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 Post subject: My 'Changing Careers' Journal
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:53 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
Posts: 19
I was hoping to get some accountability for my spending habits and maybe get some feedback from people on how I am doing :) I went back to school two years ago and am now finished my degree. It has been hard to find a full-time job because there is a lot of red tape (I am a teacher) but I was able to take an additional qualification this summer in a high-demand area, so I am hopeful I will get an okay job by Christmas. People keep telling me I am ont he right track, and I have to believe them :) I also have a modest tutoring business which brings in a few hundred dollars a month, and I teach Sunday school. I feel like I am doing everything I can, professionally, to get ahead. It is hard when I keep hearing that I just have to be patient. I have fairly modest needs and a proper job would have me well-set. Right now, I am working in a temporary summer job that is not paying the bills. I may start moonlighting at an evening job just for the month. I do have enough in my savings to cover me even if I don't work this month, but I do not want to deplete all of my savings.

I did my grad school degree overseas, and am still paying off some credit card expenses related to my coming back to North America. This was stuff like my plane ticket home and my fees to get my professional certification transferred. I still have about $1500 on my credit card. Once I get a proper job, I can pay that off in a month, but right now, it will have to stay there. It is down from a high of $5000 so that's some progress. I have a student loan as well which costs $120 a month, but I am not too concerned with it. When I get the teaching job, hopefully in September, I may start paying it down faster, but for now, I am happy to pay the minimum.

What stresses me out a little, money-wise, is that I feel there is really no more wiggle room left to cut. I live in the cheapest area of the city, in a basement apartment. I do not have roommates, but I have cousins who live in the same area and do have them, but it does not cost them less because they pay extra for utilities. All of my utilities (water, power, heat, air conditioning) are included with my rent, and I was able to get free laundry, internet and cable too. I am not very into the cable, but since it is here, I don't mind :) The only extra I pay for is a cell phone (I do not have a landline). My cousins pay over $100 just for cable and internet, so getting a place with included utilities was really a bonus.

I do not have a car. I live near a subway and pay $100 a month for a bus pass. It is well worth the money. A car would be much too expensive and I would have to buy a parking spot because I live downtown and parking is at a premium. I also live near a lot of thrift stores and Asian markets, so food and clothing can be cheaply had. If I buy something like a dvd, I am usually able to sell it back to the used book store. I admit, I do have a bit of a weakness for books and dvds, but I have a rule about not having more books than shelves, so I do purges fairly often and sell stuff I don't need.

I have a very cheap food budget because I have a recently diagnosed food allergy. I cannot have anything with corn in it, so most frozen foods, prepared foods and snack foods are out. I had not realized how much I used to spend on these until I was not buying them anymore! Frozen dinners often have the fat replaced with corn starch as a thickener, and many foods are sweetened with corn syrup. Between that and the large assortment of cheap Asian markets, I have been able to get my food spending down to about $30 a week. My mother thought, when I moved out, that I should budget $100 a week!

Periodically, I do get medical expenses for which I am presently uninsured. I had to get money from my mother when my doctor said I had to get an epi-pen for the food allergies. I hate having to go to her for money! I also made the decision to stop using disposable menstrual products due to the cornstarch in them. I feel much healthier and I know the investment will pay off both in terms of my finances and the environment, but it cost me a little to get it all set up. I also have been seeing a counsellor for a stress issue which was affecting my health, and it has been a good thing, but it costs money. I was able to negotiate a reduced rate with her.

I feel like I am doing a lot right in terms of living frugally and in an environmentally responsible way. I am stressing about what I will do if I do not find a good job come September. I have had offers already for part-time, but I need something full-time. And I will feel a lot better when this credit card is paid off! It is just hard right now because my plans for September are not firm yet and I have little control over that at this point since I am waiting to get in with the school board. I have already upgraded my credential, done some moonlighting to get extra pay, reduced my grocery bill by almost half, and found a living situation that will allow me to save a lot of my take-home pay once I get the proper job which I am pursuing. What else can I do? I am just stumped for other options, and I have no idea what will happen if I can't get a teaching job in September.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 10:25 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 9:50 pm
Posts: 752
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Could you take a short-term part-time job? Or a part-time job that no one will mind if you quit? (E.g. coffee shop, book store, etc) That way, you can keep looking for work and you can bring in some more money in the meantime.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 12:35 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
Posts: 19
Okay, an update from me :) Not sure who is reading, but I really want to be accountable, so even if this is just for me, I am posting :)

I had a really good session with my counsellor the other day, and she said something that's really helping me handle my stress. She asked me three questions:

1) Do I have a plan to pursue the job I want? (yes, and I talked about the steps I am already taking)
2) Do I have a backup plan if I am not able to get that job just yet? (yes, we came up with several options)
3) Do I have a cut-off date by which if I have not gotten the job, I begin implementing the backup plan? (we named a date)

She had me write down my answers to these three questions and we brainstormed ideas for all three areas. So now, if I find myself feeling stressed about not having the job I want yet, or having all of this red tape to get through etc. I just remind myself that it will all be okay because I have a plan, and I am following the plan :) It might seem like a simple sort of affirmation, but it has been working for me to just repeat that I am following the plan. The difficulty this year has been that while I did take a course to upgrade my credentials to get the job I want, the timing is not perfect. For example, I am still waiting for my marks even though I know I passed because I got A's on all my work in the course. And it is very bureaucratic and full of red tape to apply for teaching jobs here, so the delay in getting the marks might disqualify me from this round. What that means is if I do not get the job I want this year, I would almost surely get it next year, but it would mean one more year of being patient and maybe taking another course or something :(

So anyway, here are the steps I took this weekend to improve things short-term:

1) I applied for several evening jobs for the time being. I do not mind doing these short-term and think it will be good to have some free time during the day to pursue the teaching job, which is what I really want to be doing. I am not on this certain list I need to be on in order to apply to the public schools, but my course puts me in a high-demand category and I have heard that if a principal liked me and I was not on the list, they could help me get on it. So I am going to start calling the principals who still have unfilled jobs and just seeing if I can get an appointment to go in and meet them. I interview well and know that if I could just get in to see a few people, it might speed things along for me. I am qualified for the jobs and am a really good candidate, I just need help with some of the red tape right now.

2) I spoke to my mom about helping me out with some of my health expenses. I take care of myself and try not to rely on her to give me money, but she has said she will pay for my health stuff and not to be embarrassed or proud about asking, and I am going to take her up on it. She knows how hard I have worked to get ahead, that I have done everything I possibly can, and that I would never take advantage of her generosity, so in this one area, I will swallow my pride and accept a little help.

3) I emailed the principal of the Sunday school I teach at and asked her if I could take on another class. I am currently committed for an hour a week for the upcoming school year, but I know she has unfilled Sunday spots left. I am not thrilled about having to get up so early for that; the subway does not run quite early enough on Sundays and it makes a 15-minute commute about 45 minutes because I have to walk or get a bus. But it's an extra $60 a week, and considering my summer income was so much lower than planned, I really don't see a choice.

4) I put aside some less-used books and dvd's to sell at the used book store. I already got $60 for a boxed set I sold on ebay. The smaller ones, I'll take to my fav used bookstore and see what I can get.

5) I made a food plan for the week so that I can eat comfortably and not have to buy any groceries. By mid-week, I may be ready for some produce, but I'll get it at the Asian market and avoid the big-box store.

So that's how I'm doing right now :) I am a bot mad at myself for making so much less this summer due to a poor job decision. But I can recoup it, and I'll come out okay :)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:15 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:58 am
Posts: 231
People are reading, they may just not have much to comment on.

Where/why did you get your degree oversea's and where are you now? Are you in Canada? (I'm guessing since you mentioned N. America and not US)

US school systems will hire teachers mid-way through the year. Particularly if you are in a high need area. (didn't you say you were in a high need area, which one?) So it may be a matter of waiting till the certification comes through, not necesarily waiting until next Sept.

Picking up extra hours at sunday school is a good way to get a bit more cash. You're lucky that you get paid. I was under the impression that Sunday school teachers were all volunteer.

Keep posting!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:21 am 
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Posts: 458
Location: England
Could you do substitute teaching if a regular job doesn't come up? I know that some areas have less stringent requirements and others about the same as regular jobs, but it would be an option if your certification didn't come through for the beginning of the academic year.

Having a back up plan sounds like a good idea. If you don't mind me asking, what have you decided for that?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 7:44 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Sandycheeks, I am in Canada, yes. I did my degree in New Zealand but I have a Canadian BA and everything. I am licensed here, but have found the red tape of the public school system difficult to penetrate. Last year, I worked as a supply teacher and teacher aide in a private school. I just took the French specialist course, which is a very high-demand area, so I am hoping that will pay off for me. The way it works is, you have the basic degree, and then you can add additional qualifications. You pretty much need these nowadays since it is a really competitive market right now :) One private school principal told me that he had a record 65 unsolicited resumes this year and only a handful did not have AQ's. Most that did have them had the reading recovery or special education ones. The difference with the French one is not just anyone can take it---you have to actually know French :) Of the jobs the board is still listing, nearly all of them are French jobs, which is what makes the red tape so frustrating, because I know there are jobs, and I know they are hard to fill and I could fill them, but nobody will interview me until I get on the "list."

Plonkee, I am looking into supply teaching as well. My plan is, if by late September I either do not have a full-time job or am not getting enough supply teaching hours, I will look for a nanny job and take another AQ course. At least a nanny job would be with kids, and it would give me a reference for when I apply next time :)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Interesting day today :) I was still trying to get some part-time work, and getting really worried about the money stuff. I noticed that a phone monkey job which had been advertised previously was up again, so I applied again and got a very rude phone call. She asked me why I would apply again if they did not want me the first time, and I said that when I saw it listed again, I thought they must still have an opening, and that I hoped she would respect my initiative. There was a long pause, and then she said "Well, I don't." Oooookay then :) Not much else to do except say okay and hang up, but then I was really down on myself that I could not even get a job as stupid as this one :)

Saw Mom after lunch though and she drove me to the thrift store to get rid of some stuff. My apartment looks so much tidier now, and that made me feel better. She complimented me on the difference my modest efforts this week have made :) And she gave me some money, which I felt horrible about, but am taking for now. And then I heard back from another phone monkey place that I am hired and start work tomorrow! It's not much money, but it's enough to cover my basic expenses until something else comes along, and I can keep it going into September if the teaching is slow, because it's evenings.

Plan for tomorrow:

1) Used book store to unload a few things
2) Bank: deposit used book store money, cheque from Mom, babysitting pay from Saturday (so relieved my balance is over $1000 again!)
3) Apply for two teaching jobs which were listed today
4) Start new job, 4:30 pm


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 3:11 pm 
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Location: England
Good to hear you are having more luck.

Hopefully once the red tape is sorted out you will be able to find a good teaching job. And at least its all Commonwealth countries, that can make things easier.

Whereabouts in NZ did you study? (Took a trip out there a couple of years ago).

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 8:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Hi Plonkee. I was in the Waikato, near Auckland. Lovely area. The best $300 I spent that year was on my health insurance premium though :) It's a basin and all the pollen just sits there stuck between the mountains instead of being blown away. All of the Canadians had terrible allergies.

Got some bad news today re the September job search. I called my school trustee, who was very sympathetic to my plight (many jobs in my area of specialization, not so many people actually answering phones to those who want to apply for them). Anyway, he transfered me to someone who transferred me to someone who pretty unsympathetically told that the only person in the whole wide world who can review my application is on vacation until August 29! So, even if this person got back from vacation, immediately reviewed my application, immediately called me in and hired me, by the time the police check was in order and all the paperwork was done, it will pretty much be Christmas. Apparently, I have to get on the same list to supply teach, so no luck there.

So basically, I still do plan to contact some principals and see what they tell me, but the public school is looking a little unlikely at this point :) My new plan:

1) Continue to pursue the private schools as they come up
2) Get on as many private school supply teacher lists as I can and hope to get in with the public school for January
3) Get a day job I can tolerate so that if nothing comes through, I am not stuck working nights until Christmas

At least the day job pressure is not so bad with me having a bit of income now. I still do want to get things taken care of, obviously, but I am not freaking out so much about rent and food at least :) And who knows, I still may get something good with a private school...

Started the new night job, too, and made $30 in bonuses on my first day. The manager is kind of an ass and is not a sympathetic character at all (he offered to make me a $50 bet on something at one point, and I'm thinking 'if I had an extra $50 would I really be working nights, here?') On the plus, we get paid regardless of whether we sell or not (my last phone job was 100% commission which I could not handle) and it really seems like it is not too difficult to get a few commissions. And the whole spiel we have to give the customers takes about 10 minutes, so the time does go by a little faster than some jobs like this.

I keep reminding myself that this is a temporary situation. It is frustrating because I feel a little bit like people have been saying 'just be patient and it will all come together soon' for a really long time now, and I am still waiting for the payoff. And I have just worked SO hard and literally done everything humanly possible to upgrade my credentials and get myself into a better situation: I take courses, teach Sunday school, tutor and babysit in my spare time, I am a super-hard worker, I do literally everything and I am still struggling so much, and that is a little frustrating. I feel like I am due for a bit of a break. But I guess I just have to keep trying, remind myself it could be worse, and take advantage of every opportunity to better myself...


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 8:50 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Whew, another update :) I finally got an interview date with the public school board! It's only a week away though! Apparently, it is to be a grueling interview too: an hour, altogether, with half of it being French and English oral and half being French written. Eep! There are no guarantees, of course, but if I am successful, then it will be a union job with great pay and benefits...


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 12:30 pm 
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Location: England
Good to hear good news.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 11:40 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Okay, an update from me :)

I did not get on the school board hiring list, but I did get on their subbing list. I was just processing that when I got an offer from a private school for a full-time job! I start on Tuesday and I am very excited. The pay is MUCH more than I have made before, there are health benefits, and they will pay for any professional development courses I take while I work there. I feel like this is a real step forward. Either I love it there and decide to stay, or I am in a much stronger position to apply to the public schools again next year because I will have a job and some more professional development under my belt, and I will know what to expect from the interview. I was at a bit of a disadvantage this year because they waited to contact me untilI finished the French course, so I did not get interviewed until very late in the process. Next year, I should be interviewed in March and that way I will have a little more time to take care of some of the documentation they need.

So, my current financial goals are:

1) Pay off the credit card (this should not take more than a month or maybe two)
2) Save emergency fund of $5000
3) Once this is done, put half of any monthly surplus toward student loan and other half to savings fund

Sound like a plan? :)


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 7:26 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:28 pm
Posts: 147
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Hi Joanna,

nothing finance related, but you mentioned that you developed a food allergy. What are your symptons when you do eat corn?
I'm asking because just before turning 30, I started having really bad inflammated eye lids. People at work asked me if I had been in fights and stuff like that. Took me a couple of months to figure it out what caused it. Doctors did not help here. It turned out that it started when we got a new coffee machine at work that could make cappuccino, where the milk part came from powder. I used to get at least one of those every day. Someday I noticed that my eyes were itching like crazy right after I had one. Same with the hot chocolate.
I stopped drinking them, but the problem persisted (but less itching). Then I tried to avoid dairy products altogether, and things really improved. I can have the occasional pizza or milk chocolate, but not on a daily basis. I got used to it, though I now have to take supplements for calcium and zinc, or else I lose hair like crazy. *sigh* Sure sign of getting old? Or just another civilization disease?

Lars


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:31 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:29 pm
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Hi floppel. I started having problems about two years ago---itchy, inflamed eyes and patches of weird dry, itchy skin around my mouth and nose. I saw several student health doctors (I was in grad school at the time) and they all swore it was 'just eczema.' I have that at times too and know what it looks like, and I was 100% sure this was not eczema, but nobody believed me. I was actually in a fair amount of misery with it for almost two years before I finally got it nailed down because it had cleared up and then one day I ate some mixed vegetables with corn, and it came back right away. I got tested for it, and sure enough, that's what it was. I have some other minor food issues as well (oral allergy syndrome which means I react to certain raw fruits although I can have them cooked, and intolerance issues with bread (I can have tortilla and flat bread but not load bread) and dairy. It has been a big adjustment. Corn is the really big one for me though. It won't kill me, but I definitely pay if I eat something with corn! The doctor thought I should be fine with cornstarch and the like, but that proved not to be true, so I avoid nearly all prepared/frozen/convenience foods.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:07 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:28 pm
Posts: 147
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
I also had problems with the skin around my mouth. Got dry, burned and peeled off every couple of days. Still have that occasionally. What kind of test did you take? I had a PRICK test (the one where they put drops of all kinds of stuff on your forearm and scratch the skin and check after 20 minutes whether any irritation occurred) which was completely negative. The doc said it was probably neurodermatitis/atopic eczema and that's most likely genetically caused and there can be done nothing about it except to treat the symptoms. When I mentioned the reactions from milk powder (I was already having an idea then) he just said I should avoid it, if I thought that helped. *sigh*
But enough of that. ;)


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