I accepted the offer for the role I’m in now, I was more than OK with the 20% salary decrease. And while I’m doing fine, I must admit it’s been an adjustment. Fortunately, I can still pay my monthly bills without too much worry.
It’s a constant learning process, but I’m not in this line of work for the money. I’ve chased money enough times in the past to know that it’s good for my wallet but not for my soul. I just, unfortunately, chose a lower paying industry in one of the most expensive cities in the country.
In What Way(s) Do You Think the Internship Helped Give You Career Direction?
I think, most importantly, the internship taught me that there are jobs out there that I’ll like. I was so afraid that I was the issue—that I was being a typical Millennial, I’d never be happy with anything, and I was doomed to either suck it up or be unhappy for life. But no, the problem wasn’t me. It was the path I’d decided to follow—great for others, oh so wrong for me.
In addition, it made me such a better writer. I love writing, and writing as my career is a dream. I’m so many steps closer to achieving that dream because of those 10 months as an editorial intern.
Are There Any Other Skills You’re Using Now That You Honed in the Internship?
First, as you know, creating content for a specific audience requires lots of intentional thought (and data analysis) about what the readers want. I need to apply this same practice to four main areas of my job—the three social media platforms I manage (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), the content for a monthly newsletter called The Flushington Post, any marketing materials I create for events or programs, and for workshop protocols we use to educate students on a variety of health topics.
What’s the Best Part of Your Job?
I really like working at a university. I love that my meetings are in different buildings. I’m outside walking a lot. It’s a beautiful campus, the people are fun people to be around. Also, I’m doing so many different things throughout the day, including arts and crafts. I’m using so many different parts of my brain. Oh, and I love that I don’t have conference calls on a regular basis.
What Career Advice Do You Have for Wannabe Changers or People Who Aren’t Happy Where They Are?
If you’re unhappy where you are, I first suggest examining why that is. Take a few steps back and become objective for a moment—is there something about your current job that, if it changed, would make you loads happier? If yes, is it changeable? You don’t want to rush out the door and potentially leave something great behind, you know?
But, if you’re dead set on switching your path, then my advice is very simple. Do it. Before you can talk yourself out of it, make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do it and then figure out everything you need to do to set the wheels in motion.
For me, it was committing to working 20 extra hours a week and then determining just how and where I’d fit those hours in. It also included consulting with my partner, whose opinion and feelings I highly value.
Your story will probably look different, especially if you have children, are taking care of an elderly family member, or have monstrous student loans, for example. But don’t be afraid to commit to yourself and at least try to figure out how you could do it, even if you take one small step at a time. I know this is cheesy, but you only have one life, ya know? Why spend it miserable if you don’t have to?
Want to read more career-changer stories? There are plenty of them out there, but here are a couple of our personal favorites: