When you have your dream job, but you still have to move away

I know it is totally not okay to talk about your job online, but I’m gonna blab for a minute.

The short story is for the last 18 months I’ve been working in what feels like my dream job. The position was created specifically for me, I manage a growing state-wide program with plenty of ongoing funding and support, I get to work with under-served populations I feel very strongly about in an area I value (vague enough for you?). Our data show incredible amounts of improvement in almost all of our geographic locations.

Last summer I took a graduate-level course through the University to learn more about my field and the group of people who help deliver my program around the state. I learned a little and got access to some excellent resources and discussions…but honestly? I was not wowed or amazed by all this BRAND NEW INFORMATION. My department (boss and co-worker) wrote a huge chunk of the curriculum based on data that we all are pretty well-versed in, so if I had no concept of the course contents I’d be a lot more concerned.

I also attended the national conference for the program I manage and…I also didn’t learn a ton. My state is at the forefront of what we do; so I shared a lot of our best practices and have fielded many requests for copies of our resources and documents, but after 3 days of conferencing I had exactly two solid ideas for improvement of the program and it’s delivery in my state. Two. (For scale, I shared about 30 ideas, all really, really great ones.)

So…what am I trying to say? That I’m the Super Best Employee and everything I touch is gold? Ha! Not even close. I was incredibly lucky to be in the right place at the right time with an fantastic, supportive and long-seeing boss, the type who can Make Things Happen and is able to see the long-term view of a project and how it can grow, and together we set up the structure to support long-term growth and improvement.

I have a big, state-wide meeting tomorrow to wrap up the program for the year. I am driving to Arizona on Saturday to join my sweetheart and all of my things and start life anew there.

This has been the plan for the last nine months, I made no secret about my plans and intentions when talking to my office colleagues, I wanted my boss to have plenty of time to figure out her next steps, plenty of time to hire a replacement and let me have a few weeks with them to transfer some of the industry knowledge into their spongey, new-hire brain.

My replacement has not been hired. My position has not even been posted because–again, due to an incredible amount of luck and a supportive boss–I will be keeping my dream job, move to Arizona be damned. I signed the contract a few weeks ago, I’ll be working remotely and coming back to Salt Lake a few times a year for meetings and trainings and program delivery. You guys, this was perhaps the one, single thing that has kept me sane over the last two months. The idea of not having to start from scratch in a job hunt, the idea of not truly leaving the colleagues I respect so much, the idea of not walking away quite yet from this program I built and poured my soul into.


Will there be new challenges in working remotely, working from home, and being primarily alone all day? Sure. Absolutely. Am I more than capable of tackling those challenges head on? I like to think so. I shall begin that process Monday, there is zero down-time in this transition. Just enough time for me to drive 700 miles south and plug in my computer.

Gah! I love technology so much! Yay for email and webinar and video conferencing! Yay for file sharing and cloud storage and office iChat. [Insert wild-waving, cyber arms here.]

Do you work remotely? At home? Mostly via some kind of telecommute? Any tips you’d care to throw my way? Or blogs/posts I should read and pay attention to? Feed me, my people! This is a whole new mind-set for me!

Harriet sig

Four months vs one week

I know you “aren’t supposed” to talk about how busy you are and blah blah blah. I get it. But I’m gonna talk about it anyway.

My job is pretty cyclical, and mostly tied to the academic year. So “back to school” time–you know, back in August when I basically stopped writing here/doing anything else–was when life got super crazy in general, and then mid-September was a huge conference that I planned entirely and also presented at on two different topics. Seven hundred and fifty attendees, ya’ll! High school, middle school, and elementary school counselors coming for a day of professional development and workshops on helping underserved students (including students of color, low income students, minority students, and first generation students) and their families become college and career ready. This conference was almost twice as big as it was last year, and the sheer numbers were completely staggering.

Immediately following this event I launched the state-wide program that I manage, complete with a fair amount of traveling to trainings around the state, spreadsheets and documents being constantly updated, coordination with media and our ad agency for state-wide promotion, interviews and site visits. It is a ton of work and an even larger amount of satisfaction.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this I painted the rest of our house in Arizona and designed and supervised costume construction for a competitive Shakespearean team comprised of 50+ high school students (who ended up taking home all sorts of trophies). I squeezed in a trip to see my younger sister in Chicago, and a few little weekend jaunts to love on Nature a bit.

Starting in earnest in about mid-October, I began packing up my entire apartment. Ten thousand books (an approximation), a hundred pairs of shoes, and ten years of my life living in my lovely neighborhood.  The Saturday before Thanksgiving a dozen of my very favorite people showed up to help load all those boxes and bookshelves onto a rented moving truck. Blue Eyes and I left that afternoon and spent 2 days driving to Arizona–a loaded truck tops out at about 38 mph going up mountain passes and plateaus. I then spent 2 days unloading and unpacking like a crazy person, organizing books and setting up rooms to be cozy and homey.

And then, you know, we turned right around and drove back to Salt Lake for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m here for another week to wrap up stuff in my office and then my houseplants and I will make the drive south and become Arizona residents.

Looking back on this, I don’t really know how 4 or 5 paragraphs can truly describe the levels of stress and anxiety I’ve been under since July. In many ways I’ve had to force myself not to think about it because I did not have the time to be overwhelmed. I had to put my head down and plow through. I’ve been plowing a long time, and I’m exhausted.

One more week.


Harriet sig

School's Out for the Summer!!!

I realize that those of you with kiddos are probably gearing up for back to school, or have perhaps started already. And that is super fantastic for you and the kids! Structure! Brain workouts! Hours not spent entertaining bored children! I’ve loved seeing pics of my nieces and nephews and other loved littles as they head back to school this week.

However, as of yesterday morning I am officially out of school. I took a grad-level class this summer as a sort-of professional development project for my job. I work in higher education in my state and my job entails training high school counselors how to help their students be more prepared for college, including applications, FAFSA completion/financial aid, and the transition from high school grad to college freshman. The class I took focused on all those things and is geared for grad students in their final year of a Master’s degree in high school counseling.

You guys, I totally aced it. Like, a “98% A!” aced it. This is not to say that I didn’t learn anything, but the most valuable pieces for me were not the instructions and readings on methods, strategies, and programs to help students become college ready. My office literally wrote the curriculum for those sections and I live and breathe it every day at work. The most valuable part of this course was the discussion boards where I could interact with counselors and learn more about what they do outside of college advising. Did you know that helping students understand the college application/enrollment and financial aid processes are not actually part of a counselor’s job description but rather fall into “other duties as assigned” ?! No WONDER my high school counselor was not at all helpful as I tried to navigate that process as a 17-year old kid! More and more counselors are wanting to take on those kinds of responsibilities and work with students and families to facilitate a smoother transition into college…but dang, I was shocked that it is not required or even recommended and, until 2 years ago (at least in my state), there was zero training for counselors and counselors-to-be on how to figure out how to create a successful “college going culture” within their school. Zero.

I won’t get into all the details about college going rates for my state (fair, but not great), or college graduation rates (we have the highest drop-out rate for women IN THE COUNTRY!), or FAFSA completion rates (we have the lowest completion rate in the country–that’s the bad side of that scale), and all the other data pieces that land on my desk. But I do want to say that the program I run–focusing on helping students figure out the “getting to college” process–is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever been part of, I love going to work, I love the work I do, and I am learning to better understand the roadblocks I come across along the way (see above paragraph about counselor training).

You guys, at age 32 I feel like I am in my dream job. Sure, I’d love eleventy-jillion more dollars in my bank account, but I LOVE what I do and am immensely satisfied with my work-self. Which means it’s time to seriously consider a Master’s degree…. gulp!

Harriet sig

Working 9 to 5: how men have it all wrong

Warning: Fuck-words on the horizon…

Over the next few weeks my office will (hopefully) hire someone to fill the now-empty office of my boss. Now, this office has an enormous responsibility within the state and our industry at both a local and national level. It’s no small thing. Today we met the four final candidates and got a chance to hear them present on some major topics pertinent to our department and have an informal chat with each candidate to ask and answer questions about the more day-to-day aspects of this position.

All four candidates are women.

My department consists of ten women.

The rest of my company is dominated by men, particularly in upper management (i.e. my industry is not one primarily made up of women).

As a department, my colleagues and I work well together, we collaborate and exchange ideas, we rely on data, we present our programs and initiatives to a wide range of constituents, we partner with community, state, and national entities to further our projects and aims. We have learned how to cut through red tape–lots of red tape–we both rely on funding from and report to the state legislature, and partner with state and local boards and community organizations. In the last five years we have made tremendous change and improvement in our industry and have been recognized at national levels for the work we take on and the initiatives we create and promote (yes, I’m being deliberately vague, sorry/not sorry. #dooce).

In a word, we GET SHIT DONE.

YES! I know, it’s kind of shocking, I suppose, but we women ACTUALLY DO OUR JOBS WHILE WE ARE AT WORK!!! Whaaaaaa!??! Inconfuckingceivable!!

We don’t cry and ignore data and fall in love with our male colleagues and sit around and gossip instead of doing our jobs. We accomplish more in any given month than most places of business are likely to complete in a financial quarter.

Yet, there is still crap like this floating around the world, getting traction and supportive comments:

A training on “how to deal with women” for the newly elected Austin City council.

Female scientists should be kept out of the lab, they just cry and fall in love with me.

I can’t work one-on-one with a woman in the office because that’s like cheating on my wife…

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Dear Men: I show up at my office every day because I am passionate about what I do, I want to make a difference and change lives for the better. I am not interested in having a lusty, romantic affair with Office Ink.

Dear Men: I am damn good at my job, I am capable and talented and have all the qualifications and experience to excel at my job. If you need training on how to “deal” with a capable and experienced colleague in a professional work setting the problem is NOT me, it is you.

Dear Men: Ya’ll have been In Charge in many ways for thousands and thousands of years, especially in a political or professional setting. Your track record is pretty dismal. Why are you so damn scared of opening up to the idea that the other half of the population may have something positive to add to the way you do business? It is proven world-wide that governments, companies, and communities who have higher levels of equality–true equality–between men and women have happier, healthier constituents and their profit margins increase. WHY DO YOU NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THIS DATA?!

Dear Men: I am so over the douchebag, self-entitled “I’m so great everyone probably wants to sleep with me” attitude. I am willing to talk about feminism and the completely radical notion that women are humans too and should be treated with the same respect and given the same rights and opportunities as their penis-weilding counterparts. But I am unwilling to continue to pander to or even engage with this kind of bullshit. Get it together. It is 2015. No matter your industry or profession women will be in your workplace. In order to stay relevant and–GASP–continue to be successful throughout the remainder of your career you need to re-examine these outdated patriarchal notions of male superiority and “universal” “emotional” characteristics of women (romance, love, crying, not liking data) that you view as unsuitable in an office or professional setting. Get over yourself. You sound like a fucking Neanderthal.

Harriet sig