Today’s post is from a mentee of mine whom I have known for almost twenty years. She has a daughter (who has now gone to college), and I thought she could provide a perspective on job searching with different family considerations to mine. Enjoy!
I am a board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist who recently completed a Ph.D. As my Ph.D. program began drawing to a close, I realized it was time to search for what my husband affectionately refers to as a “real job.” Fortunately for us, there were numerous positions available for anesthesiologists at this time. We had the additional benefit of temporary financial security afforded by my husband’s thriving small animal general practice. This allowed me to search for the ideal job not only for myself, but one that suited our evolving family dynamic as well. As we prepared to send our 18-year-old daughter off to college at an out-of-state institution roughly 4 hours from home, we realized that it was important to stay within driving distance of her. She was starting college as a biology major and jazz percussion minor while devoting time to an SEC marching band. We realized that it was a priority to see her performances and moving across the country for a job just did not support this goal.
This led me to realize that the perfect job isn’t necessarily what is written in the contract nor is it completely dependent on salary and benefits package. The perfect job is one in which you not only achieve job satisfaction but enjoy the unwritten benefits as well. For me, these benefits revolve around the family, but it may be different for everyone. Given the recent attention to mental health and suicide within the veterinary profession, it is important to find a job that allows for both professional and personal growth and satisfaction. Therefore, when considering a position, it is important to consider your life goals and priorities outside of the salary and benefits alone.
So, let’s talk about salary and benefits. I intentionally accepted a lower salary than I wanted. You may be thinking that I am devaluing my potential worth. However, after considering things such as the cost of living and the close proximity to my daughter the salary wasn’t that low. While there is some evidence that salary is related to happiness level, a study in Nature Human Behavior found that the satiation point for life evaluation was $95,000 and for positive emotions was $65,000. Ultimately, a small increase in salary may help on your path to financial freedom but won’t necessarily increase your happiness level. You have to consider what is more important to you, happiness or money. For me, the job I accepted allowed me to be close enough to the most important things in my life, my husband and daughter. When considering priorities, is a small loss in salary worth the joy of being with the ones you love? I argue that it is 100% worth it!
What about the benefits? For me, the mother of a college student, tuition costs are always at the forefront of my mind. When searching for academic jobs, especially as a parent, it is vital to get all the information on tuition benefits and discounts for your offspring. These additions have the potential to add up to close to $20K per year. It certainly did for us. As a parent or spouse, you also have to be cognizant of the fact that unexpected things may happen. You may need to be available for them with little notice. Being the sole practitioner or specialist in practice makes it extremely challenging to find coverage. Often times, family leave or vacation has to be planned well in advance. With a cohesive team of 2-4 colleagues in your specialty area or private practice, the burden to switch shifts may lessen, particularly if you are willing to help your co-workers in return.
As a last note, when interviewing for a job, it is important to deemphasize your family or personal situation. You are there to focus on the job and what you can bring to that institution. That being said, I did mention family as a rationale for some of my decisions but did not focus on this during the interview. While I received generally positive feedback when briefly mentioning my family dynamic, I had to rely a lot on intuition and “gut feeling”. Our subconscious brain is able to detect subtle behavior cues from your surroundings. It is therefore important to trust your intuition and use this to aid in determining the level of support your potential future co-workers will provide. Choosing a job with supportive and empathetic co-workers will help in your pursuit of happiness and allow you more freedom to balance your work and family dynamic. Finally, your superiors and colleagues should support your pursuit of happiness. There is some evidence that happiness is linked to productivity, so keeping employees happy is mutually beneficial.
Ultimately, I chose a job that did not offer the perfect salary but was instead the best choice for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. My daughter receives a tuition discount and I am close enough to see her musical performances. It also allows my husband to grow his small animal practice yet to be close enough for us to maintain a healthy relationship. During the interview process, I had a good feeling about my co-workers and superiors, so, in the end, it just “felt right.”