Getting Paid (and paid to learn)

by Lorien E. Menhennett

My Facebook post Thursday afternoon was as follows:

I’d almost forgotten the great satisfaction of successfully making a deadline, and knowing that I’ll actually get *paid* for the work I’ve just completed. Key word: PAID.

In the last two years, I have worked insanely hard in school. Exams, lab reports, homework assignments … a flurry of academic activity. It was very rewarding, to be sure, to be learning new and fascinating material (and to receive stellar marks for my efforts). But there is something about the work world, about completing a task and receiving monetary compensation for it. I’m not saying that it is more rewarding, just rewarding in a different sense. While in school, your efforts lead to greater understanding and knowledge (definitely a good thing); with paid work your efforts lead to financial independence and an ability to afford what you need (and sometimes what you want).

As I said, I am not touting one over the other, just that they are different. And I am enjoying feeling the sense of satisfaction that comes from earning money. Not that I believe that money is the key to happiness. However, right now I am in some debt – not terrible, but debt nonetheless – and doing some paid work will allow me to eventually pay back that debt, which will be a fantastic and freeing feeling.

It’s been more than three years, since March of 2009, that I have had a paid job. At that time, I was a textbook editor for McGraw-Hill in downtown Chicago. Monday, March 2, 2009, more than 40 editors, including myself, were laid off. We had only hours to clean out the cubicles that we had decorated and nested in to make our homes for eight hours out of every day of the work week. It was a traumatic and terrible experience.

I went on unemployment and began looking for a job (a fruitless search). However, prior to being laid off, I had been thinking about returning to school to do a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program, and soon I decided that this would be the perfect time to do just that. So I did. And I never looked back.

Now that I have postponed my medical school application, though, I am back in the working world as a freelance writer and editor – back to my roots, so to speak. And honestly, I am enjoying it. Not that I want that as my lifetime career; I have already determined that. In fact, it is in part the content I am working with that has made this freelance work so interesting and engaging to me.

Serendipitously, I called a good friend a few weeks ago to chat. We hadn’t talked in a few weeks, and I wanted to know how she was doing. She works as a senior editor for Joint Commission Resources, which is the publishing arm of the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission is the organization that develops standards to regulate, and then accredits, hospitals and other health care facilities. Part way into our conversation, out of the blue, she asked whether I wanted to do some freelance work for Joint Commission Resources. I was just about broke at the time, scrambling to make ends meet and searching (fruitlessly again) for jobs. Of course I jumped at the chance.

Really, I did it for the money. I’ll be honest. But, serendipitously again, I have been learning a great deal through the revision work I am doing – in addition to gaining that feeling of satisfaction from doing work and getting paid for it. You can’t get much better than that, can you?