Sunday, January 13, 2013

My biggest weakness

I've never had an entrepreneurial mindset. I work for others and live paycheck to paycheck, that's what I have always done. My first jobs consisted of an hourly wage and very hard work. I started working at the young age of 11 or 12 with a newspaper route, then at the local fair cooking and serving corn dogs and lemonade. That job was followed up with a cashier position at the local Long John Silvers where I had regular five or ten cent raises that seemed great at the time. I never broke a full dollar in raises during the 3 years I worked there and believe me I worked hard and fast. Since then I have continued to apply for jobs, earn anywhere from 5 to 8 to 15 dollars per hour, and nothing has ever changed. That includes my current salaried position where I work very hard for about 15 dollars per hour, teaching art in the public education system. Teachers pay is public. You can go to any school district website and download the Salary Schedule, and examine the graph according to years of service and level of education. I have a Masters degree in Teaching and this is my fourth year of service. If you take the average teaching salary, especially for new teachers, and divide that up to an hourly wage, it's typically 15 per hour, or 30,000 per year.

Then there is Melanie. My BFF from college. Her first job was at a hotel and restaurant, where she made a serving wage, tips, and sometimes more. She was home schooled for part of her life. She got into running and planning events during high school. She made around 15 per hour at her very first job on many days, sometimes more. In college, she didn't settle for any job that paid less than 12 per hour, and she was extremely successful at landing high paying jobs, whether it was hourly or serving at high end hotel functions. She passed down a job offer to me once, 8 per hour at a Tshirt design store, it worked for me a little while. Melanie also studied a wide array of business related classes in college, as well as marketing, public relations, and cooking. She spent time as a radio deejay and planning events in Springfield. She does things smart, and very different than me. Her first jobs outside of college were very successful financially and related to her skills and talents, within universities and local hospitals.

I worked as a bank teller. That's not even the worst, with my Bachelors degree in history and a minor in Studio Art, I graduated in 2006 with no training in any specific career field, other than writing history papers, creating art, and some basic Spanish skills. I started applying for jobs in Kansas City, with interviews at the Public Parks Department as a secretary. Before getting the job at Bank of America, I worked for no less than 7 dollars per hour at the front desk of the Independence YMCA. Not kidding. I applied for whatever jobs I could find in the area, and that one offered a recent college graduate the lowest wage legally possible. Needless to say, that summer at the YMCA I applied for my first ever credit card, to purchase GROCERIES. Sandwich meat, bread, kool-aid packets, and ramen noodles.

I also borrowed a thousand dollars from my hometown credit union to pay my first months rent while I found a job. I scrimped, I paid the loan off, I ate leftover chips and salsa from the YMCA break room, and eventually thru a family friend I put on a black dress suit, printed another resume, and got hired as a bank teller. I had made it. Graduated and was on salary, working in Kansas City at a bank.

That job was fulfilling enough to inspire me to quit after about a year. I could have worked up, tried for a position as a personal banker, but the heavy emphasis on sales drove me away. Bank tellers bombarding people with credit card offers while they tried to cash their paycheck wasn't very rewarding. That was demeaning and so was my boss at the time, although looking back I kind of feel sorry for her trying to survive as well. So I did about the only thing I knew I could do and had been putting off, I went back to college, borrowed 25,000 dollars for a teacher certification and degree, and began teaching.

My positive mindset was/is this: I can teach and be a positive influence for youth, while spending all the breaks and summers traveling the world. I can live in my home state with family and have a loving relationship, and spend every extra penny on plane tickets and unforgettable experiences. I will be home for the holidays already.

So has it worked? Mostly. Am I traveling? For my first 3 years of teaching yeah, I traveled every chance I got. Do I earn enough money to live my dreams? Not right now. Car maintenance, medical debt, that pesky credit card, and those college/career loans keep getting in the way.

In my last post I outlined my now 18 month plan to getting debt free except for the college loans. If I had a mortgage my chances of travel would be zero. If I had a kid? Less than zero. The worst thing that could happen would be failing health and/or medical debt, because we all know how safe we are in that arena.

So, back to the entrepreneurial mindset. I always admire Melanie and her ability to turn skills, talent, and opportunities into real income. I've decided to become a self-taught entrepreneur. It's something that maybe every person should study, especially artists. I look back at my past and the one thing I do always have is a desire to learn. I'm a true knowledge seeker. When I'm not doubting myself I also have a lot of talent, skills, and things to work with. At least I have learned not to return to the college debt trap and seek my knowledge on the web where it is free and I can learn from others.

Well that confession felt pretty good. Now you know some of my story and hopefully sharing it will bring about good things rather than harm. Maybe you see the distinction between the type of people that work for low pay their entire lives and the type that can turn ideas into real success. I'm hoping to make the transition out of the "always working for someone else" mindset and do something BIG and interesting.