is it better to love my job or love the money?

Per Thursday tradition, I’m throwing this letter out to readers to weigh in on:

I’m a writer, and I like what I do. I know how lucky I am to be in a job that many others would kill for. And I’m alright at it, I guess. I’ve written for some good UK publications. But I know I’m not the best. I’ve previously had interviews at places like Elle and Grazia but have never progressed any further. I know how competitive this industry is and I know that there’s always going to be someone who’s better than me.

I’ve been in the journalism industry for three years and in all my positions, I have never been promoted (that could be because I haven’t been at the companies long enough). I currently earn £26,000 in the job I’m in and have been there for around 3-4 months. I took a small pay cut to move from my previous writing job, which I hated. But it’s hard to survive in London on £26,000, and as I approach 30, I just feel like I should be earning more.

My partner and I are trying to save for a house and so I’m left with very little money at the end of the month. When I hang out with my non-writer friends who earn a lot more than me, I get jealous. They can afford to go on fancy holidays and have plenty of weekend city breaks. They live in nice flats and fill it with nice furniture. They go out for dinner on a weekly basis and are able to buy nice bottles of wine when we meet for a drink. I can’t do any of these things, because I never have any money.

I have one friend who is a bid writer. The job sounds terribly dull and office-y. But three months ago she was on £30k. Now, she’s moved up to £50k. She’s been there less than a year. She has told me that if I wanted to make the switch, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get in with a company, as they’re always looking for ex-journalists.

I guess what I’m asking is: Is it really worth doing a job you love, if you can’t afford to have a life outside of it? And is it ok to work purely for the money? Or will I regret leaving a job that is more fun, for something that will likely be stuffy and corporate?

As I progress through my late twenties, my priorities feel like they’re changing. I want to be able to go on holidays with my partner where we don’t have to worry about how we’ll live for the rest of the month. I’d like to buy a nice house and live a comfortable life. But I love lifestyle journalism, and I’m worried that I could be giving up on the thing I dreamed of doing since I was young. What if I hated something more corporate? I imagine it would be incredibly hard to get back into journalism – it’s hard enough to survive when you’re already in it. But what if i never progress in journalism and remain on less than £30k for years? Even now, it’s almost too hard to live that way.

Readers, what’s your take?

{ 408 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Rusty Shackelford

    I think you need to either enjoy (not necessarily love) your job, or enjoy the life your job provides. I’d be happy with either of those. Loving your job is a huge expectation.

    Reply
    1. Flinty

      I think these two things, loving your job and loving your life, interact in different ways for different people. I think there are some people who love their job SO MUCH that it radiates out to the rest of their life and they would never consider anything else. Sometimes I envy those people and their certainty about their path, but that’s not really me, or most people I think. I have a job that gives me what I need to love my life, and that general sense of wellbeing actually makes me feel positively about my job.

      OP, I don’t even know what “bid writing” is, but it’s possible that you might find the satisfaction of being well-compensated and the reduction of stress around finances to allow you to feel more satisfied than you might imagine looking at it from the outside.

      Reply
      1. About a Girl

        I am one of those people who love their job and would never consider anything else. I work for a charity that I really admire and I am really passionate about my line of work. But the pay is quite miserable. I’ve lived in London for a long time just like the letter-writer, and I know how soul-crushingly expensive it is. Is there any way you can work remotely and get out of London? If you want to, of course.

        I completely understand the feeling of never having enough money. I really want to travel more and see more of the world and I don’t know if I will ever be able to because of how much (little) I make. I can also absolutely relate to the friends having more money than you. It has for a long time been an issue in my well-being, that feeling of never being able to get to an acceptable level of where I want to be.

        This is just me and not everyone is the same, obvs, but for what it’s worth, I believe that the feeling of loving your job beats the fact that it’s underpaid. I would never go back to one of my previous, better-paid jobs. You spend so much time at work that for me personally, it makes no sense if it’s something that you feel so-so about and have to “get through” the days. Life is short, and I love waking up every morning without ever experiencing that “oh crap, it’s Monday” feeling.

        Reply
          1. media monkey

            thirded. London is sooo expensive. can i suggest you have a read of The Pool, specifically the work and life sections? (not linking as it will send the comment to moderation). obviously most of the writers are journalists living in London and several of them have written articles about surviving on that sort of salary in London/ coming to terms with earning less than friends/ partners etc.

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        1. AgencyPerspective

          I think it’s more like proposal writing in response to RFPs. We have someone at our office who excels at this and I don’t know what we’d do without him. It’s less creative than what you’re doing now, but he does a great job of telling our story.

          This sort of work will also look pretty different depending on the industry and the business. Get a sense how your potential employer approaches sales. In our case, there’s a lot of collaborative discussions about how we might solve a problem and then this person presents our approach amazingly well. But we’re an agency and I imagine writing bids for an engineering or other services firm would be completely different.

          If you choose to go with more security, I wonder if you might not have enough contacts to do the odd freelance piece — feed your creative side. It may not have to be either/or.

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    2. Ladybird

      I completely agree with this sentiment. I feel pretty indifferent to my job (some days are good, some are bad, most are meh and I’m waiting for the clock to hit 5 PM) but it pays very well. Being able to look forward to things outside of work like date night with SO, a weekend trip to ski/hike, a cruise in two months, etc. REALLY helps get through the work day. Although I don’t necessarily love my job, I do love my life and am generally very happy.

      Reply
      1. Facepalm

        I agree completely. I was a book editor, which I LOVED, but earned less than $30,000. I became a technical writer, which I’m pretty meh about, but earn $70,000 now, just a few years later. I occasionally miss the fun of my old job, but I’m much more satisfied now that I own a home and have been able to buy nice things and start a family.

        As long as I’m not completely miserable, I value my home and personal life more than my professional one, so I’m willing to sacrifice in my job so that I can be more satisfied outside of it.

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        1. Tech Writer Wannabe

          Ooh how did you make the jump if you don’t mind me asking? And why is it “pretty meh”? I’m editor of a trade publication and this is a move I’ve recently been considering so would appreciate any insights whatsoever!

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          1. Facepalm

            It’s pretty meh because of my particular industry, which I don’t have much personal interest in, and the work is less creative and more technical than the editing job I had, which was in an area I am passionate about and studied in college. My book editing job was filled with a lot of idealistic, artistic creative types, and the people where I work now are mostly engineers or ex-career military, so the environment is a lot different. I work in an geographic area where there are a lot of technical writing positions, so honestly all I did was apply and got lucky. And once I had the title, it was easy to move up. I recommend looking at defense contracting companies, which often seem to have tech writing positions. If you can get a security clearance, you’ll be golden.

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          2. Frankie

            My husband was a TW for a few years for a big company and found it really “meh”. I looked over his shoulder a few times when he was working from home and he had to do a lot of weird, minute formatting, tons of copy/pasting and cleaning up tasks. He hates tedious computer work so it wasn’t a good fit for him. And in terms of the actual writing/editing, he is really much more of a sales-y copy editor in the end. More of a marketer. He did enjoy the pay, though!

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          3. Jen RO

            I can’t advise on the path for a career change, as I am in a different country, but I am also a copy editor-turned-tech writer and I am extremely happy. I get to mix my editing and my tech backgrounds, it pays really well, I like my coworkers and I genuinely look forward to coming to work every day.

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        2. TrainerGirl

          I got really lucky…I did a job swap years ago, and ended up in a training position,which I found out that I really loved and am good at. I got laid off last fall, and I interviewed for and received two offers for positions…one as an ISD/eLearning Developer and one for a technical writing/documentation position. I held out for the ISD position and I’m thrilled that I did. A friend who’s a true tech writer got the other position and she really enjoys it. I can’t imagine loving technical writing, but I wasn’t about to turn down a job offer at the time.

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        3. techwriter_too

          Same! I was a book editor with really low pay for a little bit (loved it, but hated the low pay, esp. when men in the office were paid higher…), jumped to tech writing (I’d taught myself to write scripts in VBA in Word using the “Word for Publishing Professionals” book to speed up editing tasks, and that got my foot in the door w/ a tech company that liked to hire fresh-out-of-college/no experience hires). I was deadly bored by tech writing for a couple years but continued to work on my technical skills (mostly, coding in Python to speed writing tasks), then switched companies and had much more fun because I was able to get my hands on the code and test it a lot more, and because I now had enough technical chops to really understand what I was writing about and write independently.
          Focusing on teaching myself tech skills really helped — I got promoted to sw project manager last year! It’s not my ‘passion’ but I enjoy it, and after tormenting myself in my 20s with ‘pursue your passion professionally’ goals, I find contentedness is a more mature and workable aspiration — and I’m happier for it.

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      2. Kelly Bennett

        I can’t tell you how much I agree with this. Let’s be real, sometimes working for the weekend (and going to brunch with the extra money you’re earning) is worth it.

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      3. batshytecrazy

        Exactly. Not having to decide which bill not to pay this month feels really good. Could you also do a lifestyle blog in your spare time to stay in the journalism field without it being your main job? Maybe something on how to live in London with not much money?

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        1. Jen S. 2.0

          This was my thought. You can find fulfillment in places other than work. If you like your job well enough, and it pays you enough that you can afford to do things that make you happy in your spare time, that’s a massive win. But being broke all the time is terrible.

          No one should HAAAATE their job, but personally, I’d put up with a somewhat boring (but harmless) job in exchange for enough money to live / party / travel the way I want to the rest of the time.

          Full disclosure: That’s what I have. I like my job just fine. I’m good at it, and my colleagues are fine. It’s all about a B / B+, and it’s pretty cushy. In addition, it pays well enough for me to have a very good life. I’m a little bored, BUT no way would I take, say, a 20% pay cut for a job that was 30% more fulfilling. Noooooooooo.

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    3. NewWorkingMama

      I actually did this exact jump from fun (low paying) journalism job to corporate communications. I do joke about it with my friends who are still in the industry that I “sold out” but I make a lot more money and live more comfortably than I did before. I think the world of content marketing might be for you. You make more money, but still get to work on creative projects. Yes, it can be corporate (though startups exist with and for this kind of thing). I don’t think you have to either love your job and be broke or hate it and be rich when you’re a writer. Alternatively, you can totally freelance for fun and fulfillment and work for money. Also, there is no end all be all. If you jump to corporate and hate it….you can always return. There is nothing that says you MUST STAY IN THIS CAREER PATH FOREVER. For what it’s worth, most of my friends have jumped shit in one form or another.

      Reply
      1. SJ

        I totally agree with your comments. Nothing is forever.

        Also…really liked the last comment (which included that lovely subconscious? error.).

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      2. Formerly Arlington.

        Similar boat here, for about 20 years, in fact, and I think a lot of the people who think you’re a sell out probably want different things from their lives than you want from yours. I also feel like I’ve been pretty harshly judged by those “non sellout” friends, but I would not want to trade lives with them.

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      3. SelloutWriter

        Same here. I did the same shift from journalism to corporate communications and I make almost double the amount I used to make as a reporter. My old reporter colleagues do throw around the sellout comment jokingly but some of them are still freelancing and looking for a permanent source of income even after getting a master’s degree (and I only hold a bachelor’s degree).

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        1. Jesca

          Honestly, I have an associates degree in writing and humanities. I make a lot more now going the technical writing route (and then into other technical avenues), then I ever would have using that degree. I have found there are plenty of ways to be creative, and it doesn’t just have to be that one way I had envisioned as my younger self. I have been able to find a lot of different ways to express my creativity in all my jobs to pretty big extremes sometimes. People value good writers and those who are creative.

          As for what I L-O-V-E? I do them as a hobby or even sometimes as a side gig. And honestly, even in jobs you love, you don’t love all of it anyway. You can just move that “love” part to a different part of the day!

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      4. Shirley Keeldar

        Absolutely on board with the “you are not deciding your entire future career” vote here! I made the opposite leap—quit a corporate job to go freelance—and what helped me was remembering that the very, very worst thing that could happen was that I’d need to go get another corporate job. Well, that wasn’t impossible. I’d done it before. If you try this new career and hate it, I don’t believe it will be impossible to get back into journalism. And you’ll be employed and hopefully well compensated, so you’ll have time to look around and find a job that really works for you.

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      5. Karen Blue

        yup i did same, i still do a small amount of journalism to keep my hand in, but I’m nearing my mid-40’s and being chronically underpaid and/or underemployed is really tough

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    4. Jenn

      I completely agree. And I don’t think the choices need to be love your job vs. hate your job. OP, it’s sad but we live in a capitalist society and usually more money means more opportunities (vacations, houses, etc.), more free time, and more financial security. I would start to think long term: if you took the bid writing job, how much would your salary grow in ~5 years vs. your career growth now? Is it worth the switch to you?

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    5. CMart

      I think there’s certainly middle ground and nuance when it comes to “enjoying” your job. What does that even mean?

      I’m a a corporate accountant and I really can’t imagine anyone *loves* consolidations. The work is fairly technical, uses a lot of Excel etc… what’s there to “love”?

      But I’m not bored, I guess. And I really like my coworkers, my commute, my office environment, my schedule etc… So if you asked me if I like or love my job I would probably say yes. My manager is great, it’s close to home, everyone is so helpful, this is a great place to work blah blah blah! But do I love my work? Uhhh nah. But I don’t want to claw my eyes out every day doing it so who cares?

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    6. Sketchee

      I’m not entirely sure that it’s an “or” situation.

      As a graphic designer, I’ve found that the ideal is to have enough of a balance. Not every design project is the joy of artistic creation. It’s probably similar in journalism? I’ve also found it’s great to diversify your happiness.

      Work is a huge part of life. And also we can have hobbies, friends, vacations, gym time, volunteering. Break down the parts of work that you most enjoy and see if you can get that at work. And see if you can get that elsewhere.

      Lots of nonprofits are looking for designers. And I find they’re happy to get volunteer time in the periods where my work isn’t as fun. Perhaps helping out writing press releases and blogs as volunteer time can help. That’s just an example though. Look for many ways to fulfill yourself outside of the “total package” provided by a role at a company.

      As for dull office jobs, many times I’ve worked with better people. I’ve worked in the newspaper and magazine. Certainly journalist types are most interesting. But also everywhere I’ve worked (probably because of my experience) I’ve worked with former journalists. Who have moved their skills and passions into new roles. Everything from project management to web design to working at companies with a mission

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I didn’t mean “or” as in “only one of these can possibly be true.” I mean you should have, at a minimum, one of these in order to be happy. Having both of them is awesome.

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    7. Administratorius

      Do both! It sounds like you’ve tried out the “starving artist” gig and feel like something is missing. So try the other, more profitable thing too. Don’t give up on your dreams, but if your dreams include a nice, well-decorated flat, chase that dream too. Keep doing what you love, and make a little money doing that. And do what you LIKE, and are good at, and make more money there. As you progress in your career, focus on finding more and more of an integration of those two things (like and love) and don’t discount the nice flat dream, because providing comfort for yourself is equally important as providing intellectual integrity/stimulation for yourself.

      Don’t get caught thinking it’s a permanent either/or. You don’t have to FOREVER choose between money and intellectual fulfillment. You can have both, it’s just not instant, and you have to be strong in determining what you do and don’t want—and determining what you’re good enough with to get you there. It’s a struggle for everyone, including me! My hope for you (and myself) is that you don’t think that you’ve got to choose between happiness and money for life.

      Reply
  2. JokeyJules

    OP, i think it is truly up to you. I can make peace with a job i don’t love and have no passion for if it means i have a fulfilled life outside of work.
    My S/O would rather be dead broke than not pursue the work he does in entertainment.

    Its really up to you. there is no right or wrong answer. Im sure if i felt passionately enough about something the money wouldnt matter, but i dont, so it does.

    Reply
    1. Ros

      I have a job that I have no passion for BUT I’m good at it, and I feel a significant sense of satisfaction out of the visible proof of competence, if that makes sense. There has to be SOME satisfaction somewhere, but sometimes that satisfaction is in a less obvious spot than would be immediately expected.

      On the other hand, unless you’re willing to live and breathe your job, the limitations of lower salary are more easily felt every non-working hour, which…

      Personally, I made the trade-off of a life I love for a job that’s decent-but-not-my-passion, and have no regrets. Someone else may chose differently.

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      1. EddieSherbert

        Agreed! I think you don’t have to love your job but you can’t straight-up hate it and take zero joy from it or it probably won’t be worth the money :)

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    2. Just Another Attorney

      This describes me and my partner as well. I really love and enjoy my company and the people I work for and with (which is nice) but the actual WORK that I do each day is not exactly “inspiring” to me. It is a lot of paper and teleconferences and waiting around on people to get things done so I can do my part. That said, the company and the co-workers added to the picture mean that I *like* my job. It doesn’t inspire me with passion but it does give me enough money/benefits to pursue other passions outside the office.

      It also allows my passion-pursuing partner to do things that he likes to do because the corporate world is somewhere he will just never fit in or agree to go quite frankly. As a result, I make over double what he does and at the end of the day, we both get to pursue things we are passionate about AND pay the bills.

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      1. JokeyJules

        I’m with ya! When I talk about the general office day-to-day stuff, my S/O says they’re happy for me but would be absolutely miserable there.

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      2. Chalupa Batman

        I really do love my job-do I wake up super excited to get up and go to work every single day? Nah. But I do feel like I’m doing what I want to do. My partner is more like yours, he hates his job, and his passion is in an area where it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be financially successful due to factors like competition and geography. We’d literally have to uproot our lives and give up everything for him to have a 1 in 100,000 shot of making it. One of my financial goals is to position myself so he can pursue passion projects on the side without worrying about making them pay, so that it’s not so bad that he has to spend his working hours pushing paper. If he didn’t have to work full time, we’d both be thrilled. More money=more opportunity for passion, even if it’s not on the job. OP, I can’t say what’s right for you, but writing about things you enjoy is certainly not something you have to give up just because it’s not included in the hours you’re writing for pay.

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        1. Milo

          I think supporting a partner is really selfless and it works ok if you both are truly contributing (both actively working every day) despite the pay…but you also need to make sure you aren’t being taken for a ride while they get to have an easier life pursuing passions. I used to feel resentful going to my well-paying corporate job while partner had lots of time off between jobs. I was too tired to enjoy my own passions while she enjoyed lots of freedom. I dreamed also of leaving the corporate job, even to have time off just to have time to relax and ‘find myself’ like her for a few weeks but wasn’t able as we had to pay bills. Just saying there is a time frame. Fast forward and my partner and I are both in corporate jobs and both contribute equally now to our lifestyles.

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    3. Jules the 3rd

      Yeah, it’s really the personal trade-off, and finding aspects you like.

      I am good at solving problems, and passionate about social justice / public service. I would love to have the time and $$ to make a career in US politics. Instead, I support computer recycling for a Fortune 100 tech co. A different version of public service, but one that pays well.

      But what I hold onto is the concept of multiple careers – I’d really like my 3rd act to be more directly making the world better, either through implementing solutions for city/state govts with my current employer, or moving to a govt employer. I’ve got a couple of decades to retirement, lots of time to try new things.

      Reply
  3. Foxy Hedgehog

    One of the strangest things I believed when I was in my 20s is that there was automatically an inverse relationship between how much a job paid and how much I would enjoy doing the job. Don’t fall into that trap.

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    1. mskyle

      Yes! I have actually found that the jobs that have paid me the most have also *treated me the best* (I guess it’s not that surprising, really – giving you more money is one way your employers show you they want/need/appreciate you, and if they’re showing you in one way they may well show you in other ways).

      I would also think hard about how much you love your work vs. how much you like the prestige/glamour of your work, how much time you spend actually Doing Journalism vs. hustling for work, administrative stuff, etc., and how much you like the people you work with. Some of those things could even change for the better if you switched jobs.

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      1. epi

        This is a great point.

        I made a big switch a few years ago– I used to be a research coordinator and I’m now both working and working on my dissertation in cancer epidemiology. I’m not wealthy but I’m definitely no longer earning poverty wages. Nothing about my switch was motivated by money– I just wanted to do more interesting work with more autonomy and better treatment. I looked around at what types of people were getting that in my old workplace, and in related fields. (As well as if I would enjoy and be good at the work and environment of course.) Turns out, better money went along with these other things that all just came down to being valued. I’ve also had more and more administrative work taken away from me, either because it’s no longer seen as a good use of my time or sometimes explicitly to make sure I want to stay.

        There are some fields, and I think journalism is one of them, where low pay and precarious working conditions seem to be the norm because there are so many talented and passionate people who will do anything to work there. That definitely is not the case in every industry. In many fields, pay/working conditions/interesting work cluster together.

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      2. Frankie

        That’s a big deal that gets overlooked a lot. Even looking at low-paying industries, that was advice I was given when graduating college–go to the place that pays you more, because they value you more. It’s really unfortunately almost always true. I scoffed at it at the time and found very quickly that the place that is stingy with you really doesn’t care too much.

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      3. Lara

        Oh OP, do listen to ‘the jobs that have paid me the most have also *treated me the best*.’

        It’s so often true.

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    2. KHB

      This is true. I’m a science writer. It’s tremendously interesting and pays very well, and I’m constantly surprised that more people aren’t lining up to work here.

      Not everyone can have a job that’s both lucrative and fun, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

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      1. Sarah

        Would you mind expanding upon “science writer”? I’m a science graduate working in low-paying lab work at the moment and I’m not sure where I can advance, I’d love to hear more about what it is that you do as a “career goals” kind of thing.

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        1. LRC

          I’m also a science writer (physics/space news) and it’s the best. Basically we read a bunch of papers, interview scientists about their work, and write articles explaining the research and why it’s important. There’s a huge science writing community on Twitter, so that’s a good place to start figuring out if it’s right for you. Depending on the field of science, it can be pretty easy to break into (there aren’t a lot of physics folks in particular) and all the staff science writers and most of the freelancers I know make a reasonable living wage.

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            1. LRC

              I have one, which made it a lot easier to break into the field, but lots of people do perfectly well without.

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            2. Girl Alex PR

              I run a government-funded science blog. I create all the written content, get to do amazing shoots and travel to cool places, I make great money and I love what I do. I have dual degrees in science and PR. I cannot recommend this career field enough.

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        2. KHB

          Sure. I work for the flagship magazine of a nonprofit scholarly society. The bulk of my job involves seeking out the most interesting and important journal papers in my field, and then writing about them in a way that the broader community can understand.

          Although there are not an enormous number of jobs like mine out there, you might find that they’re easier to come by than you think.

          So as not to derail, I’ll leave it at that for now. As MissMaple suggests, I’ll gladly take more specific questions in the open thread tomorrow.

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        3. H.C.

          I’ve done a bit of science writing too & the exact tasks varies: it can range from technical writing/editing for publications or media outlets, to writing proposals & impact reports for foundations/nonprofits that are funding research, to writing website/marketing copy that is easy to understand while still being scientifically accurate.

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      2. MissMaple

        I don’t want to derail, but is there any chance you might talk more about this in the Friday open thread? I’m an engineer, but I also have a degree in science policy that involved a lot of writing, so I’m always looking for options that let me exercise both sides of my brain :)

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        1. LRC

          Will pop into the open thread if I remember – engineering and science policy is a strong combination for science writing, and one that not many people have.

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      3. Treecat

        Add me to the list of folks who are interested in learning more about your work! I have multiple degrees in the sciences, and have worked professionally as a writer, this sounds like something I might enjoy very much!

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        1. Just Another Attorney

          My partner, who has a PhD in biomedical science, would also be very interested in information about how to break into a science writing field. That sounds to perfectly align with things he loves to do!

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      4. DM

        Wow. You just inspired me to look into this as a potential side gig. I have a master’s degree in science and a law degree, and I’d love to do something like that as a freelancer, if possible. It’s sounds like a lot of fun, and even though I’m not IN a science field, I still love science.

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    3. Specialk9

      Right, but there’s also this trap of “follow your dreeeeeams” that people fall into.

      Financial stability can be the difference between being helpless and screwed, and being fine. (Though less in the UK than the US because they have a functional safety net.) Money solves so many problems.

      Having some money socked away gives one freedom, and ability to escape abuse (home or work). Money is so important, especially for women.

      That said, I love my job! But I loved the job before that, so I think I focus on the elements that make me happy.

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        1. Foxy Hedgehog

          Yes, I think we are.

          I have a job that is mostly enjoyable and pays reasonably well. It might not be that #1 “perfect job” that I wanted out of university, but you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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    4. LadyByTheLake

      Second this in the strongest possible terms! Just because a job is “corporate” doesn’t mean it automatically sucks the joy out of life. Finding something interesting and challenging is possible even in an office. EVEN if it pays well.

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      1. Dust Bunny

        This.

        My job isn’t corporate but, yeah, it’s 8-5, etc. Hey, I am FINE with this. It’s painless and I can go home and leave work at work, and do the other stuff I love. Some of us are very happy to have stable, predictable schedules and paychecks that allow us to do other things.

        Reply
    5. Murfle

      This. This by a longshot. Our culture has a strong inclination to treat artistic/creative careers as if they’re not legitimate unless the artist in question is struggling. It’s okay to want more money, and it’s okay to make more money! Even if you’re not doing something particularly “creative”, you can still take pride in doing a good job, even if it’s not glamorous.

      I say this as a writer/editor myself – I tried freelancing for a few years and learned a lot, but HATED the constant feeling of being on a treadmill trying to find new gigs. Now that I’m settled into an in-house role doing digital copywriting and SEO, I may not have the most exciting projects to work on, but the stability is great.

      Also: jobs at major print publications you’re describing are INCREDIBLY competitive, and the industry itself is undergoing massive shifts – my employer, who also had a significant publication arm, has been shedding print jobs like crazy. I don’t know if I’d trade my stable but relatively unglamorous job for that kind of high-wire act.

      Reply
    6. MJ

      Oh my God, this is such a good point. Yes, yes, yes. You may amaze yourself with how much you enjoy other stuff!

      Speaking from experience — I think I had a lot of the same feelings you did when I decided to leave the museum sector. I loved the work, but the pay is insultingly low, and it was difficult to get by. I’m now in a job that pays fairly for my labor, and it’s a whole new world. I love my work, and I love having enough money that I’m not terrified every time I go grocery shopping. (I’m also able to be picky, and not work places with terrible office cultures, etc. There is zero pickiness permitted in museum jobs.)

      Really, I can’t emphasize enough how much of a relief it’s been to be able to fulfill the entire rest of my life, and find I rather enjoy my job as well, even if it’s not as deeply satisfying as my previous career.

      Reply
    7. GM

      Came here to write exactly this! A well-paying or higher-paying job does NOT necessarily mean that it will be stressful, unsatisfying, lacking work-life balance, corporate soul-sucking etc. I believed this too but got a pleasant surprise when I made the switch.

      Reply
  4. Temperance

    There is always a trade-off. In your shoes, I would probably make the switch, and still freelance on the side. Financial security is really, really, nice.

    I like taking nice vacations, having an entertainment budget, and not having to budget down to my last $5. To me, that’s worth more than having a cool job.

    Reply
    1. epi

      That is what I would do. As a reader, it seems like many of the writers I follow contribute individual pieces to many publications, instead of or in addition to a staff job somewhere. The OP could work in any format they want on their personal projects. Some people find it very freeing not to depend on their creative work to pay the bills.

      I don’t really see a downside to trying a more lucrative job that uses the OP’s skills. Even if they don’t like this particular role, it sounds like the OP is getting a glimpse of other types of professional writing opportunities that they weren’t aware of before. They may find the field in which they would be writing bids interesting, or learn about another interesting path that their new boss or colleagues took.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Yeah, most people today don’t stick with one job forever. Often we start in this job, then learn about this thing, then move over here. I’ve stopped trying to predict my career. I just focus on learning, connecting, following through, and problem solving.

        Reply
    2. stitchinthyme

      Another +1 for this. It’s great to have a job you love, but if the job I was most passionate about did not come with financial security, I would take a higher-paying one and do the thing I love in my spare time instead.

      This touches on the post Alison made here a couple days ago: that it’s okay to take a job just for the money, and use the money to do the things you really want to do in your down time. (Besides, for me at least, when the thing I love starts to feel like a job to me rather than something I want to do, I stop loving it as much.)

      Reply
      1. Suzy Q

        Yep. It doesn’t sound like the LW loves their current job, anyway. Go for the money! Money CAN buy happiness.

        Reply
        1. Antilles

          It’s interesting that “money doesn’t buy happiness” is exclusively said by people who have grown always having money.
          For everybody else, money absolutely buys happiness – in the form of more security and less financial stress.

          Reply
          1. stitchinthyme

            After all your needs are met and you have enough to be comfortable and secure, THEN more money can’t buy happiness. But up until you get to that point, it absolutely can.

            Reply
            1. Not So NewReader

              There is a chart or a study that shows this, I believe. Being scared to look at your bills IS a quality of life issue. How many times can we stub our toe on a table leg and still have a healthy toe? Along the same lines how many years can we look at our mail/email in fear of our bills and still be healthy people. Worry wears us down and long term stress can cause damage to some important organs in the body.

              Reply
              1. Antilles

                There are a bunch of studies on that yeah. The most interesting thing is the shape of the curve. If you imagine what it looks like, you’re probably imagining that it’s basically a logarithmic curve. More money equals more happiness up to a point, but there’s diminishing returns the further up you go, and then eventually it just completely levels off so more money has little to no meaning.
                However, instead, a lot of studies have actually found that the happiness curve is more like a parabola – happiness increases with increasing wealth, but then you hit an ‘ideal’ point and then more money actually results in less happiness as you get too concerned with social comparisons, losing your wealth, etc.
                Famous sociologist Biggie Smalls was way ahead of the curve on this one – “mo money, mo problems”.

                Reply
          2. Persimmons

            Heck yes to that. Tumble down Maslow’s pyramid and bash your teeth out, then get back to me about how money doesn’t buy happiness when you’re deciding between food and medication.

            Reply
          3. Specialk9

            Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure solves problems — and lack of money can sure make one unhappy if your needs are unmet!

            Reply
          4. Dust Bunny

            Money can’t buy happiness if you’re fundamentally a miserable, insatiable person. For the 99% of us who have reasonable expectations . . . like Hell it can’t.

            Reply
          5. Jadelyn

            If money isn’t buying you happiness, maybe you’re spending it wrong. Here, give it to me, I’ll show you how it’s done! ;)

            Reply
        2. Specialk9

          Money buys freedom, and options.

          Toxic job? If you have savings (‘F U money’) you can quit and be ok till you find something. You can start a side gig, or your own business, or travel.

          Toxic relationship? You aren’t forced to stay because you have no options.

          Everyday problems can be solved with money. Colicky baby – hire help. Chronic illness or disability – get a meal service, hire cleaners, renovate your space or get equipment. Etc.

          Money doesn’t make one happy – but not having money one needs can make one unhappy!

          That said, one can make do with less money. But generally that requires one to move to a place with cheaper cost of living. Low salary in London is really hard to do.

          Reply
          1. alice

            I read a quote from someone somewhere that went along the lines of “being poor is living in a world of No” – which essentially sums up what you have here. Good examples and well put.

            Reply
          2. Temperance

            This comment is so spot-on. I had a major health crisis a few years ago, and my job afforded me paid disability leave, really good health insurance with a somewhat low deductible, the ability to pay said deductible, and the flexibility to make all of my medical appointments. An incident that could have bankrupted and ruined my life was just a blip on the radar.

            I was able to hire a cleaning service to take care of my house, so my free time is mostly mine. It’s so helpful.

            Reply
      2. Live & Learn

        So much this.
        People ask me all the time why I don’t cook for a living when I clearly love every aspect of it and feel mostly neutral about my actual job. To me it’s not even something to consider. Cooking for a living means working very long, physically hard hours on your feet in very hot or very cold places, usually for not great pay with no free evenings or weekends. Some people love that. I don’t. What I love about cooking is that I get to do it how I want, when I want, as much or little as I want, with no one managing my menu, food costs, time b/w order and delivery, etc. Add in all the realities of making it a job for money and all the joy is gone.

        My actual job pays way more and let’s me indulge in the things I love as hobbies.

        Reply
        1. stitchinthyme

          Yup, I totally agree. I like to knit and crochet, and I’m very good at both, so people often ask me why I don’t sell the things I make. It’s because I like to make whatever strikes my fancy and do it at my own pace, not work to order. And plus, many people undervalue handmade items so much that it would be impossible to make a living wage doing it — not when you can buy a blanket or a stuffed animal at your local big-box store for a few bucks. So I make what I want when I want, and I either keep my creations or give them to friends who will appreciate them.

          Reply
          1. media monkey

            this x100000000000! I sew and make my own clothes. people ask why i don’t do it for a living. mainly because people’s expectation of how much a dress costs is based on a high st average of say £30-40. if i charged that to make a dress it would just about cover the cost of fabric and pattern, no labour or other overheads at all. a custom dress is going to run in the region of £180 for it to be worth my while.

            so i make for myself, my daughter, my husband, and family and close friends. i don’t charge for it – if i would want to charge, i wouldn’t do it. means i can say no to the worst tasks (like SIL who buys cheap charity shop skirts and wants me to replace the zips when they break – without providing the new zip of course).

            Reply
        2. J

          This. I switched careers to work as an interior designer because I absolutely love design, art and decorating. It is my absolute favorite thing to do, and I’m quite good at it. After working in the industry for a few years, I recently made the switch back into a corporate job that is more in line with what I went to undergraduate and grad school for. While it was a very valuable experience and I learned a ton, I realized that I love interior design when I can do it on my own terms, be as creative as I want, help friends and family, spend as much or as little time on it as I please, etc. I probably should’ve known as my personality is such that when something becomes an obligation it loses a lot of joy for me. Some people really love working as a professional designer. For me, it will likely always be a hobby/passion project, or something that maybe I’ll do full-time one day if and when I don’t need to work for money and can just take on only the projects that I want. I’ll add that the pay is pitifully, almost insultingly low, for what is actually a difficult job. It feels really great to have a job that pays me what I’m worth again and that affords me the free time and resources to do what I love, the way I love to do it.

          Reply
      3. Zennish

        Doing the thing you love for so little money that you can’t live your life will eventually cause you to resent the thing you love.

        Reply
    3. raktajino

      Agreed on both points. Freelancing (or in my case, volunteering) can be a great way to fill the gap with a boring job.
      OP, please try not to feel guilty for wanting to make more, even if that means “selling out.” You’re not trying to become a billionaire, you’re just looking for more financial security.

      Reply
    4. Antilles

      Agreed. For me, the financial security is worth a huge amount of happiness because it lets you build up money to address things. If something comes up around the house*, the money is there to fix it. If friends are going out for dinner, I don’t need to worry about it. If there’s an unexpected medical expense, it’s covered. And so on.
      *Pro tip for OP: Once you own your own house, there will always always always be something – an appliance that needs fixed/replaced or a new item you’d like to add to the house or a room you’d like to update or so on.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        Financial security = happiness for me. Quite honestly – there’s not much about the work itself I do that I like. I like the people I work with, I like my commute, I like where it allows me to live. I REALLY LIKE the salary, the benefits, the perks. The work itself is boring at best and stressful at worst, I don’t like the fact that I don’t feel like I’m helping people or making a positive impact on people or things. But my savings rate is high, I donate time and money to things I believe in… work is a means to an end for me.

        Reply
      2. Marion Ravenwood

        Agreed. We bought our house three years ago, and whilst I love it and am glad we have it, it’s only now that we’re actually able to enjoy living in it because it’s been a non-stop project since we moved in (mainly because the previous owners did a lot of stuff the easy way not the right way) – replastering almost the whole thing, new fusebox, rewiring, new floors etc. And there’s still stuff we want to do with it even now! My parents bought their current house 20 years ago and I’d say it’s only the last five years that they haven’t done anything besides maintenance, so I’m not sure that our place will ever be ‘done’…

        Reply
        1. IDon’tKnowWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Which is why I am glad we now rent. Owning was a massive source of stress & anxiety that my executive function issues just could not deal with.

          Reply
    5. irritable vowel

      I think journalism, like some other professions, is a field where there’s a lot of emotional labor involved that can make you connect too much of your feelings of self-worth to your work. It’s a critically important job and people who do it know they are performing an invaluable service to society, but it’s underpaid and often undervalued by higher ups and people outside the profession, and people end up staying in the field because they have so much of their identity tied up with it. Emotional labor can be a real killer!

      I also see journalism as a field that is not really going in a positive direction – print media are going under, and web publications where there are more jobs available work at a faster pace with less attention to detail and getting things right, and more attention to revenue-generating clicks. (I say this as someone whose spouse used to be a journalist but now works in educational publishing; we have many friends who are still struggling to make it as journalists.)

      My advice to you would be to seriously consider moving into an adjacent field where your contributions are valued more (both financially and professionally) and try really hard to reframe what you do for work as the thing that allows you to be comfortable financially and still have the emotional space to do what you love on the side if you want.

      Reply
    6. KTM

      I was going to comment the same. I do love my job and it also pays very well, so I know how lucky I am, but I don’t know that I would be willing to give up the financial freedom if I had to choose.

      OP – are there ways to be involved in lifestyle journalism on the side that isn’t your full time job? In my case, I’m in engineering, but can still volunteer to speak in student classes or organize outreach events, rather than switching to being a teacher.

      Reply
    7. Kb

      It’s okay if your passion is taking nice vacations and splurging on bougie brunches! I think so many people get caught up in “I like this, so I must make it part of my job! I love travel, so I need to find a job about or involving travel.” Traveling for work is v different than traveling for pleasure. Being a food writer is v different than just eating nice food for pleasure. It’s okay to work to live, not live to work.

      Reply
        1. grace

          Nah. Well, sort of. I think it’s closest to basic but the way I’ve heard others use it – and use it myself :P – is just to indicate something that’s a splurge.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            Thanks! I’ve only seen it used about someone one dislikes, and I’m too old to hear it used. :D

            Reply
            1. grace

              It can be used that way too, I’m sure ;) but it’s a little more context-driven than basic, or at least that’s my experience — so calling someone or something basic is almost always going to have some sort of negative meaning behind it, while if I said ‘I want a boujee lunch’ it would probably just mean a splurge. But if it was ‘she’s a boujee ****’ …. rather more obviously rude. So it’s not cut and dried at all, lol.

              Reply
            2. Kb

              Yes, I’m in my 20s and most of my friends and I use it to indicate something is a splurge. It can have some negative connotations because it may indicate something is needlessly expensive, but usually you get that from context, not the word itself.

              Reply
              1. J

                My understanding is that it’s slang or short for “bourgeoisie” – so meaning something that is high class or expensive. It’s from Marx – the bourgeois class typically despised by communists vs. the proletariat (or the working class).

                Reply
    8. Persimmons

      Yes!

      Writing is one of the most flexible professions in which to expand/contract your work through freelancing. If you find something that pays a living wage and has good work-life balance, you can add in trade assignments as you find the time.

      LW already has the contacts from full-time journalism, so “breaking into” the field isn’t an issue.

      Also, LW, in regards to your concern about competition/advancement/”standing out” in your field, consider the quality versus quantity issue. If you’re stable and secure in a different full-time position, rather than constantly frazzled and scrambling to make rent, it’s entirely possible that your less-frequent publications will be better, will stand out more, and will help you build a solid reputation as a writer.

      Reply
    9. Anon Accountant

      My exact thoughts. You can have a job where you make more money but aren’t loving it. You can build good relationships with coworkers and can enjoy the job more.

      As long as the environment isn’t toxic of course.

      Reply
    10. Middle School Teacher

      I was thinking the same thing. It is possible to have your cake and eat it too, if you’re willing to put in the work. And as Temperance says, financial security is really nice.

      Reply
    11. PM Punk

      Totally agree that making the switch and maybe freelancing on the side would be the best.

      I made the switch from Journalism to a more stable job 5 years ago. It was tough, because writing was really something I felt passionate about, but I feel like I made the right decision. I believe I’m at least competent in my current field, and the financial security feels pretty darn great.

      Reply
    12. paul

      Very much so.

      In my last job I got to see the results of continued, long term close to the margin living on a substantial number of our clientele. It left me with no desire to raise a family while living that way myself, hence the current career change/move/everything.

      Reply
  5. Blue Anne

    It is okay to work purely for the money, as long as you’re not miserable.

    Would you be miserable if you went into big writing? It sounds like the lifestyle trade off would help a lot. Would you hate the work, or just not like it as much as what you do now? Hard to know.

    Reply
    1. Kittymommy

      This is a good point. There seems to be an assumption by the LW that she won’t like the well paying job. Unless she’s been in that before, and I can’t tell if that’s the case thought it sounds like it, there’s no real way to know. She might love it, hate it, or be perfectly fine with it just being a job. Personally, unless one is flying miles over the moon about a particular job, being unable to afford even a minimum lifestyle/scraping by will end up tarnishing the luster of that work.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer

      I think both are vitally important, unfortunately, and it’s hard to say which should take priority. If one is bad, then everything in your life is colored with the badness and the rest being good does not make up for it enough.

      I had one coworker tell me that you spend 70% of your life at work though, so…. if you’re looking for which priority to go for and you need to pick one, that might help.

      I can say from experience that I miss loving a job, which coincidentally was journalism. That was my chosen career before getting laid off. I was okay with my job when it was just okay rather than the problem child it is now. I have always chosen a stable job over “start your own business” (which I would suck at) and I’m not sorry about that, but my current job has curdled over the years.

      It’ll depend on the job: if your job is “just okay” but pays well enough, I think you’ll be fine. But if you haaaaaaaaaate it, the money will only make up for so much. Likewise, loving your job will only make up for so much if you are broke outside of it.

      It’s a problem.

      Reply
  6. PhillyRedhead

    I think the answer will be different for every person. Personally, I can get by doing a job I just like (as opposed to love) as long as the money is good. I really wanted to be a pastry chef. I went to culinary school, graduated summa cum laude, and then realized the most I could expect to make is maybe $15/hour with no benefits (no medical, no dental, no paid time off).

    So, I work in graphic design, which, like you, I’m alright at it. There are always people better at it than me. But the money and benefits are much better. I turned my passion into a blog, which has been semi-successful (I’ve built it to about 20K pageviews a month), and a fun side-hobby that brings in a little extra money. Any chance of going into bid writing, and do freelance journalism on the side?

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn

      I think this is how I would approach it. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t love my job right now. I like it and it’s just fine, but what I really like it the salary, the company culture and the benefits. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a job as a whole, but rather there were things I loved about it.

      I think if OP would be completely miserable to the point of crying in the shower everyday (…not that I’ve ever had a job like that…), then she probably shouldn’t make the move, because having a fulfilling life outside of work (freelancing, blog, whatever) might not make the work bearable. I think OP needs to figure out if she would be that miserable, or if it would just be more like, “Eh, I really don’t care for this work, but I don’t hate it, and I love the salary and the lifestyle it affords.”

      Reply
    2. Seriously?

      This is a classic “live to work or work to live” dilemma. And the answers are not one size fits all. I currently am in a job I love that doesn’t pay great and has long hours. It works for me right now and I find it very fulfilling but I am in my late 20s. I don’t know if I want to have a family while in this career and I know my SO would prefer I have more time to spend with him. The other career that I have been considering pays very very well and with my background I would find it relatively easy to get a job. I’ve really been thinking about what I want my life to be like because those are two very different roads and I think I could be happy in either but in different ways. It is hard to leave something you are passionate about for something that you are ok with but pays much better. It does feel like selling out, but I’m not sure that is really a bad thing. Maybe it is just growing up and realizing that my priorities have changed.

      Reply
      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        “realizing that my priorities have changed.”

        This is probably the biggest key to decisions like this. I did not pursue a passion inducing career. It’s a good career, I’ve enjoyed it very much to date, and I’ve been very driven in it and have had a lot of success. To make a long story (with a point) short.

        *In my 20’s I was all about advancement and gaining success. This led me to take a position that had me on the road 100%, moved several times to advance, and dedicate a lot of energy towards my career.

        *In my 30’s I got married to a man who’s career has grounded us to one city. I told my company that I wouldn’t be able to relocate and that I knew that this could affect my career progression and promotion possibilities.

        *In my 40’s I am still working with the same company, I have continued to advance but I do now travel 50-70%. Not ideal, but the money is good and I’m saving like mad for retirement.

        *In my 50’s my husband will be due to retire and we are talking about the ‘what’s next’. We are thinking of relocation and I’m starting to think about stepping off the corporate ladder. I’m thinking about alternative jobs and careers that are less demanding and that most likely pay less.

        *In my 60’s I’d like to be down to a part time/seasonal/flexible type employment to keep me busy but have zero responsibilities past showing up for hours, putting in an honest day’s work, and going home to forget all about it.

        The tentative plans are only going to be possible because of the work and the priorities that I had prior. But as you can see my priorities have been very different at each stage of life so far and I see them continuing to evolve. For me, I’ve been very happy to make adjustments at each stage as my priorities have shifted. I’m also happy that some of my decisions early on have put me in a position to have the option to adjust as priorities change.

        Reply
      2. EddieSherbert

        +100 about priorities. I have a job I like a lot (but don’t love), whee the pay is kind of low, but I LOVE the benefits – flex scheduling, working from home 2 days a week, and unlimited vacation/sick days.

        This setup has been great for me at this point in life.

        But my SO wants to do grad school so I’ll probably leave and go somewhere else with more pay once we get to that stage of life. And then once SO makes a lot more money than I ever could (haha), I’ll probably try to go somewhere that I’ll LOVE but it won’t pay as much :)

        Reply
    3. Lucky P.

      I think you haven’t given yourself enough time to get great at your current writing. I’m a writer too, and in my twenties I was making barely enough to scrape by, getting published in small places, and getting endless rejections from the big magazines. Now I’m in my 40s and make over $300K a year. Because the more I wrote the sort of stuff I wanted to write, the better I got at it. And with more experience and better skills, I learned how to write stuff the big places would take. So if you do make the switch, keep working on the sort of stuff you like to write on the side or freelance. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

      Reply
  7. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Two questions:
    Is journalism something you could do on a freelance basis?
    If so, would you be willing to do minimal freelance for six months to really give a full time corporate position the majority of your focus?
    That’s all I got.

    Reply
    1. Catalin

      Or, on a similar note, could you work the money-job and continue to do some personal, minor writing on your free time? Personally, I write fiction with three published books, but in the ‘real world’, I’m a boring consultant. Money and happiness!

      Reply
    2. Macedon

      A lot of people who freelance in journalism are full-time freelancers for one company (equivalent to contracters) or freelancers among multiple employers to the equivalent of full-time work. Those who do it part-time tend to have no other job on the side.

      In my experience, it’s a difficult industry to freelance in, in the same way you would for other industries, because you have to constantly maintain your connections. A common (false) assumption is that people generously serve you their time in exchange for information — they don’t. They give you the info you need because you also give them information in return, or because they want exposure. Exposure’s harder to promise away as a freelancer, and if you’re going through the (very time-consuming) effort of maintaining your relationships in an industry, imo you’re better off just staying in journalism.

      Reply
  8. neverjaunty

    As an either/or choice it’s a better party-game question than a real decision; you can be in a field you love and hate the particular job, you can have a job you love that also lets you have a happy downtime, etc.

    It sounds like the OP is really asking whether she should ditch her current field for something more lucrative but isn’t sure what the alternatives might be and is anxious that her current job is as good as it gets.

    Reply
    1. Ladybug

      This. I’m currently embroiled in an office drama, and I literally had the thought of, “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this BS.” If my employers alleviated my lack of benefits and remedied the fact that I haven’t received a raise in two years, I’d be much more willing to weather the storm instead of updating my résumé.

      Reply
    2. SoSo

      Agreed. It’s amazing how many times in the last year I’ve thought to myself “If they want to pay me $$/hour to deal with this stuff instead of doing something productive and valuable, have at it!”

      Reply
    3. Yorkshire Rose

      This.
      I work to live, I don’t live to work. I am ok in a job I can tolerate because my salary is generous and the benefits are awesome. I’m able to travel and live comfortably. I’m able to pursue the hobbies I like outside of work.

      Reply
    4. Erin

      Yes yes yes yes yes! The type of work I do means I’d have basically the same level of BS to deal with regardless of where I work or who I work for/with. Might as well work where I do, because the pay is enough for me to look at the BS and say, “Yup, that comes with the job.”

      Reply
  9. Emily S.

    It sounds like it might be worth making the switch to bid writing, just to try and work toward your goal of buying a home. If you absolutely hate it, you can always switch back after 9-12 months. It would certainly make you more financially comfortable, and help with your savings goal.

    Reply
  10. Nita

    Depends where you are in life, I think… a few years ago, I’d say that as long as you can make ends meet it’s more important to love your job. Right now, money = happiness for me, because it can buy me time with my family/a better place for them to live, and I’d rather have a job that pays better even if I don’t love it. Still don’t think a flat-out toxic or unethical job is worth it, but a job that’s just plain boring or unfulfilling? I’ll take it.

    Reply
    1. CarrieT

      It’s amazing the sense of freedom and direction you can find when you firmly decide that money is the primary goal in having a job. ;-) Makes choosing between careers/jobs/paths much easier! Follow the $! (Always with a dose of sanity and work-life balance, of course.)

      Reply
    2. Flinty

      Yeah, I think this is a transition a lot of people make in their 20s. When you’ve just graduated, you’re typically not looking at a very high salary anyway, so it’s most practical in every respect to chose a job where you can grow and learn new skills. Plus, you’re used to having a low standard of living as a student, so the low pay doesn’t bother you at first. Then as you get older, options start to open up to make more money, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking those options!

      Reply
  11. Linzertart

    I’m an ex-journalist, and I know what you’re going through! I asked myself the same question and really struggled not just with feeling like I was leaving the profession I loved, but also feeling like a traitor. In journalism I always felt like I was better than those who were in the corporate world, that I was defined by my job, and that leaving was selling out.
    Let me tell you, OP, you don’t have to choose between doing what you love and money. Think for a bit about what you love about journalism. For me, it was being behind the scenes, being in the know, and being part of the community. So, I went to a nonprofit. I’m not making corporate money, but I am making literally twice the salary I was making before, I feel like I’m doing important work in the community, and I’m still in touch with my former colleagues- I pitch them all the time. Journalism skills are broad and in demand. They translate well to PR, to politics, to writing in general, and more.
    Try to think about why journalism is the job you love and I bet there are careers out there that will give you the same satisfaction in a different environment and for more money. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Bonnie

      This is great advice! I don’t think corporate/stuffy is your only other option. I make good money writing at a non-profit and love it. They do some great stuff, it’s a noble cause, and have tons of writing needs: interviewing clients, writing grant proposals, blog posts, etc.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen_A

      Another ex-journalist here, I also went to a non-profit, and I also got a big jump in salary – not double, but it was probably a 33% increase. I still get to write and all that, and I also feel I’m doing worthwhile work. I seriously considered going to work for an insurance company which would have been much more lucrative, but….ugh, it just sounded so, so, so dull, and what’s more, I’m pretty sure it was so, so, so dull. So I’m pretty happy with my choice.

      I have another journalist buddy who just made the switch about four years ago from general circ newspapers to a specialty magazine. He likes the work, enjoys the pay and was struck dumb by the novel experience of *actually getting a Christmas bonus* last year. “What is this thing called ‘a bonus’?” he said, and he was only half kidding because it had been so many years since getting such a thing was even a faint possibility for him.

      But it is true that once you make the switch, it’s pretty hard to switch back, partly because you get used to making better money, but also because some journalism employers just won’t want you once you’ve gone to the Dark Side. They fear you’ll no longer think like a journalist, and in some cases, they’re probably right. I’ve heard they’re less rigid about that dividing line these days, but I’m not sure how true that is.

      Reply
      1. Linzertart

        Yes! I had to ask my nonprofit to tell me what days are holidays because I had never had them off before. Also I cannot believe summer Fridays are a thing.
        I do think you’re right about going back, though. There’s such an exclusive attitude at news outlets and I think they often hold a grudge when people leave.

        Reply
    3. Lll

      I agree with this! I was formerly an editor in publishing and around 30 I was so stressed out about money it was making me miserable even though I loved my job and coworkers. I switched to a corporate job and over the past 8 years I’ve not only had roles that I found challenging (in a good way!) and fulfilling but the rest of my life has rounded out tremendously. I’m still kind of paying for those early non-earning years, but I’m able to travel, I live in a nicer place, I’m able to save for retirement, I have a well funded emergency fund — I have a good mix of career satisfaction and financial stability and my life is so much better.

      Reply
    4. H.C.

      Another ex-journo here who agrees w what you said; I channel what I loved about journalism (general curiosity mixed w a healthy dose of skepticism, highlighting worthy causes/projects) into PR/marketing jobs that contained those elements AND paid considerably more than I ever did as a reporter.

      Reply
    5. Z

      Another recovering journalist here. I can’t stress enough how much I miss being in the know and the immediate gratification of seeing that daily paper. I also cannot stress enough how glad I am to have an office job that allows me to own a home and save for a European vacation.

      Do I love my job? Heck no. It can be insanely boring at times. But I don’t come into work every day wondering if I’m still going to have a job at the end of my shift. And I don’t worry about paying off my student loans. And I don’t worry about how I would pay for sudden major car repairs.

      Long story short, go for the money. Freelance if you can.

      Reply
      1. Linzertart

        That’s so interesting. I also sometimes miss being in the know. I really miss being behind the scenes in the town/City (the Mayor doesn’t know who I am anymore!) but I no longer felt I was contributing to society in the era of quantity vs quality at newspapers. There’s always pros and cons, right?

        Reply
    6. Emmie

      This is great advice. I also know people who transitioned from journalism to corporate public relations. They found satisfaction in using their skills telling stories about products and services.

      Reply
    7. Jadelyn

      I think you’ve hit on something big here, too, with this: “not just with feeling like I was leaving the profession I loved, but also feeling like a traitor.”

      It’s easy for a lot of us to get so caught up in defining ourselves around not just what we DO for a living, but what we DON’T do for a living, and then feel like we have to stick to that or redefine our entire sense of Self. OP, it’s okay to change your mind about what you want to do! Even if it was a childhood dream! Would you expect your 10-year-old self to have a good grasp on the realities of bills and career choices? No, right? So childhood-you made a decision on what they wanted to do when they grew up, based on a child’s understanding of what that meant – and now adult-you has a different perspective and maybe wants something different. And there’s no shame in that. It’s okay to want different things now than you did when you were a kid.

      Reply
    8. alana

      Journalist here. Journalism has so much self-righteousness about the “right” way to do this career. If you leave to make more money, you’ve sold out. Plus there’s status hierarchy that holds that prestigious investigative reporting, national reporting, or poorly-paid-but-so-important local reporting are the most important things, and everything else is fluff or selling out or not “real” journalism. If you’ve been in the profession a long time, you’ve probably absorbed it without even meaning to.

      Here is the speech I wish I could give j-school students (and I’m saying it as someone who essentially won the job lottery and has a job that pays well, but with tradeoffs that can still sometimes suck): It is OK to want to be paid. It is OK to want to be happy. It is OK to want to live in a big city, whatever your reasons, rather than paying your dues in a small market (and the small market to large market pipeline is broken anyway). It is OK to want to write features for your local paper, or to write listicles for Buzzfeed, or to figure out ways to make people click on headlines. It is OK to work on the internet. It is OK to decide that work-life balance is important and that you, personally, cannot be a pillar upholding democracy any longer.

      I say all this because this decision can be really emotionally fraught. Whatever you decide, good luck.

      The last thing I’d say — I often see people frame their options as journalism or PR, nothing else. (Not running down PR — it’s an important field! But it’s not for everyone.) The truth is that there are a LOT of jobs where an ability to communicate with the public clearly is an asset. If you want to jump to another field, take time to really figure out what paths are open to you — don’t just pick the one that seems like your only choice because it’s what you’ve see people do.

      Reply
      1. woc in tech

        I really wish this was something that was said to me in Journalism school. Instead, I was ‘putting my degree in jeopardy’ for writing for and producing websites on the side, which couldn’t possibly be real journalism. (Especially the indie lifestyle mags I wrote for – that were ~gasp~ mostly online and ALSO for women, oh noes.) Plus there was some truly absurd pushback when I wanted to write about web stuff for my thesis. Sold that piece, it did well.
        The fraught, frankly classist nonsense that gets shoved down your throat is abysmal. (Now I’m in tech! PR isn’t the only option, I love my job.)

        Reply
      2. Indie

        Ugh, I also hate the hierarchy of story types; if you’re given the story about a sick child, apparently that’s less prestigious than the crime/politics lead according to an old colleague. Never mind that it makes no difference to your pay and that capturing the pathos of the former takes some serious skills; there are levels of ‘impact’! Horseshit. I write just as much now, after leaving the profession but I write what I want, for myself, and I’m not hemmed in by quite as much nonsense.

        Reply
    9. NZ Muse

      Another ex journo …

      I struggled a lot with leaving. But I’ve never looked back! I’d always worked in online news/publishing specifically and pivoting to digital marketing/social media was a small shift. Still get to write and edit (to a lesser degree) and be creative. Better resourced and much better paid even in the public sector) first went to government, then another non profit and now corporate – corporate benefits are awesomeeeeee). And it honestly suits me much better, as the stuff I used to hate/dread/struggle with (calling people on the phone, representing my publication, being a face for it) is no longer an issue as my day to day work is largely internally focused

      Reply
  12. Lurky McLurkerson

    I just went through this myself. I had worked so hard to get to my dream job but it required me to move out of state away from my boyfriend and family. I loved my job but what was the point if everything else in my life was lacking. So two months ago I spoke to a friend who worked in a hospital lab to ask what her job was like and a few days later I accepted a position with better pay and moved back two weeks later. I was always afraid working in hospital labs was very cold and clinical and not at all like my old job. but the reality is its not bad at all. im at the front line in detection which helps places like my old job know whats going on in my community so I am getting a new type of job fulfillment I never even thought about. And with the extra money we r finally settling down and bought a house and I am furnishing it exactly the way I want! I can see my boyfriend everyday and hit the beach again whenever I want. I realized in my mid 30s now that there was way more to life then only my career, dont get sidetracked thinking your job is the only way you will get any type of fulfillment in life.

    I wish you luck in your decision! ;)

    Reply
  13. Snark

    I would err on the side of making more money, and freelance on the side. I fundamentally am the type that works to live, and no matter how much I enjoy my job (and I do!), I will always, always, always enjoy travel, hiking, climbing, and cooking more.

    Reply
    1. Slow Gin Lizz

      Likewise. I was a fulltime musician for seven years and never got a raise beyond COL increases. Barely made ends meet. Finally got a boring office job and it was much less stressful and I could still freelance on the side (no more violin teaching!). Now I have a better office job with better pay and benefits, I still freelance, and can afford to go on vacations and eat out occasionally. Sadly, I think that a lot of the arts/writing jobs are okay for the young folks just out of school and the world of arts/writing don’t mind the high turnover because they can continue paying small salaries and no benefits in exchange for eager youngsters who are just starting out. Once you get older and realize that you need a savings account or more medical care, it’s very hard to stay in these fields unless you are willing to scrimp a lot. I was not willing, so I decided I needed a job in a better-paying field.

      (BTW, Snark, I agree that hiking is wayyyyyyy better than working even though working is just fine.)

      Reply
  14. Not a mouse

    It definitely depends on the person. But you’ve only been in the industry for 3 years, which is not very long, especially considering you’ve been at multiple jobs. It may be worth it to see how you can progress at the job you’re at now. In other words I think it could be too soon to assume you’ll be stuck where you are forever. Maybe you can come up with a realistic 2 year plan and see where you are then.

    Reply
    1. Arjay

      This was my thought too. I don’t know enough about the field, but if staying in one job for a couple years will allow the OP to do what she loves AND make enough money to be more comfortable, that’s worth considering.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen_A

      That is a very good point. You really can’t expect too many promotions to come a year or 18 months into the job. It happens (actually, come to think of it, it happened to me), but usually under less than ideal circumstances (which, again, is what happened to me). I mean, it worked out OK for me, but it would have been much better if that first editorship happened after 3 years rather than after just over a year, because maaaaan, was I tossed out in the deep end.

      Reply
    3. Lana Kane

      This stood out to me as well. It’s something to think about, but in the OP’s position I wouldn’t be making a huge change just yet, if I enjoyed what I was currently doing and the thought of leaving made me feel like I would regret doing so. Climbing the ladder takes more time in some field than others.

      Reply
  15. Tuxedo Cat

    How bad would a different job be? And can you pursue your passion as a side job?

    I would probably pick money over a job I love, as long as the job were decent and interesting enough. For myself, financial security is really important. Also, I have seen people resent their passions when their passion isn’t making them much money.

    Reply
  16. sunshyne84

    This has been a topic a few times here and I think the consensus is that being able to enjoy your life is priority. If you were paid more, but never had time to enjoy it you would still be unhappy. Fortunately with writing, I think there are a lot of other ways to be able to contribute outside of your day job. Maybe freelance as a side gig? Or start your own website.

    Reply
  17. MassholeMarketer

    I graduated three years ago with my Bachelors and had a focus in journalism all throughout college. Journalism is awesome but as I approached graduation, I realized how little writers make and decided to go into marketing. We have four marketing employees at my company and 3/4 of us had a focus on journalism. The two other than me were actual journalists for a while but then decided to go into marketing because of the pay. My boss loooooves content creation and loves that he’s still able to write. We even have a newsletter at my place that we have to write stories for, so not all hope is lost!
    I’d say that loving what you do dramatically increases how happy you are in life, but pay is also important. Look into other writing jobs and see what’s out there. Honestly, marketing doesn’t have to be as corporate-y as you think. Find something interest to market and it can be really exciting.

    Reply
    1. SoSo

      I’m in a similar boat! I spent several years as a journalism major before realizing that I liked media better (and didn’t want the stress of a journalist’s lifestyle), and so I ended up with a degree in new media content production and work as a social media manager. It’s not stuffy and corporate at all, and I still get to be creative every single day.

      Reply
  18. AnotherHRPro

    This is a question only the OP can answer. I’ve chosen to do work that I’m good at and enjoy. It is not my passion, but it also pays very well. For me, financial security and professional success are very important. I have friends and family that feel personal fulfillment from different things and they have made choices that better align for them.

    Reply
  19. Luna

    You’ve only been in journalism for 3 years, so I think you still have time to decide. Three years is not very long. Especially not when considering promotions, since it sounds like you’ve been moving around to different companies, not at the same one for all 3 years. If you did stay in the field, is there the chance to be promoted and earn a higher salary? Or would higher positions in your field still pay very little?

    If there is no chance to earn more even if you can move up in journalism, I personally would consider a higher paying career switch. You are afraid you won’t like it, but you have no idea until you try. You might discover that you like other jobs just find AND get paid more to do them. Don’t let the fear of change hold you back! And if you do hate it, you can always go back to what you’re doing now.

    Reply
  20. Kim

    This is hard. I think I genuinely ENJOY the work-work part of my job maybe 40% of the time. A lot of it is stuff I don’t LOVE doing. The most important thing for me is that I have coworkers I like, a company that’s decent to its employees (and can be a good career stepping stone), and a paycheck that is increasing over time and allows me to afford the things I want to do in my life.

    For me, that’s living a comfortable life with enough money for nice things as a treat and having enough left over to save, donate to things I feel are worthwhile, and be able to financially help my sister and niece. I’ve always chosen the money over a more “exciting” sort of job that paid less, and I don’t regret that decision.

    Reply
  21. blink14

    Take a long thought on what your life priorities are, and plan around those. From what it sounds like, you like your job, but aren’t confident in your skills and you don’t love it, which is likely translating at job interviews. Journalism is a career where you need to have a true passion to build a solid career and stay relevant in the industry. Your priorities will shift as time goes on, and if your priority now is to save for a home and have a more steady financial footing, you probably should follow that. Maybe it’s worth taking another type of writing job for a year or 2, see how you feel about it. You may realize the financial trade off is what you need, or you might realize that journalism is really where you want to be. Either way there will be sacrifices, but being a successful journalist also becomes a lifestyle.

    I also live in a really expensive city, and while I’d like to take a more creative job, I took a private university job which pays about average for the position, but the benefits, particularly sick time and medical, are far above the average. I deal with a lot of medical problems, especially in the past few years, and I decided I’d rather have solid, high end health insurance and a lot of sick time versus trying to look for something creative that more than likely pays lower and has PTO time and average insurance. I like my job, I don’t love it, but it allows me to pursue my own interests if I watch my spending and also frees me from worrying about having to pay astronomical medical bills.

    Reply
  22. Eowyn

    As someone who has jumped between media and marketing jobs, this is a very interesting letter to me. I’m currently moving from a poorly paid media job back to a corporate marketing role that is allowing me to move to a country I’ve always wanted to be in. After struggling in the media, dealing with ruthless competitiveness and in my case, zero expectation of progression, I just know I’m not suited for that life. Plus, I can relate with the money issues – after a while it can get stifling.

    All that said, my experience is different to yours because I was disappointed once I got to my dream of the media and my media role was different to yours. If you really love your job (and lifestyle writer is certainly a role that I have personally dreamed of, so I can understand) then maybe it doesn’t matter. In that case, I’d keep doing the best in the job that you’re in and holding tight while you settle there past a few months. It’s still fairly early to tell how your progression might go.

    Reply
  23. Washi

    It sounds from your letter like you feel there are two options: low pay and a job you love, or higher pay at a boring job. I don’t know your field or you, but would it be possible to work at a higher paying job and do lifestyle freelance writing on the side? If you moved into a higher paying job, could you find another fun lifestyle writing gig if it turned out to not be a good fit? Are there other corners of your field that would pay more but still feel rewarding?

    I felt very passionately during college and my early 20s that I didn’t care how much money I made and that it was worth it to scrape by in order to do meaningful work that I loved. That attitude actually served me well, because as someone who graduated at the end of the recession, I wasn’t likely to find a high-paying job anyway :) But as I’ve gotten older and gained more experience, and I see more of a gradation of options available in my area of work and you can bet I’m focusing on the corner of my field that will both give me a reasonably satisfactory job, and pay more than pennies. The other thing is that I’ve found that as I’ve been at higher levels and make more money and have a more satisfying life outside of work, I also enjoy my workdays more, because I’m in a healthier space in general.

    Reply
  24. Martha Heil

    Everything has its tradeoffs. Talk to older people at the lifestyle pubs you work at and find out how they survived — and if there aren’t any, that’s a signal right there. It is hard to come back to journalism, if you get out and go to “the dark side” of PR, but PR is a way better lifestyle. I don’t know exactly what ‘bid writing’ is, I think it might be what we call ‘grant writing’ in the US, and if that’s the case it’s not all the way over to the dark side and you could possibly come back, especially in a management role. However, only three years of experience isn’t really a lot of time, and maybe you just haven’t found the right company yet. On the other hand, if you already can’t stand it, that’s good to know about yourself and you can move along another path. The perks of being at a lifestyle pub aren’t found anywhere else though — free samples, invites to parties, ability to interview celebs — so decide what you’re willing to give up in order to get what you want. This is coming from a person who thought “The Bell Jar” was in the nature of a documentary, though — YMMV.

    Reply
    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace

      I agree. It’s very useful to figure out what you want to keep doing for money, and what you won’t do no matter how much money they throw at you. Sometimes that takes time and experience to know for sure, but you should be able to make at least a start at it. What do you most love doing in your current job? What do you most try to avoid doing in your current job? You can use those to target your search toward other jobs that have more things on the “what you love” side, and less (or none) on the “what you avoid” side. And it’s a useful exercise even if you decide to stick with journalism.

      Reply
    2. Rebecca

      I agree with Martha Heil–it sounds like you could really use some mentorship here. What have senior staff members done to stay in the game? What has their career progression been like–did they try a few things and jump around, or was it a straight line? Did they freelance and then come back in house–could that be a viable option for you if you were trying out another full-time gig and didn’t like it? Also, try to feel them out subtly about money–is there a pay jump a few levels up that you could be in line for, or is everyone just married to a high-earner? Be extremely wary if there is no real in-house senior staff except for people your own age or only slightly older. If it’s awkward to have these conversations in your own office, you could look for people in other similar organizations. You shouldn’t feel you need to make all these decisions completely alone in the dark. You can ask those who have been there what you future might look like.

      Reply
      1. Martha Heil

        >>Be extremely wary if there is no real in-house senior staff except for people your own age or only slightly older

        So. true.

        Reply
    3. Frankie

      I really like this idea of connecting with long-timers in the field to see what balances they’ve struck.

      Reply
  25. PegLeg

    I agree with everyone that it is up to you and your priorities. I’m around your same age, and have friends doing similar things. I’m somewhat well paid, my partner is very well paid, and it still seems like we can’t quite keep up appearances with ours friends. One thing that is helpful for me to remember is that you never know someone else’s financial situation. My partner and I value saving money and spending on experiences, so our outward life doesn’t reflect the same spending habits as our friends. And, for all we know, they may be going thousands of dollars in debt living their fashionable, luxurious lives. It doesn’t help your work situation, and doesn’t help that you still feel like you have to budget every single penny, but reminding myself of my financial goals and the fact that you never know what is going on financially with someone else helps when I’m feeling that jealous creep.

    Reply
  26. Ashley

    You should listen to Allison’s piece on the BBC from earlier this week.
    For me at this stage the money is more important. I have a debt payoff plan so I know I am not stuck in an ok job that pays well forever. Once the debt is paid and some house projects are completed, I will be free to do something lower paying if I want. Knowing I don’t have to do this for another 20-30 years really helps when the job is mundane.

    Reply
  27. Hey-eh

    Try not to compare yourself to your friends. My husband and I make good money and we have a general sense of how much some of our friends and we know it’s less than us. But they are the ones that live in nice apartments in popular areas of the city, have furniture that matches, eat out all the time, go on multiple holidays a year, etc.. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to people who may be living outside their means.
    Would you consider moving to bid writing and keeping up with lifestyle journalism through blogging, writing editorials and sending them to multiple publishing houses for possible publication, aka having lifestyle journalism as a side gig?

    Reply
    1. Lana Kane

      Absolutely. When I was in my 20’s I was friends with a couple who was our same age. They traveled a lot and had a lifestyle that I just couldn’t figure out, especially since they also were college grads with student loan debt. I thought I must be doing something wrong. Finally , the wife mentioned that both their parents helped them quite a bit. I felt much better.

      Reply
    2. Daisy

      I don’t think I agree with the first part of your advice for OP. £26k is objectively not very much money for a 30 year old professional in London, it seems much more likely that her friends are actually just making more money than her. Everyone says ‘don’t compare yourself to others’ like it’s a universal rule, but I think sometimes it can be a useful way of working out if you’re really happy with where you’re going, when you see that there are other possibilities.

      Reply
      1. former foster kid

        £26k is pretty average salary for a 20-something in london.

        remember that 40% of the country makes below £19k/year, and that that average income in the uk is £27k/year.

        for a lifestyle journalist, 3 years, in london? that’s exactly where i’d expect them to be.

        this of course does not me that salaries are not *absurdly* low in the uk, particularly now that the pound has lost much of its value.

        Reply
  28. Cassandra

    Hi, OP. Here’s my suggestion to you as you think this through: no job is your career, much less your destiny. I have a feeling you’ll feel less conflicted in the long run if you try out some career alternatives.

    If you find a corporate job and you turn out to hate it, you don’t have to be stuck there forever. (You might have to stay long enough to avoid the appearance of job-hopping.) You can change jobs! Or go back to freelancing, if you’d rather! You could even moonlight as a freelancer, to keep your hand in, though I won’t pretend this will be easy on you.

    I am a trained librarian. Unfortunately, the niche of librarianship I landed in after graduation was a total loser (which I couldn’t have known at the time due to its newness — so it goes sometimes). Long story short, I teach in higher-ed now, am very happy with where I am — and absolutely never expected to land here! Keeping an open mind and an opportunistic outlook paid off richly for me. It might for you, too.

    (Do I have my eye on possible next things? Sure, even though I’m happy where I am. Life happens. Knowing there are other things I could turn my hand to if necessary is reassuring.)

    A book you might enjoy and get some validation from: Herminia Ibarra’s Working Identity.

    Reply
  29. Higher Ed Database Dork

    I think it would be good for you to read yesterday’s post about “following your passion” and Alison’s clip she recorded. The comments are all really good.

    For me, a lot of it comes down to what you need in various seasons of your life. Sometimes it’s better to do the job you love for less money. Sometimes it’s better to go for the money. You don’t have to pick one over the other, for all time. Also, sometimes you start a job for the money, and find it really enjoyable. My point is – you don’t have to view these things in a dichotomy where you only get one choice for the rest of your life.

    It sounds like right now you are kind of burned out on the low-paying jobs and would really like to increase your income to achieve some of the non-work dreams you have, and that’s totally okay! Give the higher paying job a try. Make a plan to get out of it if it turns out you really hate it. Investigate other options to pursue lifestyle journalism that could either be higher-paying full time jobs, or supplemental jobs to the corporate one. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Good luck!

    Reply
  30. Specialk9

    Take the money.

    Especially if you’re a woman.

    Every year you’re not making money impacts future earnings, savings, and retirement. (And that’s a crazy low salary in most places, but especially in London.)

    You can find things to enjoy about most jobs, if you enjoy learning and self development. Doors and windows open in many jobs, if you talk to people, and/or are open to learning, and/or connect things from different silos that other people don’t connect.

    You can find hobbies to focus on. ‘Work as identity’ is an idea that I get, but also have found many of my driven ambitious peers drifting from after the 20s, for various reasons. Family, health, other passions, work life balance, etc.

    When you start resenting people you love for the things you don’t have, that’s when you’ve already decided on some level, I think.

    Reply
    1. AliceW

      Couldn’t agree more. Though I am biased. I went all in for the money. I went to school on an art scholarship, changed to an English major and then ended up with a job in finance. I managed to sell a few paintings on the side and also made a (very) little bit of money as a screenwriter over the years. But choosing to chase the money has allowed me to live a lifestyle beyond anything I would have imagined for myself when I graduated school. And I will be retiring next year while still in my 40s. I am not super rich or anything but I did well enough to gain my financial independence. My job is not stressful or difficult and it has been okay over the past 20 years-not enjoyable, but okay. In retirement I plan to travel, write, paint and do all the things I love- all on my own schedule. Obviously it would be ideal if one could be well paid for something one loves to do, but for most of us that is unfortunately not the case. For me, Money=freedom. Freedom= happiness.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        You’re an inspiration! I hope to be in your shoes! I’m in my late 20s now, setting aside as much money as I can and hoping to retire early.

        Reply
  31. spek

    Maybe you can approach it from another angle. Does it have to be London? I have spent some time in the UK, and 26K (or even 50K) in London is not a living wage. I can relate – I live in the Bay Area, and despite making what some people would think is a fantastic amount of money, it’s poverty level here and I can’t wait to move somewhere else and make half the money but live better. Could you relocate to Birmingham or Manchester where the lower cost of living would give you some breathing room?

    Reply
    1. Specialk9

      Yeah – I have 2 friends who went for the wildly underpaid dream jobs. But they moved to places where cost of living is ridonkulous. If you can buy a house for $60 thousand instead of $2 million, well that’s a lot more doable.

      Reply
  32. Was I ready for a career leap?

    As a small-town journalist turned big-city lawyer, this one hits close to home. All I can truly tell you is that you are correct in identifying that it’s a series of trade offs.

    Do I regret becoming a suit instead of staying a psuedo-adventurer? Well, I have more debt, but I also have more income and that helped me afford a house. Working with attorneys means dealing with more jerks than covering high school football did, but it can be fun at times to write a really satisfying brief detailing how wrong I believe them to be. Some days I miss not knowing what my day will entail when I get up. Some days I appreciate knowing that as long as I cross X, Y, and Z off my to do list, people will likely leave me be (though I’m also constantly surprised by the variety of legal travails people can find themselves in). There are parts to practicing law you can’t entirely appreciate in advance even if you understand them abstractly, like the fact that no matter how sage your counsel, the client calls the shots and they may explicitly disregard what you’ve told them they should do and blame you for the result. Yet, if I hadn’t gone back to school to change careers, it’s possible and arguably likely I’d have never met my wife. My 9-to-5 is less fun (and more 7-to-7) but I do feel like I’m building a family and a social life in a way that didn’t seem possible on the peanuts I made before. I can’t afford to take as much time for vacation as I’d like, but that’s still an improvement over not being able to afford vacation itself.

    The long story short is that pulling at any thread that considers alternate pathways in life is implicitly uncertain and all you can do is educate yourself as best you can to make the most conscious decision possible. Even then, there will always be changes you didn’t fully know to expect and “what if” questions that are unanswerable since you can’t live both lives and pick the one you want in hindsight.

    I wish you the best of luck whatever your decision — and I’d talk to as many people as you can for their insight and listen to your instincts about what will make you the most restless.

    Reply
  33. irene adler

    Can you commit for a time doing a higher paying job, with the notion that you’ll switch back to something you like better after certain financial goals are reached?
    Can one re-enter lifestyle journalism once one leaves it?

    Reply
  34. missc

    I work with books rather than magazines, but it’s the same deal here. Salaries are very low compared with other industries (I’m a few years older than you, in a reasonably senior role, and earn only slightly more) and I can totally sympathise with the frustration you feel at seeing friends earning far more than you do. I have friends who just can’t comprehend the fact that I’m still earning less than they did when we all left uni 15 years ago, despite the fact that I have years of experience in very well-respected roles and companies. But that’s just how it is, for me – I enjoy what I do, I can just about pay the rent and enjoy a half-decent standard of living (I might not be able to buy a house or go on the sort of holidays my friends do, but I love where I live and I enjoy holidaying with my family which makes things cheaper!) and I’d rather do something I like and have less money. In fact, I left a job that was very impressive on paper (but still didn’t pay a whole lot) to go freelance because the job was burning me out and making me hate an industry that I’d always liked working in.

    So…it’s up to you to decide which side of the fence you fall on. I have a friend who used to be a bid writer, and when I was freelancing she outsourced some of her work to me. The hourly rates were great, but the writing itself was deathly dull and extremely technical, and in the end I just couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to keep doing it despite the fact that it paid better than my other work.

    Reply
  35. HMM

    I don’t think you need to swing from one extreme to another – job you love but poor vs. job you hate and wealthy. And I hope you don’t take that as a personal criticism of you, because I do the same thing all the time. I think a situation HAS to be X or it HAS to be Y but then forget that there are a million options and choices in between that. So get yourself out of thinking in polar extremes and think about what other options you can pursue:
    – have you talked to your boss about why you make so little at your current job and ask what it takes to get promoted?
    – can you pick up additional freelance lifestyle writing on the side to generate more income?
    – are there other publications that allow you to do the job you love AND pay better?
    – how can you provide more value to your current job to increase your earning potential (at the existing job and at opportunities elsewhere?)
    – how much has switching from job to job limited your earning potential and can you mitigate it’s effects with your next move?
    – have you talked to other journalists who do what you do to get their advice on what it takes to make it in this industry?
    – is there a middle ground where you give up a little bit of what you love about your current job for sufficient earnings to make it worth it?

    In addition, think about how much money you really think you’d be happy with. Don’t think about your friends, think about what YOU personally would be happy with, your personal goals, and what it takes to get there. It’s different for everyone, but when you’re clear about what you want, you can think about what you can compromise on to get there.

    If you did all of the above and decided to make the choice to go for the money, I wouldn’t blame you. I’m a work to live person, so I’ve made the same choice hundreds of times over. But if you haven’t even explored any other options or ways to get what you want in terms of a fulfilling career and pay, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice – not because you need to LOVE what you’re doing (I don’t), but because if you can both mostly enjoy what you’re doing AND make a comfortable wage… why wouldn’t you?

    Reply
  36. OtterB

    Lots of good advice so far, which I’m not going to repeat. One additional thing to keep in mind is the work climate of the non-journalism jobs you consider. Saving for a house is one thing, but if you also want more money so you can take better vacations, eat out more often, etc., but you land in a job that expects you to give it all your time and energy and you never seem to get around to taking those vacations, you haven’t gained much.

    Good luck with the choice.

    Reply
  37. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    This is tough, because at bottom, it really requires OP to do some soul-searching. Everyone will have a different answer to OP’s predicament—the path OP chooses depends entirely on what OP wants and values, and those are not factors that we can opine on.

    OP, if you’re looking for permission to work solely for money, you have it. Many people don’t have the ability to work for what they love, and for many people, financial security (and the stress of being financially insecure) is more important for their emotional health. As a legal services attorney, I split the difference. Early in my legal career, developing skills and doing work I love was more important to me than money. But when I made that decision, I knew I would likely never be able to afford to buy a home in California or to do things like go on fancy vacations. Now I make a more moderate salary with better benefits, but I still get to do work that I love. I still won’t be able to afford the lifestyle my BigLaw friends live, but I’m extremely happy with where I landed.

    But this also may not be an either/or situation for you. Can you freelance as a journalist while working a job that takes care of your financial needs? (Unfortunately, journalism jobs seem to be shrinking, and wages are stagnant.) Could you work a job that ultimately allows you to transition into more satisfying writing gigs?

    Reply
  38. mark132

    LW, I think you need to also factor job security into this equation. Journalism as a field has some challenges, there are a lot of newspapers for instance laying people off.

    Reply
  39. K

    A few years ago I took a pay cut to pursue a job I loved. Im now in my mid 30’s, trying to balance a mortgage, remaining student loans, and life on what’s basically entry level salary. For me, I’ve enjoyed being able to really like my job for a while; but it’s not sustainable. I’m now looking for something I’ll still like by not necessarily a life passion, that will allow me to pay my bills. It’s a trade off but it’s whats right for me. That decision will look different for everyone.

    Reply
  40. Kvothe

    I’m in the work to live not live to work camp, I’m not in like a dream career but my job comes with a nice salary which lets me have the nice house, furniture, wine, etc. which I very much enjoy outside of work hours. Outside of work I do all the things I love but would never make enough money at to be happy full time, I find that it’s been a good trade off for me personally

    Reply
  41. jamlady

    I am going to preface this by stating that my husband and I both lucked out and are now in jobs we love where the pay is great. However, for the last 7 years, he was in a job he hated that paid well and I was in a job I loved that paid dirt. My husband has always been okay with this toxic job because he gets paid so well. As for me… eventually the pay started to weigh on both of us and it became difficult to *continue* to love that job. At some point, I started to feel undervalued and resentful, and it wasn’t until I left for a lower level job that was *twice* the pay that I realized that. The reality is – I love what I do, but I can do that in other positions where the constant stress of not being able to afford the bills doesn’t weigh on me.

    Reply
  42. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    It isn’t a binary, sadly. You have to accept that work is not going to be doing only what you want to do all day long, because those jobs are like unicorns; it’s like hoping to win the lottery. You need to find the balance of the work and income that are sustainable for you.

    That said, some points to consider: jobs that sound boring or unmotivating can be surprisingly engaging when you get into them, living on a razor-thin margin income-wise is setting yourself up for disaster, and jobs change but income tends to build. In other words, moving into a higher-paying position can set you up to continue getting higher-paying positions even when you change jobs.

    Reply
    1. HMM

      I used to worry about not staying at a job for long enough, but then I realized your point about income building. I was worried people I really respected would judge me for leaving, but everyone understands Money (esp. in the nonprofit world).

      Reply
  43. Career Changer

    Would you be willing to make the switch, commit to a year, and then evaluate? Just because you go in a different direction now doesn’t mean you can’t return to the writing you enjoy. Maybe you decide that after 5+ years it’s time for a change. Give it a go! And in 12 months if you HATE it? Well then you’ll have a new experience to add to your resume and you can go about looking for a job you enjoy more.

    One thing I’ve noticed about creative careers: it’s sometimes more fun to do them on the side when the stakes are low. You can take the time to seek out projects that you’re excited about instead of taking whatever comes across your desk. You could always start a blog or self-publish essays/think-pieces that you love while working a “boring” job that affords you the lifestyle you want. Heck, you could even WRITE about career change, how you’re making do on a smaller budget and the steps you and your partner take to save for house.

    Reply
  44. The Original K.

    It really depends on the person. For me, I’m more of a “money over work” person. Financial security is essential for me. I am not going to like any job that has me scrimping and scraping to get by, no matter how interesting the work is – I’ll just resent it for not paying enough. The fact that I don’t have financial security will always trump the work itself, if that’s the kind of lifestyle the job provides. I need to hit a certain income threshold and I’m fine with that. So my goal is to stay at or above that threshold at a job I’m okay with most of the time (every job comes with bad days), that affords me enough time and money to pursue my recreational interests.

    Reply
  45. LDN Layabout

    I’m going to echo that it’s different for every person but also…London is tough.

    I personally love the city enough for the drawbacks (aka knowing that without substantial parental support I’m never buying property) but personally, because I do love London, I’m very much on the money side of this debate.

    (I’m currently around about your salary and while I don’t love love my job, I nearly cried when I figured out how much more per month I’d be earning even just moving to around 34k in my new job and knowing what doors that opens up e.g. I could afford to live on my own instead of strangers if my flatmate decides to move on)

    Reply
    1. Marion Ravenwood

      Same here. I’m earning about the same as the OP, in a job that I don’t love but with nice colleagues and good benefits, and that allows me to keep my side hustle going even though I’ve accepted I’ll probably have to do a ‘proper’ job for the rest of my life to continue to pursue that passion. Husband and I manage OK – we were lucky enough to be able to buy a house a few years ago with an inheritance from a relative, although we did save a *lot* as well – but it can be difficult to manage here unless you’re really strict with your budget.

      Unfortunately I think part of the issue is that a lot of sectors/industries are really concentrated in London. My husband’s job is in a very specific field which would make it really hard for us to move too far away (he can work from home, but due to the fact he works with sensitive data his employer restricts this quite a lot), and I think journalism can be very similar especially if you cover an area like the arts. But that’s tied up with issues around flexible working and a shift in many employers’ mindsets, and I’m not really sure what the solution is.

      Reply
  46. Kelly

    I’ve been in this very conundrum. A great but underrated option is taking a chill but higher-paying day job, and then freelancing a little on the side for fun. I did this for a few years and it worked out great! Also, because the freelancing kept my clips and contacts fresh, I was able to break back into a full-time journalism job when a good offer came along. Now I’m keeping the option of returning to nonprofit communications in my back pocket, knowing how insane the journalism industry is.

    Also, I think you should be able to find a day job that you don’t hate. Maybe bid writing (is that like grant writing?) sounds stuffy and corporate, but what about working in communications at, say, a progressive nonprofit?

    Reply
  47. VeryAnonForever

    With the UK doing The Thing That Cannot Be Named, I would go for the money. I’m kicking in my freelance work to get a proper job because my industry will seriously be affected by any mess ups from That Deal.

    Also how about living outside London and commuting in? I live on the Portsmouth mainline and there are trains to London frequently. My rent is on the high side but lower than anything I’d get in London.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. LDN Layabout

      Beware the long commute in terms of 1) Season ticket cost and 2) whether your trains are Thameslink or Southern…

      Reply
      1. VeryAnonForever

        Southwestern, who are almost as bad… but I pity those on the Southern route, at least SWR don’t strike (too much). Our rails just melt and trains keep bursting into flames at Surbiton. Something you want to tell us, Surbiton-dwellers?

        Reply
      2. Marion Ravenwood

        I lived on a Southeastern route for the first five years I was in London, and thought it was terrible. Then I moved to somewhere served by Southern and didn’t realise how good I had it before!

        (But yes to season ticket cost. We briefly considered moving out to Rochester. Houses were half as much as in London, but we would have spent eight grand a year between us on getting to work. Given that it would have evened out in 15 years, we figured we’d take the hit and stay in the city.)

        Reply
    2. media monkey

      i live close to Reading and commute every day. colleague commutes from Southampton. house prices are high everywhere but London is INSANE

      Reply
  48. Lemon Bars

    I do very well at accounting, promoted consistently and the paycheck it provides affords us a nice home, vacations, kids, and a secret stash of LV and Chanel handbags. But I dont love accounting or accounting work, it was never a dream ever. In fact if I won the lottery tomorrow I would never look back on my job, and would be so thankful to not have to plan out another quarter or balance or tie back another account. I love photography, portraits and landscapes and weddings, but I’ve never made enough to pay for a lifestyle let alone the one I want with photography. So until I can retire photography is a part time gig (nights and weekends), that anything I earn from it can go back into buying the fancy equipment. The idea that you have to love your job is a nice one for teachers and doctors but if you cant keep the lights on it just doesn’t work. It’s great if you can make your dream work for you, but if you cant you have to find another way to pursue your dream, its still living the dream if you are only doing it part time right? but that is just my theory, yours is the one that counts for you!!

    Reply
    1. JustaCPA

      I started life as an accountant for almost 10 years. When I moved cities after getting married, I worked full time as a wedding/portrait photographer for over 20 years. I then went into BACK into accounting for the financial stability and benefits! I don’t find many numbers people who are also into photography!

      Reply
    2. media monkey

      my old boss left our industry and turned his side hustle photography job into his main job. he found that to make money he was working every single weekend at weddings almost all year and doing wedding fairs/ meeting clients/ prep work/ developing/ mounting/ uploading photos for most of the week. he’s gone back to having a main job with the photography as a hobby so that he can concentrate of the fine art photography he really loves.

      Reply
  49. The Ginger Ginger

    Is it possible to find a corporate writing job with better pay and excellent work/life balance and still do some of the writing you love free lance/on the side? You won’t lose your connection to the lifestyle journalism, and if in 2 years you find corporate life unbearable, you’ll have recent work to show as you apply for new positions. You can take those 2 years (or however long) of better pay and SAVE SAVE SAVE, instead of funding a lifestyle change right out the gate. That way if you do decide to go back to a lower paid job you can go back with a cushion. That alone may change your whole outlook on the lower pay.

    Basically, I think the money would be worth it if you were careful with it. I don’t think you have to totally leave behind the kind of writing you love, and you may find you enjoy the benefits more than you expect. If you hate it, you can comfort yourself with the cash long enough to save something/pay off debt before you go back to what you like better.

    Speaking from personal experience. I am not passionate about my job, and I’m not ashamed of that fact. I do have a job that I find satisfaction in, and that I’m reasonably happy to do. But it’s work. If I wasn’t getting paid, I’d be doing something else. I like the people I work with and I find the work challenging (in an good way). I’m proud of the fact that people come to me to ask questions and that I recently got promotion. It is just no where near a “passion” for me. AND THAT’S OKAY. My requirements for a job are – I feel like I’m doing something productive every day; I have a good work/life balance; I don’t dread going to work in the morning; the people are pleasant; and I get paid enough money to save something, live in a home that makes me happy, and enjoy my free time. That’s it.

    So, if you’re putting it to a vote. I say make the switch, but keep your fingers in the writing that you find fulfilling on the side. Money’s not everything, but it’s not nothing. And saying it won’t make you happy is the privilege of the comfortably wealthy.

    Reply
  50. Jen

    I went to law school with the intent of becoming an environmental lawyer and saving the world. And I worked for two different environmental law organizations and ended up miserable in both. I pivoted to a very different field. I am not saving the world, but I do get to help a lot of small business owners out. And the hours and pay are good so I have the ability to take vacations and pursue outside hobbies. I had more passion for my old subject matter, but I am significantly happier now.

    I say give it a try.

    Reply
  51. Joan

    Sounds like you don’t have enough data yet, *for you*, to make a decision and feel settled with it. The grass may always look greener on the other side. For me, having enough lived experience on a pathway to know how it might look/feel years and years from now has been invaluable in making these decisions and feeling okay about what I am giving up.

    I’d suggest continuing what you’re doing for a bit longer. My gut says three years; yours might have a different timeline in mind. During that time, do good work and try to stay with the same employer and also pursue promotion. Whether you get promoted or not, you’ll have a better picture of what your life and work will realistically look like if you stay on the path, and you’ll have an internal feeling of having given it a good shot with decent follow-through. (i.e., quelling the “what if I’d just stuck it out a little longer…” voices that are likely to surface if you make a jump now.)

    Simultaneously, work on mapping out your plan B. Whatever that looks like. Informational interviews, training workshops, volunteer work, salary research, whatever makes sense. See if you can make it as appealing in all aspects as plan A, with a better financial picture.

    Then, feel into both options, and trust your gut.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  52. Laurelma__01!

    I think you need to look at the long picture. The higher salary will bring more security, and you can have a nest egg if the job disappears to survive on. This is coming from someone that had an injury that took them off the job market for 5 months, and it’s screwed up my credit and everything else, still recovering 4 years later.

    You can take a higher salary in the cooperate world and work as a free lancer to meet your creative needs. I have a friend that teaches in the university, but does a weekly column for the newspaper. Another that teachers and is a contributor to various magazines. This is all in higher education. They take the teaching job to survive, get a pension, and they enjoy the students (most of them). This pays the bills, their creative writing and academic publications meet their other needs.

    I’ve learned that it’s rare to have a job that is your passion that pays well.

    Reply
  53. Publicist

    I’m in my 40s. I remember my 20s as working hard at the career I had (not necessarily the one I wanted) in order to make enough money to pay my bills and be an adult. My 30s were spent maintaining a certain level of comfort and reducing the debt I racked up in my 20s. (It’s expensive living in NYC). Now that I’m in my 40s, I don’t regret the choices I made, but I have now solidly planted myself in a career that I am capable of, but that I don’t particularly like and that I know I will never be highly successful at.

    Money is important, but I don’t recommend saddling yourself in a career you’re not remotely interested in just for money. You’ll end up either trapped in a job you don’t like because the money will pay for your mortgage or kids or what have you. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives that might suit you better. As a journalist you could work as a copywriter, social media content producer, publicist, marketing/advertising, grant writer (but that might be the same as bid writer?).

    So I suppose my answer is don’t take a job just for the money. Take a job that you think you might like that has the added bonus of paying more than a writer. (Which given writer’s salaries shouldn’t be too hard to find)

    Reply
  54. Data Miner

    There are three pillars to every job: money, work life balance and career development/advancement. You can never have all three. Over my career, my priorities have shifted between the three and that’s ok. I’d suggest just finding *aspects* of your job that you enjoy doing and focus on that.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Doll

      I don’t think this is absolutely true.

      I myself make very good money, have a high-ish position, and rarely work more than 45 hr per week. And I’ve been in this job for 6 years, so it didn’t even take me all that long to get here.

      I think an important consideration is, that a job does not actually conflict with your values. Not every job is earth-saving and life-changing, but it’s important that you are not doing things that *harm* your mental and emotional well-being because they conflict with your deep convictions.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      I love this about the three pillars. How true!
      And I have to echo the importance of finding aspects of the job you have right now that you enjoy. No two jobs are alike. I assume you will move on at some point. Relish what is right with this job, because you may not see it again for a while. But you may find new things at the new place that you never even thought of and thoroughly enjoy. It’s all trade-offs and no job offers the full package of everything we enjoy in a job.

      I let go of a job that I absolutely LOVED. It was a huge decision to quit. After I quit I had a 9 week long headache. It felt like someone took a baseball bat to my face. I could not even smile without extra effort because of the pain.

      I took a new and better paying job. On Day One of that job, I had a list of personal goals. It wasn’t long, it was about 5 things but they were big things. And life happened, this one got sick, needed care then died, and that one got sick needed care and died. I emptied houses and did estates. And I had many other detours in the road. I kept my list of 5 in the forefront of my thinking. It took a while because of the detours but I hit 4 out of the 5 goals. Then I quit the job to finish my last goal- to get my degree. I had saved enough to pay for the degree in full. phew. What a road that was.

      See, jobs we are head-over-heals about are kind of like SOs we are head-over-heels about. It doesn’t seem to last for Reasons. Then we end up with that practical choice in jobs or SOs and that is the choice that lasts. Why. When our emotions do our decision making we can plan that at some point the emotion will run out. There has to be more to it than the emotion. We have to know our needs are met. We have to know that we are making a contribution in some manner. And for most of us we have to know that we ourselves are on stable ground so we can care for those around us. Just my opinion but if we make it all about having a job we love, then that is all we end up with: a job we love. And there is more to life than that. I suggest to you that this may be what you are finding in your own life. My vote is go for the life you love.

      Reply
      1. IDon’tKnowWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I’m going to have to disagree with you on your last paragraph- being ‘head over heels’ with either an SO or a job does not preclude either one from being practical or lasting.

        And honestly, it puts my shoulders up around my ears to hear it applied to SOs, as it makes it sound like one can have an SO one is ‘head over heels’ with *or* a stable, practical SO. And that’s just not true. And it’s kind of gross & toxic to imply otherwise.

        Reply
  55. EditorInChief

    I have never care whether I hate or love my job. If working at McDonalds paid as much as my current job, I’d do it. My jobs have all been to support the activities in my personal life. I participate in an expensive sport and I like nice things and going on fun vacations. I used to work in editorial for magazines. But wanted to make as much money as possible so I could do all my activities, which is never going to happen in editorial, so I moved over to advertising and now work on enterprise content for big companies and make more than double my edit salary and have amazing benefits. My first priority was to buy an apartment, which I did. Not living paycheck to paycheck is great.

    Reply
  56. Ruth (UK)

    I think it depends on how much you love/hate the job in question and how much money we’re talking about, and then after that it comes down to personal feelings.

    I’d rather do a job I hated for £30k than a job I loved for £12k for example, because I couldn’t survive on that.

    But I’d rather do a job I love for £25k than a job I hate for £40 (as an aside, I do not live in London, but in a cheaper part of the UK. I currently earn £18k which, for where I am, is similar to earning around what you earn in London I believe).

    But I might prefer to do a 40k job I find okaaay than a 25k job I love.

    Like you, I’m also nearing 30 years old.

    It depends on what you like doing, what holidays you want, what lifestyle you hope to afford etc.

    Is your envy of your friends ever/often offset or outweighed by realising how much you like what you do jobwise compared to what they do? If so, it may be worth it for you to stay as you are. If you still feel that way even after going over the details, then maybe the change would make you happier in the long run.

    And it depends how much you’d hate that other job. Would you Hate it, or just be not-excited about it? Eventually it just comes down to what feels right, and then trying to let go of the resentment for what you lose for not taking the other path.

    Reply
  57. fposte

    Some of this feels to me like Ask Polly territory, OP, like you’re seeing this as not just about what kind of work you do but as a referendum on who you are.

    And I’m not going to dismiss the value of liking the idea of a job as well as the actual job, but I think it’s worth thinking about what you like to *do* and not just who you like to *be*. Grantwriting can actually be a really interesting task–they like journalists because it’s really analogous in that journalists are good at putting factual pieces together to tell a compelling narrative. I don’t know WFH policies in the UK, but it’s the kind of job that often allows remote work. Would that solve some of your problems?

    I suspect it doesn’t solve one of the central ones that hits a lot of people with creative talents–if you take a bid-writing job, can you still say you’re a writer? Are you still a writer? Who are you if you’re not? I don’t describe myself as a writer, but I paid for my house with my writing, and I love doing my writing, and that’s enough identity for me. The daily rewards of the work are still satisfying enough that I’m okay with not putting “writer” down as my profession. Could it be the same for you?

    Reply
  58. Mr. Rogers

    I work in a different industry, but another one that’s big on loving the industry and notoriously underpaid. 3 years in is a common time for people to have this exact freak out and quit because suddenly things are taking longer than you thought—the struggle seemed fine theoretically but it’s not so nice years in. Don’t make any snap judgements though, or 3 years into your next choice you’ll be faced with reality again.

    Instead, look at your long term—are there positions you can try to reach in X time and make livable money? What is livable money for you? Can you accept not ever being the richest in your friend group if your bills are paid okay? How do you get to that position? Are you willing to do all that? Can your spouse make more money? Can you move further out to a cheaper spot? Etc etc. 3 years in an industry is barely any time (so no wonder you don’t have a crazy big byline so quick) so to expect this is as good as it gets is shortsighted in my opinion. No one peaks 3 years into a job. But setting a more realistic timeline will make you feel like you have more control, and beat back the feeling of “omg is this just my life forever?”

    Reply
  59. Damn it, Hardison!

    I moved from the academic world to corporate in large part for the money. I had some reservations about the change – corporate environment, politics, accountability/expectations – but turns out that I love it, and not just for the money. Feeling financially insecure was contributing to my stress level, perhaps more than I realized. Having more money has enabled me to set aside savings, do house repairs, save for vacation, etc. I’m finally at a point in my life that an emergency doesn’t upend me financially. Every job has positive and negatives, and for me the money (and what it enables) outweighs the negatives by far.

    Could you do some freelancing outside of work to keep your hand in journalism, if you moved to a corporate position?

    Reply
  60. esra

    So there is a saying with graphic design (and others, I’m sure): Fast, good, cheap, pick two. Because you can only really have two.

    I think the same thing is true of work to be happy: Good people, good money, good work, pick two. You really need at least two of those. And honestly, good money is kind of my key one?? Because I find the art I do on my personal time to be the most fulfilling. So I’d rather work with good people, making decent cash, even if some of my day-to-day design doesn’t push as much as I’d like it to.

    Reply
  61. YoungTen

    OP, I think you are kind of answering your own question. It seems that you (as many of us do as we get older) have reached a crossroad in life where you have to ask yourself is you would be happy in the next 10, 15 years if everything remained as it is now. It sounds like you wouldn’t be. I can tell you from personal experience that Yes, You can find happiness even if you work a job you may not be super passionate about it. Remember that Money is nothing more that a tool. Just like a hammer or a nails. Trying to build without the essential tool is almost impossible and very frustrating. They are many creative ways to fallow your passion while not being employed in that field. Who knows, maybe you take the well paying job, build a good investment portfolio and end up having enough income to take time off to peruse what you love.

    Reply
  62. Laurelma__01!

    I forgot to mention another option. Higher Education hires prior journalists as Media Specialists & Communication Officers. They do the on-line marketing, etc., web design etc. You would make more in the private sector versus public intuitions. But that depends. My institution pays less than the one 15 miles away, but our parking is cheaper, work load is less, and my parking pass doesn’t run over $200 versus the $350 at theirs.

    Always a trade off. You might want to make a list of the pros & cons of your current position. Than list what you want. Maybe work in the cooperate world for a few years to meet financial goals and see if you like it. It also might translate to a higher pay scale if you go back into journalism.

    Reply
  63. QualitativeOverQuantitative

    I absolutely love my job and am paid well enough, but I also know I could make a lot more if I worked some. For me it’s important to enjoy my work, but definitely make enough to live comfortably. I don’t think I would ever love a job where I wasn’t making enough to live the lifestyle I want.

    Reply
  64. Bend & Snap

    I’m lucky to make money I’m happy with AND like what I do/who I do it for. But I’m very much a “work to live” person.

    Money makes it easier to “work to live” as long as what you’re doing doesn’t make you miserable, require you to compromise your ethics, etc.

    But it’s very much a personal decision and nobody can make it but you.

    Reply
  65. Eleanor

    I’m in exactly the same boat as you, with the same amount of experience and even in the same city, but not making as much! This is the reason so many journalists have side gigs doing digital content writing, press releases, etc, or freelancing in their field. Doing something else like PR as a main gig and freelancing on the side to keep your name out there is also an option. The reality is very few in-house jobs are going to pay well enough on their own. But I also don’t want to spend all my time working! I guess I don’t have a bunch of advice except to say I feel you, and feel free to shoot me a message if you want someone to talk to about it.

    Reply
    1. Christine

      I agree with those who have noted that three years is not too terribly long in an industry particularly if you have moved around some before a typical time someone might get a promotion. I’m wondering if you have talked to people that are a few years senior to you at your organization to find out their perspective. Maybe someone who has been at the company 5-6 years. Do you know what their salary is like? I would also approach the topic of growth in the field and the organization with your manager – what is their perspective on the company and your skills? You may have done some of this already, but if you haven’t, it might help you in making the decision to make the switch or stick it out a bit longer to see what happens.

      Reply
  66. LQ

    To some degree jobs are what you make of them. I’ve had “office” jobs but I’ve loved them. My office job now I feel really good about what I’m doing, a big part of it for me is why I’m doing it so I’m willing to get paid less to work in public sector. Some days are really horrible, most of the time those are the days people are going to talk about. Humans just aren’t great about saying, “today work was awesome let me spread around how I had 2 meetings that were incredibly productive and then I got to spend an hour heads down working on something I’m excited about, plus I gave a compliment that really made someone’s day”. But that day happens a lot at my job. I’m still almost always more likely to talk about the “it’s all on fire and I hate everything day”. So beware when people talk about their jobs that you might not be getting a very good idea of what they are actually like.

    The other thing is…consider some of the happiness research. If you live in a part of town and have friends who mostly make more than you it’s going to be harder, try living in a cheaper area and making friends who make less than you do. Especially if you end up staying in the low paying job.

    You can change a lot of things in your life. Job is definitely one (and it sounds like an easier one for you), but not the only one. Are there other ways to achieve the kind of happiness you want? Is the kind of happiness you’re describing really what’s important to you? Does it align with your personal values? It might sound kind of mercenary to say, keep the job find new friends and a new house. But they might both get at the same thing which is feeling like you’re more on-par with the people around you. And they might be just as good of friends so…which trade off is the one you want to make to get at the results you want to achieve?

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      For decades I believed that being chained to a desk would be a fate worse than death. (Not a comment about people at desk jobs, it’s a comment about me. Having to sit all day would be UNbearable for me and I would not be able to sustain it.)
      Imagine my surprise over the almost last ten years of desk jobs that I am happy. I guess I had to burn something out of me first, or I had to realize my old plan was not sustainable or any number of other things.

      A job is what we make it. I put a high value on the human side of the story. I have given people rides, cleared snow off cars for people and brought them plants. There are some parts of any job that will always be Not Good. But we don’t have to let ALL parts of the job be Not Good. We can shape some aspects of our work day and work life. Additionally we can go about our work in an ethical and legal manner and guide others, who may be stumbling, to do the same.

      Reply
  67. aebhel

    I think it’s a balancing act. I work in a field that does not pay terribly well, especially for the educational requirements. I could make more money if I wanted to move into a management role–a lot more money. And it would be fairly easy to do if I wanted to, but I enjoy 90% of my job, I have enough experience as an interim director to know that I HATE management, and–most importantly, for this conversation–I’m generally able to have the lifestyle I want, even if I’m not wealthy.

    Reply
  68. bunniferous

    I am a creative that has a day job in the real estate industry. That day job is not my dream job at all in one sense but I enjoy it, am reasonably good at it, and it pays way better than anything else I have ever done. It is not settling to do work that enables you to enjoy the rest of your life. And that bit about priorities changing-yes, that is a thing. At the end of the day for the vast majority of us, work is what we do to provide the money we need for our lives. It is wonderful when work and life purpose coincide but we can wind up making ourselves miserable if we think we can only be happy when that happens. I am quite happy with my life as it is now.

    Reply
  69. It's that girl

    It really depends on what you can live with. I was also a copywriter/editor, but I really wanted to edit fiction. Couldn’t get a job doing that, so I took corporate job after corporate job, and I hated every minute of these. The money was not the greatest, but it was liveable and more than I would have made had I gotten that fiction job I wanted. But, at the end of the day, I was so unhappy with my job and my life. I used to get migraines and was so stressed and mean and just a general beeyotch to be around.

    12 years into my career, I was working a FT job doing corporate writing, and PT at a fiction house that paid less than peanuts at the same time, I finally got fed up and walked away. Gave myself permission to give up on the dream of editing fiction, and try something else. Found myself a new career which made me happier. Now I’m doing something I never thought I’d be doing and I really enjoy it. And it’s even better money.

    Looking back, I wish I’d stopped trying to pigeonhole myself into these corporate jobs I hated just for ‘the experience’ and done something I actually liked.

    Reply
  70. Jolie

    Greetings fellow Londoner on pretty much the same salary! (I’m a data analyst in nonprofits). We all know the struggle.

    I’ve been very lucky : my boyfriend is going to start a PhD in Manchester (equally cool city, just much cheaper) this autumn and I’ve successfully talked my boss and our board into letting me work remotely forever, with London visits every 2 weeks or so for meetings and the like. There will be a lot of Megabus coaches in my life (4-5 hours each way, blech) , but the trade-off is totally worth it.

    So my first question is would be : can you work remotely with and live somewhere cheaper?

    If the answer is no for any reason (or even if yes, really) the biggest question to ask yourself is: what motivates you the most in work? And more generically, what is important for you in life?

    I personally find it quite important to actually like my job. Ultimately, in a typical day we sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 and do anything lese in 8- half of our conscious life is spent at work, so it’s important not to do something that makes us miserable.

    There are however two elements of liking what you do : there’s liking the process of doing it, and liking the result (which refers both to what you get out of it – money, work life balance, etc. and to what it does in the world). Realistically, you can’t like the process of it every single hour of every day – in my utmost dream jobs, I’d say I’m enjoying what I’m doing maybe 70%-80% of the time. (Hey, things like data entry or fiddling an annoying database do come up sometimes). I probably wouldn’t be willing to work a job where I like what I’m doing less than 20-30% of the time, but that’s a reasonable threshold to juggle with.

    Personally though, liking the outcome of my work is very important, namely knowing that my work makes the world /a specific community a better place. I’m willing to do my share of boring data entry for the greater good, but wouldn’t be willing to do it for, say, the purpose of merely selling stuff, in a private business.

    So, is there anything (whether you just a bigger paycheck, or a combination of bigger paycheck + other factors) that would make some amount of boring work worthwhile for you? And how much boring work is your limit?

    Reply
  71. Mimmy

    I don’t think this has any cut-and-dry answers – you have to weigh your financial situation and job- and career-related factors.

    I don’t love my job but I’ll admit that I like the pay. That said, I don’t think I’d ever take a job I know I wouldn’t be happy with just to get higher pay. I may even be willing to take a pay cut for a job that has the potential to really help my career and, in turn, lead to higher pay and contribute to our financial security. My husband is paid well, so I’m in a position where I don’t really have to be super-choosey about how much I get paid. He feels every little bit helps. I would certainly talk to him before making any decisions though.

    Reply
  72. lisalee

    I just made the switch from a poorly-paid job I loved in a competitive, prestige industry to a job in a meh industry where I make a living wage.

    And I just have to say: THE MONEY IS WORTH IT

    I had no idea how much of my brain was consumed constantly by financial stress. I still don’t have a *lot* of money (this job is entry-level) but I no longer have to juggle dollars every month. I can go on trips without having to scrimp to pay the credit card bill afterward. I can treat myself without having to do the math first. It really is such a huge relief and I feel way more clear-headed and happy.

    Do I miss my old industry? Of course. I think I may eventually try to move back to a more administrative job there once I’ve built a resume. I definitely do not feel as intellectually fulfilled at my current job. But I like the money more.

    Reply
    1. lisalee

      Also, as someone who writes as a sidegig, I wonder if you’ll actually start enjoying writing more if you give yourself permission to only take on occasional passion projects instead of trying to make a living at it. So few people really survive in the longform nonfiction world.

      Reply
    2. boo bot

      “I had no idea how much of my brain was consumed constantly by financial stress.”

      This is such a big deal. There’s a big part of me that wants to tell people to hold out, work hard in their creative field, and find a way to make money doing what they love because You Can Too, and I do honestly think there are often more ways to find a niche in those industries than people think.

      BUT the toll of financial stress is so huge – having enough coming in that you’re not constantly scrambling (or planning for the next time you’re scrambling) is amazing and a little shocking.

      Reply
  73. Thosetaxreturnswontfilethemselves

    My job by so many people’s standards is mind numbingly boring. My idea of a creative outlet is reformatting a spreadsheet so it’s more efficient or creating a training video on a mundane process. I sit in an office every day, and essential “verify” numbers from one spreadsheet and put them on another spreadsheet.

    My co-workers are nice, my hours aren’t insane (most of the year) and overall I don’t dread going to work every day. I have chosen a happy comfortable life over something I’m truly interested in. I’m lucky in that I can “freelance” my real interest (creating those insane pinterest worthy cakes).

    I have no regrets, I live in a nice house, drive a nice car, contribute to my retirement. We can afford to vacation and have a child in a few years. I have paid off my student loans.

    Some days, I pine over going to culinary school, and being able to work full time doing what I love. Then I remember that my lifestyle more than makes up for that.

    Reply
  74. urban

    As someone who has been in a similar situation I would add one thing to all the great advice already given here – sometimes the job that pays the bills and allows you the leisure time free from financial worry to pursue your creative passions can absolutely be the best call. But sometimes these much higher paid roles can also come with the hidden catch that they unofficially expect much longer hours of commitment than a bog standard 9-5 that can leave you with little or no time or energy to do what you love as well as sleep/eat etc. If you’re in a more corporate City writing role and everyone is habitually in the office until 8 every night say, and have a management that expects this, it’s not going to give you that balance you desire. Before you jump for a particular role it’s worth trying to suss out the working culture and make sure it’s something that will allow you to pursue that other passion.

    Reply
  75. John Rohan

    I have one friend who is a bid writer. The job sounds terribly dull and office-y

    But it can’t really hurt to try it. Sounds like it would be possible to do both jobs for at least awhile, and decide how much you enjoy the new work. Try that!

    Reply
  76. UrbanMermaid

    As someone who has been in a similar situation I would add one thing to all the great advice already given here – sometimes the job that pays the bills and allows you the leisure time free from financial worry to pursue your creative passions can absolutely be the best call. But sometimes these much higher paid roles can also come with the hidden catch that they unofficially expect much longer hours of commitment than a bog standard 9-5 that can leave you with little or no time or energy to do what you love as well as sleep/eat etc. If you’re in a more corporate City writing role and everyone is habitually in the office until 8 every night say, and have a management that expects this, it’s not going to give you that balance you desire. Before you jump for a particular role it’s worth trying to suss out the working culture and make sure it’s something that will allow you to pursue that other passion.

    Reply
  77. MarsupialHop

    Much of your letter describes the life pressures you have for a job (save for a house, need more spending money, friends envy) that a higher paycheck would solve.

    Take a few days and determine what your career path is mostly like to look like if you make no changes at present. Is there opportunity for growth? Is it a healthy industry with promise of future (higher level, or better paying) jobs as you get more seniority/experience? Or are you looking at future jobs of taking pay cuts?

    Reply
    1. MarsupialHop

      The best way to make more money is to either (1) work more paid hours; or (2) get a better paying job.

      Can you do freelance bid writing on the weekends?
      If you became a bid writer FT (or a technical writer, or an underwriter), could you do freelance lifestyle articles?

      Reply
  78. Dragoning

    OP, do you love your job? You say you “like what you do” and you say “I know I’m lucky” but honestly, in this letter, you don’t talk about any of the enjoyment your job gives you. You talk about how frustrated and dissatisfied you are. To me, that signals that something needs to change. Whether it’s your career path or not, you aren’t happy. If you love your job, something about it seems so draining you can’t even be effusive about it.

    Reply
  79. wish you well

    Unless you’re the team superstar, I wouldn’t expect any sort of raise or promotions before at LEAST the year mark- but more likely, 2-3 years (save cost of living increase).

    BUT
    I came from living in a dump doing my ‘dream’ job- to working part time in a lucrative field that gives me financial security. If you can find somee sort of work-life balance where you can follow your passions in either a freelance or part time or even amateur capacity- you might find that more satisfying. I certainly did. Have a book you want to write? Short stories? You can work comfortably on those things and reaaallly get them ready to shop around- in fact, you might find that your creativity explodes- because you won’t be dependent on those skills for income- you can choose to write about what you, when you want- as opposed to forcing it all the time to scrape together an income. Also, when my passion was my job- i found that it gave me more anxiety and my creativity was stifled, as opposed to now when I actually look forward to the 2-4 days a week I can get a chance to work on it.

    And also- it doesn’t neeccessarily have to be forever- you can save a significant amount, continue to work on yourself and your dreams- and when you sell that book or whatever- fully transition to writing full time with a name! And i gotta be honest- it feels way more satifisfying to be excellent with your job and love your manager and coworkers than to not. Not sure I could work full time years on end in that kind of corporate field- but for now it is giving me a kind of happiness and stability that I have never previously had before.

    Reply
  80. SierraSkiing

    Just a thought – does bid writing have reasonable enough hours that you could keep doing some freelance journalism on issues you really care about on the side? You might not have to give up what you’re passionate about entirely for that good-paying job.

    Reply
  81. Falling Diphthong

    I know that there’s always going to be someone who’s better than me.
    This is a statement that can be made by everybody. Being mediocre-to-poor at a job matters, but being not the greatest in the world is just a reflection of not being delusional about your rarity and brilliance.

    In all my positions, I have never been promoted.
    “All” implies at least 3 to me, since you don’t say ‘both’, and that’s over 3 years. So the lack of promotion doesn’t indicate much. But if you’re job hopping it sounds like you haven’t been happy anywhere–maybe this type of writing job is not for you.

    Will I regret leaving a job that is more fun, for something that will likely be stuffy and corporate?
    Is it fun? See above. Also, it is totally okay to be fine with qualities X, Y, Z at one point in your life, and then value those less and want A, B. and C as well or instead. For example, I knew someone who loved her environmental nonprofit work in her early 20s; she unexpectedly got pregnant and the the guy she thought was The One immediately bailed, at which point a job with good money and flexible or predictable hours became a much bigger priority than one with the emotional rewards the long non-profit hours gave her. You can decide you are okay with all sorts of things on a temporary basis (physical work, contract only, low pay or benefits) and still be clear that you eventually want less physical work in a permanent position with stable pay and a dental plan.

    As I progress through my late twenties, my priorities feel like they’re changing.
    This is part of being human, and is probably going to happen in your 30s, 40s, etc. There is no age where your unchangeable adult self kicks in and you lock down forever. One of my favorite NPR stories, playing off a politician trying to play the “youthful indiscretions” card about things he did at age 35–they asked a bunch of 50 year olds if they’d changed since age 35, and to a person they had. Priorities had shifted.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      Great answer here.

      When I got into my forties, I did a total turnaround and I became grateful that there ARE people better at their work than I am. I had grown pretty familiar with what is inside my head and I knew I do not have the answers. I see it as a sign of hope that others seem to have a good handle. Currently, my boss and I dovetail well. She covers one side and I cover the other side. This plays out in real life where we both take turns greeting each other with, “Oh TG you are here. I am so glad to see you.” We both know that between the two of us we will figure out the current problem. This is as good as good gets in my opinion.

      Reply
  82. Cordoba

    I flatly will not accept financial insecurity as long as I have any other option that is not illegal or immoral. I’d take virtually any job that provides financial security over any job that does not.

    Making £26,000 living in a major city, 7-8 years out of university, and sweating having enough money from month to month is a long way off from what I’d consider financial security.

    It seems like LW gave journalism a good shot and it didn’t really work out, at this point I’d go for that job in bid writing.

    LW will never have to wonder “what if I had tried to make it in lifestyle journalism…” because they know the answer. The answer is “You’ll find yourself a full-fledged adult who is trying to figure out how to take a vacation and still pay the electric bill that month.” No thanks.

    Reply
  83. Emi.

    My first thought is that you should look into whether you can pursue the career you really want in a lower COL area than London.

    Reply
  84. DVZ

    Living in London on £26k is not sustainable so yes, you should find a different job. Any full-time employment is going to take up 37.5 hours of your life that aren’t spent with family, doing hobbies, etc. – so basically 37.5 hours doing something that someone else wants you to do, so you can earn money to fund the things you DO want to do.

    As much as you like your job, I am sure you still prefer your free time – so you should absolutely focus on earning a bit more – even if you like the job a bit less – so that you can enjoy your free time (and your future) a LOT more.

    Life is a series of trade-offs and the one you are making (IMO) just isn’t worth it.

    Reply
  85. RainbowGrunge

    I don’t think I’ll ever -love- a job. I like what I do most of the time, but love is much too strong of a word. I’ve often thought that there’s a job/field out there that I would like slightly more that the job/field I’m in at the moment, but factoring the money and time it would take for me to now pursue that field, the salary I would most likely receive once I got a position in that field, and the only slight increase in enjoyment I would feel, just doesn’t make it worth it to me.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d take the job that pays more so you can love what you do outside of work. So long as it give you the opportunity to have a life outside of work.

    Reply
  86. KX

    Free Time > Money > Loving Your Job

    Take the money! But only if you still have enough free time to enjoy it. Otherwise, loving your job but not having a money will turn into “Something That I Love Is Failing Me.” And then you will either hate the thing you love, or hate yourself for letting concerns about money affect your enjoyment of the thing you love.

    The job should make sacrifices for YOU, not you make sacrifices for your JOB.

    Reply
  87. Aphrodite

    There’s no right answer. There’s only the answer that is right for you.

    Leaving aside all other considerations what makes you happiest and what will make you happiest over the rest of your working life?

    Reply
  88. kristinyc

    I would take the higher paying job, but then continue your own writing projects on weekends/evenings. Maybe even freelance if you want, or start writing a book if that’s your goal. That way, you’re still getting to do something you love, on your terms.

    Reply
  89. Bea

    This is so incredibly personal.

    I have no desire or dreams to want to own a home, it feels like roots to me and I want to be mobile. I will rent for manyb years to come. I don’t care about nice bottles of wine or fancy dinners.

    I just care about going to work, enjoying my time and making enough to pay my bills. I do feel best making enough to put something aside and having a cushion. That cushion is so if I’m out of work or my SO is out of work, we’re in no danger of being hungry or homeless.

    If I’m not engaged in a job and find it dull, it’s not worth the bigger checks. The money will not keep me happy those 40 hrs a week when I’m trudging through a crappy profession.

    Money can buy comfort and stability which make happiness easier but it’s not everyone’s foundation. You can’t make this decision on account of a group poll. You have to do what’s best for you and your well being mentally and financially.

    Reply
  90. cactus lady

    I graduated from college during the worst of the recession when your “dream job” was any job that paid you – and unfortunately, I stuck with that mindset for years. I kind of just resigned myself to the fact that I would have to work some boring job to make money and have health insurance and a 401k, and that I’d have to go back to grad school (which I didn’t want to do) in order to do anything interesting. But I found I was pretty good at the work I did, and you know what ended up happening? I found a new job that pays more than I’ve ever made, that I was qualified for precisely because of my outside of work interests/connections. Now I get paid to do all the fun stuff I was doing on my own time. (Is it fun 100% of the time? No. But no job is.) Anyway, I guess my point here is, even if you decide that the money is more important right now and find some boring office job, you can still pursue writing outside of that and see where it takes you. You never know what might happen.

    Reply
  91. Formerly Arlington.

    But it’s not an either-or. I say this as someone who has published fiction and has an MFA in creative writing, and had expected to be a college professor with a slew of novels…for a variety of factors, but mainly money, I ended up in marketing. And while some of the positions were boring and terrible, I eventually found a niche within marketing that fit my skills, and I actually DO love my job. It’s been almost 2 decades since my “I want to be a novelist” days and it wasn’t always wonderful, but I like where I am at now and don’t have any regrets. Bid-writing might be boring, but there are certainly other options out there, like digital content.

    Reply
  92. Kyubey

    I think the best thing for me is balance; I have a decent job that I don’t love or hate, I like it well enough and it pays a moderate salary. I would prefer this to a job I hate for twice as much money, but I can’t see myself taking much of a pay cut no matter how “fun” the new job is. If you want a life outside of work more money might be worth it.

    Reply
  93. Frankie

    As someone who’s been in and out of academia in a field that is ultra-competitive and just kind of punishing even to very very talented folks…most people earning a semi-sustainable wage have lucked into something…I usually have ended up gravitating back toward positions with more pay, at the end of the day.

    This has A TON to do with who I am besides my “passions.” At the end of the day, I do think this is a choice everyone has to make, and possibly continue revisiting throughout life.

    I found after being a student, then a grad student, then graduating into an economic collapse, made me very debt-averse and very, very appreciative of a job that allowed me to pay my bills and put some money away. I spent a lot of time building a corporate career so I could dispatch my student loans. I found a niche field that wasn’t really related to my studies but that I was good at and found satisfying/interesting to do on a daily basis. There was still a lot of boring work on top of that. I’ve found for me that as long as I’m learning something, somehow (even if it’s just podcasts at work) I’ll be okay.

    I did eventually go back for another degree, this time in my most loved field…but I do think that part of that was because I ended up at companies that didn’t especially value me and weren’t really cultivating me long-term. I also only did that when I had enough money that I wouldn’t have to take out debt. And I did it on the understanding that this was sort of a personal break for me to work on something I loved, and that I likely wouldn’t be offered (or pursue) a career in it at the end of the day.

    So I basically took a “break” from earning a livable wage for a while, maybe the same way some folks would leave a job to travel. The point is, it’s not necessarily either/or.

    This degree did lead me to tangential opportunities that randomly turned into my favorite job ever. I finally feel like I’ve found a great-fitting job that pays something I’d consider sustainable long-term. So sometimes when you make moves like this you find unexpected opportunities.

    So…idk. Feeling like you have “enough” money is really nice. It’s not everything, but it’s a relief and a privilege to be able to pay your bills and have something left over.

    But for me, that’s been very different from looking at where others are and comparing. It’s been more about how close to the bone I feel comfortable living after having done it so long. The comparing is very much a natural feeling, it’s just probably not where you want to look for motivation to make these major life changes. Someone will always be earning way more than you, so if this is less about your OWN financial stress and more about where you think you ought to be compared to your peers, I would not use that as your primary motivator. You’ll end up miserable that way.

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  94. LSP

    OP – I can related to this very much.

    I started out as a journalist as well. I started at a weekly publication in the US, making $20k (before taxes) and living in one of the most expensive places to live in the country. For most of the 4 years I did that job, I had to live at home with my parents, because I could not afford a place to live on my own. Even the friends I knew who had decades more experience and worked and more prestigious publications were barely scraping by, so I knew no matter how much I loved the job (and I did), I wouldn’t be able to stay in it forever. I ended up quitting that job to teach English abroad, and when I returned, I was offered a job running a communications office for a local elected official. It more than doubled my salary from the newspaper, but due to being toxic work environment, I was miserable. Sure, I eventually was able to get an apartment on my own, but I was making myself sick in the process.

    From my experience, there are always trade-offs, and it’s up to you to decide what is the most important part of a job to you. And it’s not just between salary and what type of work you do. It’s also about commute, the people you work with, schedule flexibility, etc. For instance, I’m at a job I mostly like, that pays a nice salary for the area of the country I live in, has a good commute and flexibility, but actually involves very little writing. But overall, I’m satisfied.

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  95. Quickbeam

    It’s super easy to get sucked into the vortex of “my friends live better than I do”. I’m 62 and all my friends are retired. You do wonder about the road not taken. I recommend work you can tolerate for a life that you enjoy away from the job. It’s always a balancing act. I’ll retire late because of a complete career change at 30. I’m ok with that for the most part. Sit down and sketch out what you need in a job and a lifestyle. You might find a middle ground.

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  96. Sara (A Lurker)

    So, now in my late 30s with a couple different careers under my belt, I can say the following things with confidence.
    -It’s not enough to love your job. I’ve worked a lot of “labor of love” jobs in arts and education nonprofits, and while passion for your mission will get you through some tough spots, undercompensation will burn out even the most dedicated employees.
    -Jobs you love and jobs that pay are not mutually exclusive. A job you enjoy that also pays decently is rare but not impossible to find, and the right balance is deeply personal to you, so it helps to keep an open mind. I’m working one that hits that balance for me now: it’s not what I thought I’d be doing with my PhD, but I like the work and I LOVE the salary and benefits.
    -Most labor is unglamorous no matter how it looks on the outside. I’ve had jobs in arty sexy fields or organizations that others envied, but the actual day to day of such jobs is as much grunt work as anything else.
    -Conversely, jobs you may think are dull or soul-killing may be… fine. I assumed all marketing jobs were soul-killing gears of capitalism until I got a job in nonprofit marketing, and then realized that it uses a lot of the skills I cultivated in my literature degree, and that I am stimulated and challenged and validated by the work.

    LW, money can’t buy happiness etc. etc., but you sound kind of unhappy in your current gig, and I think a better one is out there for you. Maybe bid-writing, maybe something else. Cast a wide net, be willing to put in a little more time on entry-level salary if you start in a new field, and find your comfort zone.

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  97. Moose

    I feel you completely, because I also work in publishing (although books, not journalism) and the pay is low industry-wide, even compared to my other recently-graduated friends. The decision depends so, so much on personal preference and priorities, so there isn’t one answer, but there are definitely things you can consider to make the decision.

    First of all, is it possible to freelance on the side if you become a bid writer/corporate writer? Tons of magazines (especially lifestyle or pop culture, and especially online) have contributing writers or freelancers. Multiple people I work with or went to college with contribute to various online publications outside of their full-time jobs. Since they work in different industries, there are no issues of the businesses competing. This is a great way to continue doing what you love if you decide to switch careers, while even making a bit more cash on the side; since you have connections in the industry now, you have a foot in the door for freelance work in the future. Doing this will also allow you to keep building your experience and network if you later decide you want to go back to journalism full-time.

    Second, as someone mentioned earlier in the comments, there is an area between loving your job and hating your job. Even if it’s not your dream career, there are plenty of companies where the culture is still casual or fun, and where you’ll enjoy the environment, your co-workers, and the day-to-day, even if you’re not incredibly passionate about the work you do. If you do due diligence on companies and their culture, I’m sure you can find places where you’ll be reasonably happy and not feel like a corporate drone.

    I know this sounds like I’m leaning towards you switching career paths, but maybe you decide that the money isn’t worth it and want to stay in journalism. And that’s totally okay! I think a part of it is mindset. If you frame it not as “my friends all have more money than me” but more like “my general happiness and the work I do day-to-day is more important to me than vacations and cash,” that can help. More easily said than done, obviously, but reminding yourself of that more often is helpful. As for the raises, I very much doubt that you will never get a raise forever; if it’s only been a few years, and you’ve been at multiple companies during that one time, it might just not have been enough time to get a raise. There will be raises, promotions, and higher positions in the future.

    I hope this helps and isn’t just rambling! I have this debate with myself all the time, and in the end I think there is no easy answer except to consider all of your options and decide what makes the most sense from there.

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  98. Violet Honey

    I think this is such an individual question, and it really depends on how you view work and your life AND on how much drudgery vs. money we’re talking about.

    For some people, work is essentially life – their career strongly defines who they are, and they put a lot of their energy and identity into work. For folks like that, working a job they didn’t like would be terrible. I know a lot of folks who live in expensive cities on low incomes because they’re passionate about their jobs, and they couldn’t imagine doing anything else more remunerative that they weren’t as passionate about. Most of those people also tend not to spend too much time outside of work anyway – they spend long hours at their work, and sometimes their hobbies and interests trend that way too.

    For others, work is a more or less a means to an end, and the most important thing for them is to find a job that they are relatively content with but that pays enough money to support their lifestyle (whatever that is).

    And of course, there’s a lot of variation in between and what that all means – for example, it’s often said that the people make the job, and I’ve known people who’ve stayed in jobs that weren’t all that exciting because they liked the people, the commute worked for them, and it paid enough money for them to do what they wanted in their free time.

    One thing I will say is not to assume that the job is “stuffy and corporate.” Since your friend works there, you have a natural starting point for an informational interview to find out more about the job and the work environment. I’ve worked in a couple places that many would assume are ‘stuffy and corporate’ from the outside, but were actually filled with really pleasant and smart people doing stuff they really cared about.

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  99. Anonymousaurus Rex

    I left a job I absolutely loved which was super creative and full of intellectual engagement and great collegiality, but didn’t pay well. I took a corporate job with a closer commute that pays ~30% more than I was making at the job I loved. And honestly, even though I was desperately sad to leave my old job, it was the best decision I’ve ever made, career-wise. I don’t think I knew how stressed I was about money and scraping by in a high cost of living area until that intense stress was lifted. I like my new job less, but I like my life a lot more. It’s more stable, and I feel less precarious all the time. I can afford to do fun things and even take vacations. And the new job is fine. It’s not as fun as my old job. Much more staid and boring, but it’s not torture. I have a decent boss and flexible working hours and no commute to speak of, and much more money.

    In other words, if I were you, I’d try out the boring job. You already have a background in journalism and you might be able to go back to that if you absolutely hate the new gig. But financial security is not a small part of overall quality of life.

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  100. Tracy

    I wonder if the LR might consider changing jobs and then doing freelance writing? Then he/she will have the money and enjoy the passion.

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  101. Phoenix Programmer

    No one can make this choice for you but I want to let you know this is very normal and money is important. The do what you love don’t sell out culture is unrealistic for many, if not most, people.

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  102. L P

    I think there is also an aspect of UK vs US work culture at play here. In the US there is a bigger expectation (in many jobs, not all) that your work is more of your life. Plus obviously you get less time off. But in the UK it’s more acceptable (generally) to clock off at 5.30, not think about work all evening/weekend etc. And we get more holidays! So I think it’s almost easier in the UK to have a job you’re not super passionate about (as long as you don’t actively HATE it) because the culture here is that work and life are more separate.

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    1. Marion Ravenwood

      I think that’s true to an extent depending what your organisation’s culture is like. I’m in the UK and have worked in PR for public sector/non-profits since graduating (I’m 30 now). Previously I’ve been in jobs where the senior managers would encourage the juniors to leave at 5, but you knew they’d still be there at 7 and back at their desks by 8 the next morning. OK, they were getting paid WAY more than me and had to deal with a lot more c**p, but that type of thing does have a knock-on effect which makes lower-level employees think they have to devote their lives to the job to make a go of it. Whereas where I am now, the big bosses are more likely to be concerned if you’re still at your desk at 6, and make a point of leaving on time/taking lunch breaks/working from home themselves, and in a bizarre way that almost gives the junior staff ‘permission’ to not spend their lives chained to their desks.

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  103. Kyrielle

    I loved $LastJob and made good money there also, but it was a very high-stress job.

    $CurrentJob keeps me busy and engaged, and certainly needs my work, but it doesn’t invade my off-work hours nor have high-stress moments as frequently or as stress-fully. I make more money here, but not by enough to really change what I can do.

    And I have a shorter commute.

    Honestly? Loving my job – vs. being fine with it – turns out not to matter to me as much as stress levels, schedule, and commute times.

    I’d say get clear on what’s important in your life and why, and look at it through that lens. If you’re just comparing “I like this” vs “but that pays more” – you may not be seeing all the factors that would impact your decision. If you switch roles, is it on-average going to be more or less stressful? When you look at companies, will you be working for and with people you want to work with, in a place that you can get to and back home without giving up every waking hour of the day?

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  104. loslothluin

    No matter where you work or how much you earn, you’ll never be happy comparing your life to someone else’s life. There is always going to be someone who earns more, can do more, etc. Until you’re secure in who you and what you have in life, you’ll always come up short compared to others. It’s not wrong to want more/better, but do it because you deserve it rather than wanting what someone else has in life. They can afford to go on vacations/out to dinner/etc. because they’re not saving up for a house as you are. It may or may not change, and there could be someone in the group who is jealous of you. You never know what anyone else is thinking.

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  105. Action Heroine

    I graduated with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing, and felt like I would be selling out if I took a job that was less creative and more corporate — but I couldn’t afford to do otherwise. Among those corporate jobs I held were corporate communications and public relations (corporate, not agency side) jobs, and as much as I thought I was going to dislike writing for big companies, and that it would feel like I was selling my soul instead of being true to myself, I actually really enjoyed it. The jobs didn’t have the glamour or cachet of more journalism-like jobs, but I was comfortable and got to do work I liked. Also, the fact that I felt financially comfortable helped my overall state of mind.

    So I guess my advice is, don’t assume that a better-paying, more stable, corporate writing job is going to automatically suck, or that it has to be a tradeoff. I’d go for it. Do your research, explore your options, and apply to jobs that seem like they are a good cultural fit. In my case, I looked for jobs that had a writing-heavy component and varying duties. For example, I stayed away from job openings that were basically like “all you’ll do every day is write technical manuals” (even though those pay the best–because they’re boring) and gravitated toward things like “write press releases, speeches, talking points, employee newsletter” etc. You really can have the best of both worlds!

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  106. Lumen

    Hi OP!

    I work an uninspiring job with reasonable hours, nice wages that rise each year, generally pleasant coworkers, decent benefits, and (because I don’t emotionally overinvest) low stress. Because of several years of being underemployed and underpaid or both, I have a lot of debt, and I live in a very expensive city, so I also don’t get to travel or do as many fun things as I’d like, but I can go out to dinner and see movies and I have okay furniture and so on. And (important for me) I can pay that debt down and save for retirement. I feel financially ‘safe’ for the first time in my life.

    One of the benefits of this is that I am not struggling so much to survive that I have nothing left to be creative with. I’m not stressing and obsessing about work, so I can muse and meander about things that actually matter to me, internal work I’m doing, and projects I’d like to do. And honestly…I wish that I’d let go of all the “DO WHAT YOU LOVE! LOVE WHAT YOU DO!” and “YOUR JOB SHOULD FILL YOU WITH PASSION. ANYTHING ELSE IS SOULCRUSHING!!!” garbage a lot sooner than I did, because all it did was make me feel terrible: I was a failure who couldn’t succeed at something I was passionate in. I was a failure who took a ‘boring corporate job’. I was a failure no matter what, and it was. All. Garbage. Thinking.

    My job is ‘stuffy and corporate’ and it is not soulcrushing. Choosing to feel that way is just that… a choice. There are jobs that are toxic and bad for you and will crush your soul and eat your brains (see: Ask a Manager archives) but just because a place has cubicles doesn’t mean it is devoid of life or energy or (rather importantly) ideas to write about.

    I felt the way you did, probably around the same point in life. I ‘should’ be more successful and making more money by X age, and all that. And I’m not here to tell you that’s an invalid feeling, because hell: I STILL FEEL THAT WAY SOMETIMES. The only part that needs to change is the word ‘should’. It’s not about where your friends are at or where the world expects you to be or even your (possibly unrealistic, possibly harsh, possibly self-defeating) expectations for yourself. It is about what you WANT to be doing and where you WANT to be in your life right now.

    If you want to have a lifestyle similar to your friends’ right now, and want to buy a house, then decide what work to do based on that. Not on some idea that this job is ‘good and worthy’ and the job that gives you the resources you want is ‘bad and stuffy and means I gave up/failed’. Also let go of the idea that if you leave journalism for a while, you will never ever ever be able to do it again because it’s so hard to get into. Making decisions based around fear usually leads to bad decisions and no improvement in happiness.

    If it’s more important to you right now to stick with journalism, then do that, and let go of the idea that because you aren’t making a certain amount of money, that also means you’ve failed somehow or aren’t good enough. These are false dichotomies and unless the underlying belief systems about what passion means, what your job means about you, and what money means are challenged, then you will always feel like you’ve failed at life. It’s a no-win double-bind pile of garbage.

    I highly recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, particularly when she talks about creative work and day jobs. And I’m sorry for the long comment – this just hit home and I really hope that you are able to ease some of the pressure weighing down on you. I think either decision you make (or something entirely new) is valid, I just hope that you are able to make the decision in peace.

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  107. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

    Prior to your exact example friend (going from £30k to £50k) I would have leaned rather more towards not judging your friends lifestyles based on what they can appear to afford – there’s a reason there is a popular program “can’t pay, we’ll take it away” – it’s not uncommon for people to live beyond their means as a way to show off – particularly if their friend writes Lifestyle pieces for popular magazines! Unless you know (as per your bid writer friend) that they are all earning £30k-£50k to fund that lifestyle, you can’t know that they haven’t just put £30k – £50k on mulitple credit cards.
    But that’s just addressing the Facebook envy part. And if that’s what you want to fix, take the bid writer job.
    Why have you not stuck it out at any of your previous jobs in three years long enough to get promoted? Multiple companies (plural) in 3 years isn’t … good? Have you jumped or been pushed? If it’s the type of job you enjoy, what’s preventing you from sticking it out where you are? There might be other solutions that would mean, if not the best of both worlds, as close as possible to that result.

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  108. Journalist here

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments above, so apologies if there’s some repeat. I did want to chime in with a perspective as a journalist. There are many people here saying, take the better paying job and freelance on the side! I hate to be a debbie downer, but freelancing in journalism is HARD. You’re competing against all the reporters who are clinging on to their jobs, and trying to get the attention of over-worked editors. If you can make that work, I’d encourage it, but go into it with open eyes and be ready for a lot of time spent pitching.

    But, I would encourage you to stick with journalism if that is your love. There are actually ways to make money in this field. I definitely don’t make as much as my engineer husband does, but I make a comfortable salary. In part, I wonder if you have flexibility to go beyond lifestyle journalism (only you can make this call). Financial journalism generally pays more, as do some trade publications, because you’re specializing in a topic that both requires some expertise on your part, and has an audience that has money to pay for subscriptions. Lifestyle journalism doesn’t have that sort of audience. The other thing I’d encourage you to do is talk to more senior reporters and editors about their path upwards. 3 years isn’t a long time — it’s not surprising that you haven’t been promoted yet — but getting a better sense of how long it may take for a promotion, and what that promotion would look like in terms of salary, may help you decide if it’s worth a few more lean years because your potential future salary would be sufficient, or if even a senior reporter/editor’s salary wouldn’t be enough for the life that you want. Also, consider video or data journalism, if either of those are interesting to you. I see a lot of job postings in both those areas, and having an expertise there could help you command a higher salary.

    Best of luck to you, whatever you decide!

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  109. Late2theParty

    I’ve worked at unsexy, well-paid jobs for 26 years now. I’d always wondered whether I chose the right path or whether I should have tried to find passion in my work (my homelife has plenty of joy and fulfillment).

    Then I got a rare Stage 4 Cancer. For the past year I’ve needed crazy amounts of time off for treatment, medical appts, and overall exhaustion. I just got a clean bill of health (WOO HOO!) and I am grateful for many, many things… especially for my reliable job with its generous benefits.

    May the LW enjoy a long healthy life!! But my 2 cents: money can’t buy happiness, but it does make life easier.

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  110. Ruth

    You can make money at a job you love that isn’t journalism! Some office work can be dull, but I was an English major and it turns out I love working as a technology consultant!

    I make great money and travel and learn new things every day. (It’s not all roses, but nothing is.)

    The point is you have to change your mind-set about what you think you’ll give up by shifting careers.

    Why not explore jobs that use your skills, like corporate communications or something like that.

    It’s not an all or nothing proposition

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  111. stump

    I commented the other day on the “You don’t have to have your dream job” post totally in favor of the sentiment. As far your situation goes, I’m going to give you the possibly unhelpful advice of “It really depends on how you feel about it”.

    This is one of those things where you have to do some deep thinking about how much you value more money, more time off, etc. versus pursuing a career doing what you absolutely love. It really depends on what you value and how strongly you value it! I totally bailed on my Passion and Dream Career and got a Good Enough job in something I never thought I’d be doing and I’m happier than ever (and am probably happier than I ever would be doing what I thought my dream job was). But not everyone will want to do that! And that’s okay! I mean, I’d never suggest that anybody work a job they hate or pursue their passion it it was obnoxious they weren’t skilled enough to make a career out of it, but there’s a whole bunch of choices you could make here.

    And the Practical Job versus Dream Job thing is a spectrum with a whole range of choices that might work out for you; it’s not a set choice between “Get a boring, well paid job and don’t do your passion thing at all” and “Throw your whole self into pursuing your Dream Career at all costs”. There are varying levels of working a better paying, more practical job while pursuing your passion as a hobby or a side job, if that’s what works for you.

    So yeah, I don’t know that my advice is too concrete, but it’s just one of those things you’ll have to do some Deep Thinking about. Good luck!

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  112. Lizzl

    I’m an artist and when I first took a corporate job I joked all the time about being a corporate sellout. I don’t love my job but I love the life my job lets me live. I’m not particularly passionate about my job, but the salary allows me to pursue other things I am passionate about. Outisde if work I continue to paint, and occasionally take on freelance work. With journalism I imagine you could do something similar. You need to decide what’s most important to you. You don’t need to take a job you hate, but I bet you can find a job you like, not love, that lets you lead a life you do love.

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  113. Emily Farris

    I’m a lifestyle writer and I make most of my money doing branded content. That leaves me open to do the editorial work I actually want to do, and I can still pay my bills (my money management is a whole other story). There are plenty of ways to make money writing that aren’t strictly editorial, and these days, editorial (especially lifestyle) isn’t always strictly editorial, anyway. If you write lifestyle content, you understand the appeal of having a nice lifestyle. I say find a way to make it happen. It’s possible and you will still get to write, and maybe even do/learn some other fun things while you’re at it.

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  114. tink

    My ideal job is one where I’m neutral or happy to go in more days than I dread going in. Preferably one that allows me some sort of consistent free time, and that pays at least enough to cover the bills with a little extra for saving. I’m in a job like that now, and while there are still mornings where I don’t want to go in they’re not usually BECAUSE of the job. They’re usually because I’m tired or a little under the weather or it’s Saturday and nice enough out that I’d rather be at the park. I feel like that’s a good balance.

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  115. Artemesia

    If you can make twice the money and have adequate free time to do a bit of travel (in your location, you can quickly and cheaply go to a lot of wonderful places — total jealousy here about that) I’d go for that. As a writer, if you enjoy writing you can always write. Write that novel, do a few free lance gigs on the side, see if you could combine your vacations with a bit of travel writing etc. Since you have gotten some experience writing, you are in a position to build on those connections to freelance —

    Money may not buy happiness but it sure buys a lot of things that make me happy. I am retired now and the difference between a grim retirement and being able to travel and enjoy cultural opportunities turns out to be all that money I stacked up while I was working.

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  116. CMart

    Forgive me if there’s already a thread started about this, but I think your really need to figure out what you mean by “loving your job”.

    Does it mean “loving the work” and pay/environment be damned? Will no amount of financial cushion or friendly coworkers make up for the fact that your work isn’t interesting or meaningful? Is it worth it to be paid peanuts and work for toxic people if the work you’re doing is something you find importation and have passion for (see: a lot of the non-profit sector)?

    Or does it mean “feeling good about coming to work every day”? This is me. I really couldn’t care less about what I’m doing as long as I’m not too stressed out and I get to work reasonable hours with nice people in an air-conditioned/heated building not too far from my home.

    I used to bartend, which I loved. It was fun and interesting and I really enjoyed making interesting cocktails for people who appreciated them, and being able to be social and chatty with my coworkers and patrons alike. I loved the money. But eventually I didn’t love the physical toll it was taking on my body and I hated the hours (and sometimes the coworkers/patrons…). I also didn’t like the lack of job security and the complete absence of benefits. I loved the work, but not necessarily the job.

    Now I’m a corporate accountant. The work is… numbers and money and squinting at Excel. I know what I’m doing and it’s not boring but I don’t really care to talk about it outside of the office. But it hit all of my new priority checkboxes. 20 minutes from home, my coworkers are nice and helpful people who sometimes bring in bagels and chat with me about my hobbies, my schedule is regular, the office temperature is well-regulated, and I have healthcare, sick days, PTO, a 401k, the ability to work from home. I love this job. But not the work. And my out of office life is WAY better with the financial and logistical security.

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  117. Yorick

    Maybe you could make the jump to bid writing but do freelance jobs on the sort of thing you like more? I’m not sure if that would be feasible or if you’d have time for it, but you could look into that.

    It sounds like you’re pretty bummed about your current salary and lifestyle, so I would at least find out more about the more high-paying field to see if you’d like it. And if it seems ok, you can apply for a job but not take an offer if during the interview process you learn that it’d be soul-crushing.

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  118. Jules the First

    What makes you think you’d find bid writing boring?

    It’s true that there are boring bid writing jobs out there (sometimes lots of them), but there are also some incredibly cool ones – my first year of my first bid writing job, I wrote bids for work with the London Olympic Games, an Ivy-league university, and the British Museum, among others. I’ve written bids for airports and sports stadiums and universities and museums and train stations all over the world…and I’m currently on assignment in Hong Kong writing a £2.5 billion bid for a really really cool client…

    Which is not to say that work is always fun – if it was, they wouldn’t call it work and they wouldn’t need to pay us to do it. But my work is always interesting, and for me that’s what matters.

    I’m 13 years into my career, I make good money (not banker money, but enough to own property in London), and I get to come to work every day and learn new stuff. As in, they actually pay me money to learn new things! I never knew bidding was a career option before I sort of fell into it sideways, but I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

    So what I’m saying is that your choice isn’t low pay for love or higher pay for boring job; it isn’t even journalism or bid writing. There are a million and one jobs out there…go find the one that makes your heart sing (as well as paying the rent)!

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  119. aka Duchess

    I always tell my friends (who are in their mid 20s) to tell me what they wanted their life to look like when they are 40.

    Are you married? Do you have kids? Pets? Do you go on regular vacations? What kind or house do you see yourself living in? Blah blah blah

    Then you do a lot of math while moving the timeline backwards. If you want to own a house by the time you are 30 and you are 25, then how much will need to save for a down payment – can you save that much each year with your current job?

    You can totally pick a job for the money – and you dont have to love every second of it – but dont stay at the job if it makes you miserable.

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  120. cestlavie

    I don’t think it has to be so black and white. It’s possible to “love” your job because of the lifestyle it can offer you–if that is important to you. You can “love’ your job because of hte people you work with, or the intellectual stimulation it offers, or any one of many things. It’s all about your priorities. No one else can really answer that question for you. It’s important to know what you value both professionally and personally. Rare is the job that gives it all to you. It’s all about the overall mix.

    Good luck.

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  121. Lady Russell's Turban

    You said you “like” your job. You did not say you “love” it. When I started my own work life, I was a journalist and then a writer/editor. What I learned about myself is that I liked my work, I was decent at it, but I was not passionate about it nor was I a person who felt compelled to write. (That last is opposed to some of my colleagues who wrote novels, short stories, opinion pieces, etc in their spare time.) I was a person who wrote for a living, as opposed to *a writer.*

    I was also paid very poorly–in fact less than the elevator operator in our office building (which shows how long ago that was!). Daily life was very hard on such a low wage, sometimes even to the point where I wouldn’t have eaten towards the end of a pay period if I didn’t have friends who would invite me over for dinner. I was young and I lived in a city where there were enough free activities that my non-work life wasn’t drudgery but I needed to carefully consider my budget every time I wanted to go out for even a cheap meal, a drink, or a movie. Forget travel or buying a house. There were few writing/editing jobs in my city and few opportunities to move up in my company.

    After a few years an opportunity to do something completely different fell into my lap. I was sad to leave my friends and my coworkers but it was the best move for me. I never missed writing to a deadline, trying to get info from people who didn’t want to talk to me, or writing to a particular style. In the decade since I have putting my writing and editing skills to use in different jobs and volunteer positions and that has been enough for me.

    I have had jobs I loved and jobs I hated (when the first became the latter, time to leave!) and mostly jobs that were just fine.

    I am far from wealthy but I own a house, have traveled the world, and eat out or go to movies when I want to. An unexpected expense doesn’t mean I may not eat or need to go into debt. I donate time and money to causes in which I believe. I don’t live or travel lavishly but I don’t know if I would do that even if I had more money.

    Bottom line, if you don’t love your writing work or feel compelled to do it, find something you like that allows you to live a life that will make you happy. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it can help you avoid a heap of unhappiness.

    Reply
  122. GingerHR

    Journalism is notoriously badly paid. I used to hire copywriters for product (in London)- not exactly glamourous, and a lot of repetition, but because we paid reasonably well we were deluged with CVs everytime we advertised, with a good 50% coming from journalists. I also work now in a business which has bid writers – sure, it’s office based, but it’s not necessarily dull. You are tailoring responses to what you can provide and what the client needs, so it has its creative side. Can you start picking up some f/l work now, whilst you are in the industry, then think about making a switch? Other commenters have also mentioned some of the sideways moves. I’ve worked in large charities where we had a lot of writing professionals – from the obvious social media / marketing / PR areas, through to fundraising and corporate affairs. Some of these might need wider experience than just journalism, but maybe it’s worth thinking about this kind of move. You wouldn’t make the higher end of the scale you are talking about, but should be able to earn more than you are currently on and get a broader range of skills and exposure which would give you more options in future.

    Reply
  123. Lady Blerd

    OP: there us no right answer, the answer varies for everyone. I have a friwnd who is a fashion designer with his own label, is far from Karl Lagerfeld’s lifestyle. I also studied fashion design, worked briefly in the industry but now I’m working a 9 to 5 government desk job with a good pay and great benefits and I cannot see myself switching back. It helps that I actually do like what I do. Neither of us regret our choices.

    You are going to have to decide how much being in a creative field means to you, maybe see if there are more lucrative outlets for your writing or maybe compromise between creation and get well paid.

    You may also have to take a harsh look at your prospect and see if there really is a future for you as writer/journalist or even your industry and base your decision on that.

    Reply
  124. Wandering Thoughts...

    I think it depends entirely on how much of a financial strain you’re under. I have a friend who does freelancing jobs that she loves but she’s frequently short on funds, unsure if she’ll be able to cover her rent and how much food she’ll be able to buy that month. When she is working, she loves it, but she talks so often about her money problems that I truly wonder if it’s worth it. Her anxiety is through the roof every time I see her and she frequently declines any outing that isn’t dirt cheap, then is upset when she can’t join.

    Even though I’m not completely in love with my job, I have enough money to not worry about my necessities and to be able to have occasional vacations and splurge on fun items. I know what my dream job would be and know that it won’t make enough to maintain my life (promise, I’m not rolling in riches; I have enough to get by, have some fun, and put some away for the future). As much as I’d love to be doing that job, I couldn’t survive the uncertainty of a low paycheck.

    Reply
    1. Bob Loblaw Law Blog

      The freelance road was anxiety-inducing for me too. I had some awesome work, some mundane get me to the next gig work, and some serious dry spells. The awesome work would put me on such a high like I’m really doing this, and I’m going to make it. But then the income from the awesome work would have to tide me over for an unpredictable amount of time. And if something substantial didn’t come along, then that meant stretching income further and further. I had to subsidize with an hourly customer service job to make ends meet. It wasn’t for me. I find I’m a person who needs a stable income and I don’t think I’ve given up something better to achieve that in my now corporate office job.

      Reply
  125. Leela

    I think over a decade or more ago, doing what you really love would be the smarter move. However, as someone also around 30, our generation is facing some serious uncertainly and nonsense. I wish I could tell you to focus on what you love, and if you have a solid income coming in from your husband and the two of you decide that’s how you want to proceed that’s totally fine. However, our wages versus cost of living is beyond out of control. I’m more tempted to tell you to take the surer salary and keep writing in your free time for the pleasure of it. Unfortunately I think that for many people, although this isn’t necessarily you, the days of being able to live on a lower wage are long gone unless you have some crazy luck with housing/financial support outside of your income.

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  126. Fabulous

    As someone who went to school for theatre and was struggling to find a way to work in it professionally for nearly 10 years while simultaneously struggling to make more than $30,000… I soooooo identify with your situation.

    Honestly, I gave up. Well, I didn’t give up theatre, but I gave up the idea of working in it professionally. I still do it on evenings and weekends, and take time to see shows and be involved, but I don’t rely on it for my income. I have a day job for that. What I did was find something that I did like doing (for me it was data analysis and reporting) and find a job that suited those interests that pays me a living wage. For me, a living wage was something I found that I valued more than fulfilling my *inner artist* every waking moment.

    Theatre – and journalism – is so incredibly hard to break into if you’re not The Most Talented Person Ever. And even if you ARE the most talented, other people will still get the lucky breaks instead of you. Rejection is just an everyday something to deal with in that field.

    So, ultimately, it’s up to you what you want to do, but to me it sounds like you would do well to get a job that pays you more, even if it’s not something you’re oozing passion for. That’s what I found was right for me, and hopefully it might be right for you too. Find a job that you don’t hate, and find odd journalism jobs that keep you involved in the field. Or write a blog. Do something that uses your skills and creativity – and often.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  127. Argh!

    If you love your life outside of your job, the job isn’t as important as it would be without that comfort. And as we’ve seen here, a job can be wonderful or miserable based on the manager, company and coworkers. I haven’t seen many letters about money.

    Reply
  128. Melody

    Well, I think you might be surprised at the pleasure a person can get from using their skills in a “boring” office job. I’m a graphic designer and I do work for stereotypically boring industries. I never saw myself in these industries – but I needed a job. Turns out, it’s pretty satisfying work and it’s sharpened my skills in ways more “creative” work doesn’t.

    But also – I think you might start hating what you love if it can’t pay you. I do creative work on the side to satisfy that itch, so I can still love it. I wouldn’t love it if I was relying on it to make ends meet.

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  129. RUKiddingMe

    You said your priorities are changing. Pay attention to that. Most people don’t “love” their jobs. Most are fortunate if they like them well enough to not dread getting up every day and going to work. Money’s not everything, but it’s not nothing.

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  130. Ex Journo

    This resonated with me so much! I was in the exact same situation as you 18 months ago, working as an editor / journalist for some very cool sounding travel magazines. Everyone was constantly telling me how cool my job was and how I was living the dream, and for a few years I also felt that way. But I was earning even less than you, despite promotions and a high level of responsibility, and as I neared 30 I also started to worry about my future. I decided to bite the bullet last year, and got a job doing digital content type stuff (social media, blogs, content management) for a medical company. The industry is so far removed from what I was doing before, but my journalistic background is really useful and appreciated. I earn about twice as much money and I honestly find it both easier and more interesting at the same time. Of course, there are things I miss and it took my some time to adapt but overall I am glad I took the risk.

    My advice would be to look for in-house content jobs like this. They tend to pay more than journalism, are more steady and are becoming more and more common. You might even be able to find something that you love and pays good money!

    Reply
  131. Environmental Compliance

    When I got out of college, I was convinced that what I needed to do was save the environment. I was going to always work for the public, didn’t matter that gov’t doesn’t pay that great, it mattered that I was passionate about impacting my community through environmental action. I was very, very sure I was never going to go private, I was always going to be a public servant. It was pretty common for all of us in that graduating class.

    And then I worked with the public for a few years. Enjoyed the policy side of things, enjoyed the regulatory compliance side, enjoyed the paperwork, etc. Did not enjoy the politics, the drama, the you-will-live-only-inside-your-box mentality I kept running up against. There was not enough pay for me to deal with the bullsh!t. I also wanted to buy a house, I wanted to pay off my student loans, I wanted to have enough vacation time & enough money to go on the vacation. My priorities changed.

    Now I do work in the private sector. I still do the parts of my job/educational history that I enjoy – policy & environmental compliance. I do not have to deal with working under elected politicians, I am able to modify procedure/paperwork and make the needed changes to my company’s program, I have a much better base support system than I ever had in gov’t. I have vacation time aplenty, and I can afford the vacation. I’ve paid off my student loans in full. We’ve only yet not bought a house because we haven’t found the perfect one yet. The significant decrease in stress from getting a job that paid almost double what I was previously paid really benefited my life overall. We can pretty much buy the things we want, go out to eat when we want, it wasn’t financially scary when Hubs needed emergency surgery or when my car needed pretty significant repair work done. I don’t know if I’d completely agree with whether or not money buys happiness, but I sure as hell believe that money can buy stability, which has a huge, HUGE impact on your emotional/mental well being. Did I get called out by a couple people for ‘jumping to the dark side’? Yep. But they also like to complain a lot about the field, and I’m okay with being on the dark side. I’m overall happier, though no one has yet given me a light saber or cookies, which is kind of what I thought happened when you joined the dark side. *sigh*

    Reply
  132. Carrie

    At the end of the day, this is really up to you as others have said. But I’ll share my experience:

    In my early/mid twenties, I couldn’t imagine working in an office. It seemed incredibly dull and soul-draining–the boring stuffy clothes, the rigid hours, the lack of freedom and creativity. But I wasn’t making enough to survive in my chosen creative industry and I finally had to take an office job to keep from ending up homeless. It was going to be temporary, a way to save up some money so I could have another go at what I loved while having more stability.

    But you know what? I liked it. Not necessarily the job–some are great and some suck, but most are fine–but the stability and security and even the routine, which is one of the things I thought I’d hate. Having regular hours, clear expectations, paid leave, and enough money to support myself and travel and eat out gave me a kind of freedom I hadn’t had when I was struggling for something I loved. I don’t feel stifled and I use my creativity at work in different ways than I had expected, but I still feel like my work gives me a creative outlet. It also gives me the money and free time to exercise my creativity and sense of adventure outside of work.

    Almost 20 years later, I’m in my office in my stuffy office clothes and I’m happy with the decision I made. For me at least, I’ve always been able to satisfy needs my job doesn’t fill through hobbies, volunteering, etc. Do I still dream of a different life sometimes? Sure, but I’ll have lots of time for a second career when I retire from this one because I’ve been able to save for a comfortable retirement. I hope to spend it traveling and maybe doing some freelance travel writing. But even if I can’t sell anything I write, I’ll still be able to have the experience.

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  133. SteveD

    I have 10+ years’ experience in banking, and when I was recently on the hunt for a new job, my daughter (7 years old) asked me why I loved banking so much. My first thought was to give an answer like “I love working with numbers” (I don’t), or “I think finance is so interesting” ( I don’t) or something along those lines. Then I decided to tell her the truth. “It’s not the banking I love, it’s you. Banks are the companies that want to pay me for a job, and with the money they pay me, we can do fun things like go on vacations and have adventures!”

    Reply
  134. Young reporter

    Journalist here, and good lord do I feel this. I’m in the western U.S. and have been up against feeling stagnant and like there are no jobs to move to without leaving for a huge city I can’t afford to live in.

    If you’re not already, I would highly recommend joining the “What’s Your Plan B” group on Facebook – it’s a group of journalists who have left the industry, some who have left and come back, and some who are where you are and just trying to figure out what to do.

    I know we always joke about “selling out” and the like, but there is nothing wrong with wanting a comfortable life or to be able to take trips with a partner. It would be lovely if people would value the work we do enough for that to be possible, but it’s not your fault that it often isn’t.

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  135. The Person from the Resume

    My opinion is it’s more important to enjoy your life outside the office. In your case you’ve identified that your current job doesn’t support a lifestyle you want.

    I think this because loving your industry doesn’t mean you love your particular job which is influenced by your boss, your coworkers, perks, commute, etc. And you’re unlikely to stay in a great job forever. Even jobs change without you quiting.

    I think this applies to most people but there are a few who either lucked out into loving a job that supports a lifestyle they want or who’s love for their job influences their enjoyment of life. I think those people are in the minority.

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  136. Project Manager

    I’m lucky in that I do love my job and believe in what we’re doing AND I get paid pretty well for it. I did not grow up with money, and I’ve got to tell you, having extra money is a very, very, very good thing. My husband and I live well within what our income could support (but still well beyond how either of us grew up), and that meant that when our oldest turned out to have expensive special needs, we were able to provide for him.

    So, I’d take the money and find a way to pursue your passions on the side. Good luck!

    Reply
  137. NW Mossy

    Reading your letter, the biggest thing that jumps off the screen at me is that you’ve got a lot of stress about money and it’s cutting away at your quality of life. This is so very common, and it’s entirely understandable that it’s weighing on you so heavily. Scarcity of resources is stressful for basically all animals, humans included – the only difference for us is that we use money as a proxy for acorns or a hole in the ground to hide from a predator.

    Money stress can be really pernicious because it bleeds over into so much else in our lives that would otherwise be more rewarding. As you note, your friendships are strained because your lack of funds curtails your ability to socialize with the group. It can also impact romantic relationships too, particularly if it becomes a trigger for arguments about how the limited money should be spent. The worry and stress eats away at our ability to be our best at work because it sucks up so much energy.

    My advice would be to aim for a higher-paying gig at a well-managed place and try it out for a while to see how it suits you. Right now, you’ve not done it, so you don’t really know what it’ll feel like. Maybe it will feel oppressive and you’ll run screaming within months. Maybe it’ll feel awesome and you’ll be thrilled with yourself for making the switch. But what’s clear is that your current situation doesn’t feel good to you, and when that happens, it’s a signal that it’s time to make a change.

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  138. MLB

    I think it’s a balance and dependent on your particular priorities. Jobs are not always about money (there can be other perks as well), but if you’re struggling to make ends meet, then making more money may be a priority. You say you’re saving for a house but you want to travel. What’s more important to you and your SO – pinching pennies to save for a house now, or traveling and waiting until you’re older to buy that house? For me I would prefer to live in a smaller space and travel now – you’re young and (I assume) without children. My husband and I make a really good living, but when I met him he had a lot of debt. We pinch pennies so that every extra bit we have goes towards paying off that debt. I love to travel and hate saying no every time a friend asks if we want to join them on a trip. But I know that in a few years we will be completely debt free (except the mortgage) and that is a higher priority for us in the long run.

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  139. YarnOwl

    FWIW, I’m a writer and work in what might be considered a “dull” job (writing RFP responses for the company I work for), and even though it’s not the most interesting subject matter, I still enjoy the job. I still get to write and edit every day, I like my coworkers, and I am paid really well and given a raise every year. I think sometimes people in “creative” jobs like ours are made to feel like we’re failures if we end up working a corporate job and not following our passion, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a job that’s not the most interesting or fun because it pays well.

    Reply
  140. CanadianDot

    Working to live is absolutely a valid thing to do. If you can get a job that pays well, isn’t horrible, and leaves you the time and energy outside of work to actually enjoy your life, that’s a pretty great thing to have.

    Reply
  141. Noah

    Is it really worth doing a job you love, if you can’t afford to have a life outside of it?
    Sometimes and for some people yes. Other times and for other people, no. It depends how much you love your job and how little you can afford outside of work and how much you value what you can and cannot afford.

    And is it ok to work purely for the money?
    Yes.

    Or will I regret leaving a job that is more fun, for something that will likely be stuffy and corporate?
    Based on this letter, I do not think you’ll regret it. Despite your saying otherwise near the end, it doesn’t even sound like you like the job you have.

    What if I hated something more corporate?
    Then you could try to find a new job. You might find it hard to get back into journalism, but it doesn’t sound like you have the journalism job you want, anyway.

    But what if i never progress in journalism and remain on less than £30k for years?
    You know what will happen. Financially, your life will be as it is now.

    Reply
  142. Overeducated

    Don’t forget to think about long term goals. Sometimes you might want to take a more “corporate” or less ideal job as a step on a ladder. For instance, i work in a field where you’d think about doing cool science outdoors, but to get security and a solid pay bump, I moved to an indoor job in the bureaucratic mothership. I hope 5 years from now I will be doing cool science outdoors again, but at a higher level. A single job is not your career, where do you want your ladder to go?

    Lots of great advice here – only read through half because I’m on a quick lunch break, so apologies if this is repetitive.

    Reply
  143. Macedon

    You don’t necessarily have to give up what you love, but you have to compromise. In journalism, your best bet for good ££ is to go fast or go niche. Financial journalists make much more on average than general news or B2B journalists, unless you’re working for a very big title. Even then, the average financial correspondent will do well.

    The best money in journalism is generally with newswires, if you make that cut. We’re talking around double what you currently make on entry. You pay for it in stress and very long hours, but something always has to give.

    Speaking as a journalist in London — there are options for more than 26k, if you decide to stay in the biz. But I understand the temptation to jump ship some days.

    Reply
  144. Londoner too

    I definitely think it’s helpful to find a balance. You’d be unlucky if the well-paid job left you utterly unfulfilled – I’m sure it probably has something going for it.

    It’s sometimes useful not to feel like the decision you make now is your last and final decision. If you make changes in your career and it truly makes you miserable you can work towards returning to your previous work.

    I also like the suggestions of some others, that you can try and find ways to keep the parts you love about what you’re doing now just in smaller doses outside of your regular hours.

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  145. Jill

    I think people have become too caught up in the idea that you have to love your job and follow your passion. It’s called “work”, not “fun”, for a reason. Yes you should try to find a job you enjoy, but reality is you need to make money. If you can find a job that is you can tolerate and pays well, the extra money goes a long way to allowing you to do the things you are passionate about and enjoy.

    So I would make the jump and see how it goes because you sound pretty unhappy with the lifestyle that you can currently afford.

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  146. President Porpoise

    Go for the better paying job, and freelance the type of writing that you actually enjoy. As you build long term stability, maybe you’ll be able to move back to the type of stuff you love to do and get paid for it. But for now, get your feet squarely under you. You don’t know when you’ll need a cushion to fall back on – recession, injury/disability, job loss, family additions, etc.

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  147. GatsbytheGreatCatsby

    It reminds of that old saying “work to live or live to work”? If your work (and that’s exactly what it is – WORK. a job.) is prohibiting you from living the LIFE you want, then it is probably time to reevaluate. And from the work it sounds like OP is actually doing, she could probably freelance or start a blog to scratch the itch she’s afraid she’ll miss in the more corporate world.

    Reply
  148. Jane

    Go for the money.

    It doesn’t sound like you “love” your job all that much. You say it’s alright. That’s not really a ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one.

    And who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy a new job more than you thought you would. Sometimes the really “sexy” jobs like writing for Elle and such aren’t really a great fit for everyone. I actually started on a career path towards something that people think of as really desirable and “interesting” and found I got a lot more satisfaction out of a different path that others find rather boring.

    Sometimes, people make sacrifices, financial and otherwise, because they love what they do, and that is great for them. But in order for sacrifices to be worth it…you have to be getting something for them. What are you getting? It doesn’t sound like you’re getting a great satisfaction…more like you’re getting a feeling of “I should love this job because it is lots of people’s dream job!” rather than it really being your own dream job.

    You’re young. Go try out something else!

    Reply
    1. Michaela Westen

      That reminds me of something here in my city – A weekly newspaper that was started as a counterculture thing – back around 1970 – always thought of as the coolest, hippest, best source for “cool people” culture.
      In the late 2000’s I was present for a conversation between two people who had worked there, and they were talking about the low pay for writers. This publication paid a pittance, taking advantage because everyone wanted to write for the cool paper. Not cool at all!

      Reply
  149. Michaela Westen

    I think the level of frustration you’re feeling indicates you need to make a change. If you were happy with the low pay but work you love, you wouldn’t feel so indecisive.
    As long as your day job is a reasonable number of hours, you don’t have to love it. It should be something you’re comfortable with and good at. You could keep doing your lifestyle writing on the side in your free time. You won’t be able to do as much as fast, but you can do some.
    It’s wonderful to make enough money to have a good life, and worth the effort. I want to caution you, though, about buying “nice” things. “Nice” as in expensive, is marketed to take your money. Don’t waste your money on expensive things when less pricey things would do, just because they’re “nice”. Get an apartment that’s big enough, furniture that’s pretty and comfortable, wine because you like the taste. Don’t waste your money buying things that exist to take the money of the rich. :)

    Reply
  150. Random thought

    Is there someone you can sit down to talk about what a long term career at your current job would look like? That seems like a key piece of information that you need to make this kind of decision, especially at only 4 months in

    Reply
  151. Rachel Green

    I know the OP is looking for career advice. But, what stuck out the most in the letter, at least to me, is a “keeping up with the Jones’s” attitude. It may be worthwhile to do some personal reflection on whether you really need the fancy dinners, apartment, furniture, etc. I also recommend the blog affordanything.com (her catchphrase is “You can afford anything, but you can’t afford everything”). Also the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin.

    Reply
  152. Volunteer Enforcer

    As a young adult paying her own way on some things but still living with my parents, my current job is £12k but I absolutely love it. However, I’m in the minority that enjoy work. I’d say focus more on your personal life and the money that the job brings, and do a job that you at least find neutral.

    Reply
  153. The Commoner

    Experience is priceless. Have you worked in corporate before? If not, take a shot at it. Gain over new insight and perspective. It might help you overall in the long-run.

    You might find out it is better, worse, or the same was you expected. Be sure to keep an open mind – that’s where you will grow the most.

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  154. Bob Loblaw Law Blog

    I have faced this dilemma from the other side as the corporate “sell-out” who can afford a nice home and nice vacations while my college class mates chose the artist’s path. I chose the money for a simple reason: I grew up very poor and wanted some grown-up financial stability. I found my chosen career path (design) involved so much hussle that the creative side that I loved took a backseat to my desire to have the kind of financial independence my parents never had. I have spent the last 15+ years working in large corporations in very analytical/risk management type roles, and I LOVE what I do. It’s a far cry from the path I embarked on after college, but I have found my creative skills translate into an analytical job quite well. I offer a different perspective than many of my peers, and have found a niche where I really thrive. It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. On the outside, corporate jobs seems so stuffy and bureaucratic, and they can be, but that doesn’t have to mean doing something mundane to make a suitable living.

    FWIW, a close friend of mine, who is also a writer, took the technical writing path and eventually moved into product management. She loves what she does though her main focus is less on writing now. There’s always a place to exercise those creative muscles, and they can become much more fulfilling as hobbies when you’re not depending on them to keep a roof over your head.

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  155. Cucumberzucchini

    I’m not able to wade through all the comments but money gives you options. If you make twice as much doing something you’re not thoroughly in love with as you do doing something you love that has very little chance of increasing you could literally work for a year, take a year off and be in the same financial boat. Making more means you can save more to have a go to hell fund which ultimately gives you more options.

    My problem is I have a very expensive hobby. Owning and riding horses. I can make enough money to afford the horses and ride very occasionally OR I can make considerably less money, have as much free time as I like to ride but not able to afford the horses. It’s very annoying. I’ve opted to earn more money with the intention of setting up myself for future better work/life balance. It’s very hard and it could be the wrong choice but I feel like it is the choice that gives me the most options.

    I kind of like what I do. It’s tangentially related to what I love. I used to do more of what I love than I do now but making it work made it a lot less fun. I had to please clients in the work, not myself. Sometimes making something you love a job sucks the joy out of it.

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  156. William

    In short, no.

    It’s important to love your job, for sure. It is more important to be able to afford the things you need (and want) in life. Your priorities dictate a higher salary – you need to find a job that satisfies it.

    If you love writing, you can do that anywhere; you can do it for free; you should be paid well for what you do and I encourage you to begin a path to do it.

    PS: Stop trying to keep up with your friends.

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  157. Urdnot Bakara

    If you love your job but you’re stressed and miserable because of what it pays…… do you really love it?

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  158. Anon4This

    I went through something similar in my twenties too. I wanted to work in the glamorous world of fashion since I was old enough to want a job, but it was so competitive that without working loads of unpaid internships in outrageously expensive cities or having family connections to get your foot in the door…it just was not going to happen.

    I ended up in research, and liked it well enough but the first few years in the field was grueling, especially since I had no industry background. I wasn’t being paid well, and was working looooong hours. I often wondered if I made the right choice to give up on fashion and work a corporate job (where as a newbie I was being treated like an a-hole).

    I made the decision to hedge my bet and double down on research as my career. I fully invested, worked heinously hard, took night classes, networked my butt off, and really committed to my job and industry to become an expert in my field. I figured if I was going to do something that wasn’t fashion, I’d be the BEST.

    And now I’m in my mid-thirties and make well into the six-figures in salary, I have my own small consulting firm on the side, full benefits for myself and my spouse, I get to work on great projects, I get invited to speak at conference panels, etc. If I hadn’t decided to fully commit to my “boring” job back then, I’d probably still be floundering about, on a tiny paycheck, very dissatisfied. I guess mine is a story of you reap what you sow…

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  159. Journalism grad

    Graduated with a journalism degree back in the early ’00s, and knew even in college that the newsroom environment and lifestyle was not for me. I took a lot of flack from my professors when I took a good-paying public information officer job right of school. (Yes, seriously.) Others have touched on this, but people in this profession tend to have a lot of unhealthy emotion wrapped up in what they do. It’s a habit that you have to make a conscious effort to break.

    So, I guess I followed the money. Now that I’m in my late ’30s, I have zero regrets about taking this path. I’ve had interesting PIO and communications jobs in government and higher ed. I get to do what I’m good at, while still working for a higher calling. And, I strongly believe that my skill set is more diverse than it would’ve been, had I entered the profession in a more traditional way. I’ve done it all: writing, editing, design, social, photography. Now that I’m further along in my career, marketing and strategic communications has become part of my skillset. There’s plenty of not-fun things to deal with, because it’s work, but I’m still in a creative profession and haven’t stagnated.

    I’ve advanced several times. It didn’t happen quickly, because there just aren’t as many mid-level jobs out there, but it’s happened over time and with hard work. My DH and I have a very nice lifestyle that I couldn’t have imagined early in my career. And I kind of love it, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come since our early twenties. We aren’t rich by any means, but we aren’t financial stressed, either. We have a nice home. I don’t worry about how to pay the kids’ activity fees, or the braces they’ll inevitably need. Our employer PAYS US TO GO ON VACATION. It still boggles my mind sometimes.

    So, my best advice is to stop the black-and-white thinking. Open your mind to other possibilities, because I promise they’re out there. Employers need clear thinkers who can write well and translate their content into terms that real people can understand. You can do this!

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  160. Product person

    I’m with the middle ground people too. Even my “dream jobs” had days when I dreaded going to work (and my husband is the same way). So, choosing a job that gave us money AND pleasure from the work has always been my objective — and it has worked well for us.

    I recently changed jobs and had to reject an offer for what I believed would be the perfect job (working remotely, allowing me to travel at will to different continents, something I enjoy) because the offer was too low. I also said no to an incredibly high salary and interesting work because I’d be working for a company famous for its unethical behavior. I took something that offers a good salary and the work attracts me, but offers less opportunity for travel, and I’m happy with the compromise.

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  161. The Artist Formerly Known as a Dramaturg

    OP, I did a similar switch a year ago- from theatre artist to corporate and it took me realizing two important thigns to feel confident doing it. The first was that there there’s nothing wrong with trying something. You can do the corporate gig, decide it’s not for you, and try something else! Your connections and experience and skills don’t disappear because you changed jobs – employment doesn’t lock you in for life or erase your past. The second is that there’s nothing wrong with saying no to something that other people would love. I too was in a position that people waited their whole careers for, but I realized they weren’t the ones who had to deal with the downsides of it, so they didn’t get to have an opinion.

    For me the switch was worth it and while I may miss the theatre life, I’ve discovered so many new things that bring me happiness, things that I never knew would – because my previous lifestyle didn’t let me have access to them! I’ll echo the comment above – it’s important to diversify your happiness. All my happiness came from theatre, so when the job sucked, my whole life sucked. Now if my corporate job (which I do generally like) sucks, I have other sources of happiness to pull from.

    Give yourself permission to explore what jobs and happiness mean to you.

    Reply
  162. Clever Name

    For what it’s worth, I made this exact same decision last year. I looked at my bad pay and bad hours in journalism and decided my love of the game just wasn’t enough. I wanted to love my life. While I definitely still miss reporting, I like being able to not feel trapped by my earning potential.

    Reply
  163. CurlyKat

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned it already, but refer to AAM’s You don’t need to follow your dreams podcast.
    I’ve never had a passion. Worked come crappy jobs for little money, worked some decent jobs for a little money, and finally fell in to an opportunity that would lead, over 15+ years to a job that I like (not love), working with people I like, with great benefits and a better salary than I ever anticipated. But, If I came into a large sum of money, I could easily walk away from it.

    Is there an opportunity where you could do the lifestyle writing on the side? Perhaps start a blog and then monetize it?

    Good luck!

    Reply
  164. Jill

    People throw out platitudes like “Love what you do and the money will follow!” As if by magic. But the fact is, there are plenty of fields where the work is fun…but society doesn’t value it enough for the pay to be great. There are also a lot of jobs that are awesome…but there is so much competition for those jobs that employers can get away with not pay much. So the idea of loving what you do and it ALWAYS leading to a big pile of money, just because you love it so much, is false.

    It sounded like in the past you loved what you did and the money didn’t need to matter so much. But now your goals are changing (house, more travel, less worry about bills) so maybe the money does matter more. And as AAM has said many times, you don’t have to love what you do for a living. It’s perfectly OK to work only for the paycheck and find other ways to enjoy life. You could do the boring job for the money….and work on your own novel, or freelance, or start a blog on the side for your own enjoyment or for pin money.

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  165. Quinalla

    I think you have to consider how much $$ a fairly boring job is worth to you – and there truly is no wrong answer here. Some folks would never consider a job they didn’t love, no matter the $$, others do a job only because of $$ (and other $$ related benefits). I think most of us are somewhere in between. I am pretty lucky to have a job that I enjoy most of the time, but there are boring parts and parts I don’t love but are necessary and being well compensated helps makes those parts livable and also makes my life outside of work so much more enjoyable. And they feed into each other for sure! A job that I am pretty passionate about that compensates me well and a life where I can get those nice extras and have very little stress about $$ make me happier at work and outside of it.

    Also, I too don’t think it has to be either/or, but depending on your field, you may have to sacrifice more or less that others to get more of one or the other.

    And also, if you need a random person on the internet’s permission to get a job that pays you more $$ but maybe isn’t a pure or perfect or whatever it is that is making you hestitate, you have my permission at least! There is nothing wrong with wanting to make more $$, but a lot of us have weird guilt about wanting to make more $$ and that is normal too, but don’t let it stop you!

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  166. sequitur

    I feel like there’s a tendency towards exploitation in industries that are also perceived to have cultural/recreational capital that doesn’t exist in the same job in different industries. The software developers I know who work on boring business applications get treated a lot better than the ones who work in the video game industry, and I think writing is the same – the more “glamorous” the side of the industry, the more likely you are to encounter employers who underpay and undervalue their staff AND think the staff should be delighted to be there and passionate because it’s an industry a lot of people enjoy recreationally and assume will be fun or rewarding in non-tangible ways to work in.

    There’s a lot you can do with writing that will likely pay better than what you’re doing now and I genuinely believe most other industries will be more sane to work in than your current one just because of the perceived status of what you do now. I think it would be very possible for you to transition into another kind of communication role, maybe marketing communications or technical writing, where you’ll get to use the same skill set and will likely get paid a lot more.

    Reply
  167. seabear

    I would say try out writing in a different context (corporate or otherwise) for a few years and see if you prefer it to what you’re currently doing. This is just from personal experience, but I am also a writer living in a large and expensive city and have found that it’s basically a balance between doing what you enjoy, having a positive work environment, and getting paid enough to live comfortably.

    When I graduated from college, my dream job was to work for a publisher or as a journalist, frankly because I didn’t know about all of the writing/content careers that are out there. After a miserable first two years writing ads at a truly awful tech start-up type job, I switched paths and am now an editor/content strategist/journalist for a mid-size nonprofit. I like the work and mission well enough, but what I really love are the opportunities for career growth (I got promoted within my first year here) and my team’s support and dedication to our organization. The work environment is a hundred times better here than at my previous job, and I have found that I value this almost more than anything else.

    It’s nice to work in a field that you love, but if the job itself is dissatisfying regarding money or otherwise, I think it’s time to make a change. You may not love it, but if you vet to make sure the company you’re moving to is stable, productive, and has relatively happy employees, I think you will feel good about changing jobs.

    I also wouldn’t put too much stock in the ability to get a job as a journalist later on–it really depends where you’re working, but those opportunities may become even more valuable if you get some experience in a related corporate setting (i.e. content management, SEO, analytics, etc.). You can beef up your resume and potentially translate them back into the journalism world at a higher salary!

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  168. Penelope

    I’m in my early 40s and am lucky to be doing work that I love, which is slightly related to my college degree. I am a specialist within a specialty in IT and the money is good, my husband also works in tech but he doesn’t love what he does. I adhere strictly to “no nights, no weekends, no checking or answering work-related calls or emails after I leave the office”, because money or not, life is about LIFE. Yes, money means freedom and flexibility in a lot of ways which reduces stress, but no one on their deathbeds thinks about anything but the love, life, and friendships they’ve had or are leaving behind.

    If your work is so fulfilling that it overrides the envy and unfulfilled desires, then stick with it (but maybe aim a little higher or for a company that might advance you in accordance with your skills). If the desires of your heart speak louder than what you do for work, keep your passion as a hobby you prioritize and find work that will keep you stimulated but give you a good paycheck too. Then take that money and do good with it, make the life you want.

    Reply
  169. HereKittyKitty

    Both my partner and I are creative writers. We look at jobs as essentially funding for our creative endeavors. We don’t have to /love/ our job, but the benefits of being able to use that money to then fund the creative work that actually fulfills us is super important to us. Perhaps you will be able to use the extra money from the new job to put back into your lifestyle journalism passion?

    Reply
  170. CAconsultant

    In my experience (about 15 years of work experience now), what matters much more than the actual *work* is the company and the team. I’ve seen people in “amazing” jobs with a-hole teams and managers — and they are miserable. Currently, my job is… fine. Not soul sucking, but definitely not my dream job. But my team is great, and I make a lot of money (top 1% in the US — not saying this to be obnoxious, but rather point out the work vs. money thing). That income allows me to do the things you mentioned – travel, eat out, buy nice things, save for an early retirement… And I’m very lucky to not have to work 60+ hours a week to have my job.

    My take is that its all about balance — if you enjoy your life outside of work, and enjoy the people you work with, and are paid well and not working your tail off – you can basically put up with a lot in terms of job satisfaction. I’ve also found that no amount of money can cover having a terrible boss or a terrible team. And I’ve seen friends pursue what they love only to be miserable because their personal lives suffered (not able to afford a home, or the neighborhood they want to be in, or a second child) – which, in my point of view, doesn’t make up for loving your work because after all, it is still work.

    My take in short — find a company you can get behind, a boss you like, and an income you can sustain. Beyond that, loving the work itself is gravy.

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  171. KitKat100000

    In evaluating whether or not you should switch careers, I would consider the following:
    1. How much the stress of being financially “insecure” or financially “behind” impacts your life.
    2. How much additional money would decrease your stress and improve your happiness.
    3. Whether or not a new job would allow you to pursue the writing that you enjoy on the side.
    4. How a new job would impact your relationship with your partner.
    5. Whether you could continue to find personal satisfaction in a new job.
    Rate the above on a scale where you compare your current position and your likely future position. The consider asking your friends about their jobs and whether or not they like those jobs.

    Life is long – find the ways to maximize total happiness, not just career happiness :) :)

    Reply
  172. Dasein9

    I used to have the job that was a calling and that I loved, and it was the kind of job where I was always “on” because it was thinky and had so much to do with regular life, but all my work was self-guided and self-motivated. Thanks to the current political climate, I lost that job and the career I’d given some 20 years to. I’m now working in one of those corporate-ish settings, doing work that’s mainly boring and my skills are highly valued.

    Here’s some of what I’ve learned, on the off-chance you find it helpful:
    1. The job =/= the work. It is possible to have projects and make contributions in other ways because working a job leaves us with energy for other things at the end of the day the way a calling doesn’t.
    2. I was tense in ways I never even recognized until I felt the absence of some major stressors. Now that I’m away from the world of my former career, I’m seeing it more clearly and enjoying the change of perspective. Most of all, I can just go home and not think about work. What luxury!
    3. Our co-workers are a huge part of how much we enjoy our work; taking a job in a place where it is expected that we will have other interests, some of which overlap, is probably a reliable path to happiness in a job.
    4. I’ll always still be the person who was successful in that career; anything else I might become is in addition to, not instead of that. And this one is unlikely to be permanent too, but I’m learning valuable skills that will help with what I become next.

    I hope that this helps.

    Reply
    1. Cacwgrl

      #4- You are so right! I made a hard choice to leave something I was killing it at, but I was SO unhappy then leave again when I was again killing it but couldn’t make it work with the single person I was supposed to support, in spite of my successes across the team. It took me a LONG time to realize it’s ok to cut ties and it didn’t diminish what I had done. I did some great things and learned a ton that have applied to basically dream job now but realizing leaving didn’t change what I did before took a long time to accept.

      Reply
  173. Akcipitrokulo

    There is a difference between comparing MehJob with loadsamoney and Dreamjob (OK money) or DreamJob (struggling for money).

    Struggling for money will take its toll eventually – but it depends where your line is, and only you can say that.

    But, as I said above – if you could work remotely then it might make a huge difference. London is stupid expensive.

    Reply
    1. Akcipitrokulo

      I currently live in Reading and work in Oxford at DreamJob. If I got a similar position in Reading – which I could – for same money, I’d effectively get a 5K rise (pretax) because of travel. For me, that extra 5K isn’t worth it at the moment because we’re managing – more money would be nice, but not essential. If I were earning less – yeah, I’d move because I need to bring home a certain level.

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  174. Robin Sparkles

    Everyone gave great advice on how you can determine which is better but I will add my experience. I lived in NYC for ten years on and got a degree that pointed me towards the non-profit path -which was underpaid and difficult to live on. I did OK but I realized that I wanted to make enough money to enjoy life, not pay bills. And at that time my parents had their own financial difficulties so that means I was my own safety net. Making money is not only necessary but it’s incredibly important and I hate that we are taught to dismiss that. So for my story, I discovered healthcare and the different fields within in that are not just doctor or nurse. I love analyzing data, working with different teams and projects, and improving processes. I went for many different jobs in hospitals that I didn’t love but taught me what I liked and I landed on those three skills as what made me happiest. Once I figured that out, I was able to look for jobs that provide that. It’s not glamorous and half the time people have no idea what I do when I tell them my title but it pays very well and I love the work.

    You need to figure out what you love about your job now and apply that somewhere else – you are in the perfect time to do that. I wish you lots of luck!

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  175. Kelsi

    For me, it’s important to split the difference, but everyone has different priorities!

    I work at a nonprofit. I make enough to pay my mortgage, the basics, and still be able to my hobbies and some budget travel. If I dipped below that, I would definitely be looking for a job that paid more, since this is the standard of living I want.

    About a year ago, my boss mentioned to me that one of our corporate partners had told her that they would have liked to hire me, except they didn’t want to poach from her. She told me this because she is an excellent boss, and wanted to let me know that while she HOPED I was happy where I was at and would stay, she didn’t feel like it was right not to tell me there was another option.

    I admit, I thought about it for a minute. It would be a LOT more money than I currently make (like…A LOT), and money can do so much! But the thing is–the level of stress, the loss of flexibility, even the difference in workspace setup–would NOT be a recipe for me to thrive at work. I could do it, but it would take a huge toll on my overall happiness and mental well-being. Not worth it for me.

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  176. Cacwgrl

    I’ve been in both positions, loving my job where I was dramatically underpaid and being decently paid in a job I grew to hate. If I’m being completely honest, I hated the person I was supposed to work under/support, but loved the team and organization. In the first job I loved, I wasn’t able to have a fulfilling personal life and it wore on me to the point that I wasn’t able to be happy at work, which lead to the second job. While I was suffering through the hostile work enivronment, I found myself thinking I’d go back to making less just to get away from where I was. In the end, I happened upon an opportunity with the same organization that got me completely away from the person I couldn’t mesh with and now I am well paid in the career I love. I love my career, I love the big pictures of what I do but the day to day, especially in the ‘new era’ we’re in here now, I don’t love my job. I love what we accomplish, I love what I contribute but the other side of that means we have to deal with some rough crap that makes some days feel completely wasted production wise. But I can honestly say that I get enough satisfaction from the big picture and individual successes and the compensation package that it’s enough to live on. Like I saw in a few comments before mine, I can take mild contentment with decent personal life versus a job I love with no personal life. I can guarantee, I wouldn’t have the urge to come back every day to try a new approach if I wasn’t being paid what I am. I accept and knew in advance that these challenges would eventually reach what I do and my isolated bubble of doing what I want and loving it would eventually pop. I guess I’m saying I’ve been on both side and chose to be realistic about what I know makes me happy. Money may not buy happiness but it sure makes the rough patches a bit more comfortable.

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  177. smoke tree

    I’m in a similar situation. I did a lot of (paid) internships in university and was struck by how much happier my coworkers in a poorly paid creative industry seemed than my well paid coworkers in a much more dull, bureaucratic environment. That was definitely a factor in my decision to go into the creative industry, and I like it, but it definitely has downsides. In retrospect, I think there was more than the industry in play in that second place–the environment on our team was pretty toxic. So I think it can be a more nuanced question–there are more factors to how happy you’ll be at work than pay and level of glamour/creativity/personal fulfillment.

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  178. The Life Changer

    OP, I would encourage you to shift your mindset. Your job’s ONLY purpose is to provide you with income. It’s great to have a job you love or a job with a purpose that matches your values or a job that does good deeds or whatever, but it isn’t realistic to expect that every job (or maybe even ANY job!) will meet those descriptions.

    I have gotten a lot of value from podcasts about getting out of debt, being financially savvy, and the FIRE movement. I encourage you to read and listen to as much as you possibly can to expand your viewpoints. A year ago I felt trapped in my job and miserable because I was in debt and had no idea where my money was going; now I’m quitting with 6 months’ emergency savings in the bank and not a hint of anxiety because I know exactly what my money is doing at every second of the day and night. I decided I wanted to quit my job more than I wanted to go out on Friday nights, so I got serious about budgeting and side hustling. The things that add value to your life will be different than mine and your priorities will be different than mine, but it’s definitely worth the time it takes to examine them and consider what truly adds the most value to your life. Whatever you’re earning and spending, do it intentionally with a full understanding of how it’s affecting your financial reality. I recommend checking out Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard (although he might give too much US-specific advice to be of much use to you), FIRE Drill, 2 Frugal Dudes, ChooseFI, the Minimalists, and anyone else you can find on the topics of FIRE (financially independent, retired early), money, minimalism, and intentional living!

    Reply
    1. Birch

      While I agree with paragraph 2, I disagree that your job’s only purpose is to provide you with income. That may be the case for some people, but it’s also where most people spend most of their daylight hours and most of their “work” (i.e., effort into achieving some result that is not just for pleasure). It doesn’t matter what type of exchange rate you try to place on it, time is more valuable than money. For all living beings, time is finite. You can usually extend yours by eating mostly fruit and vegetables, exericising regularly, wearing your seatbelt, and avoiding drugs, but at the end of they day, you don’t get nearly the opportunities to grow and recover it the way you do with money. Once you spend your time, you can’t get it back. You don’t get a second chance to make an impact on the living world.

      Reply
      1. The Life Changer

        You’ve somehow gotten and missed my point simultaneously! Your time absolutely is your most valuable asset. So why spend most of it doing someone else’s work? The less I need to work, the more in control of my time I can be. You seem to be implying that productivity comes only through “work” and “work” comes only through “employment,” when obviously many people accomplish productive things off the clock, like garden, study, volunteer…

        What keeps me from doing those things all the time right now? The job that I have to have to pay my mortgage and buy groceries. Sure, SOME people have jobs that better their communities or themselves. But as I said, that’s not a realistic expectation. Once we pay off our house, our need for two full-time jobs will be reduced. We’re involved in local politics, a faith community, our local schools–how much more we could do with 20 or 40 more hours a week? You DON’T get a second chance to make an impact on the living world, so take control and make the impact you want, now!

        I highly recommend the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. Money is what you’re trading your life energy for. You might have a job that gives you warm fuzzies, but does it make you warmer and fuzzier than hanging out with your dog, reading to orphans, insert activity of choice? Spend the least amount of life energy to get the most amount of money so you can maximize the life energy you spend on your priorities. Your job’s job is to pay your bills, full stop! YOUR job is to build a life of purpose for yourself, and the less time you spend working for the man, the more time you can have to do your job. Relying on a job, partner, or other external source for that satisfaction will always leave you drained and disappointed.

        Reply
        1. Birch

          Haha that’s because I agree with your general philosophy but not with your particular statement that “Your job’s ONLY purpose is to provide you with income”! I did not say that productivity only comes through work and work only comes through employment; what I said was that most people spend most of their “work” time– that is, their productive time– at their job. Also, just because you are paid for your work, doesn’t mean that that work can’t be meaningful, impactful, or enjoyable. It naturally follows then that some work will be more meaningful, impactful, or enjoyable than other work. Think about it this way: you want to retire early. What are you going to do when you retire? What if you could got paid for doing exactly those activities? Would you say the only purpose of those activities was to get paid? No– they’re what you want to do for some other reason, perhaps because you find them enjoyable.

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  179. Yetanotherjennifer

    OP, how much do you really know about her job? I once though programming was all sitting in front of a computer with no interaction from other people and as a result I passed on a great opportunity to become one at the company where I was working at the time. I ended up going into programming a couple years later after getting laid-off and learned that it’s very different from what I thought and I really enjoy it. 15 years later, not pursuing that job is still one of my biggest career regrets. If all you’re going on is her description, I’d say apply and interview and take a good look at what the job would actually be like. You might be pleasantly surprised.

    Reply
  180. Stitch

    I’d encourage you to think about the kind of day-to-day, week-to-week life you want to live. The kind of space you want to live in, what activities and work fill your days, the nature of your social life, etc. Then work backwards to figure out what you need from a job in order to make that work.

    For instance, I highly value free time and PTO. I’m frugal and part of the FIRE community, which means that I’ve thought about what’s important to me and happily live off of about $25k a year. For some people, that means they could earn more and retire sooner. For me, that means I prioritize time off over salary. I’d rather have a part-time job that satisfies what I need from a job (something I’m decently good at and feels important enough to be worth doing) than one that pays $100,000.

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  181. Bree

    With writing, I don’t think it’s either/or.

    I have several friends who are freelance writers in their early to mid 30s – which I know isn’t quite OP’s situation – and they’re all searching for steady jobs with better pay and benefits (usually in communications or marketing). At a certain point you do need to take care of yourself and your family, not to mention planning for retirement.

    But all of them plan to keep writing in some capacity, whether it’s a blog column or a novel. Having the stability of a good income might even make that easier.

    Personally, I work in communications for government, and while I find my job both difficult and tedious most days, I wouldn’t trade it for my completely-broke-underpaid-nonprofit-work days.

    Reply
    1. HereKittyKitty

      In marketing here and I concur. We just hired a freelance writer who wanted a steady income and decided she’d actually have more time to write the things she enjoys if wasn’t scrambling every month. I have an MFA and decided the same. Having a decent schedule, healthcare, and yes money makes writing creatively a lot easier for me.

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  182. Jenatoo

    This aligns with Alison’s post yesterday about bad career advice to “follow your passion.” Your work does not define you and does not have to encapsulate your biggest passions. That said, this is essentially a values question. Having lived in London for a couple of years, I know a 20,000GBP salary would be akin to attempting to live on a BELOW poverty level salary in Manhattan. Even 40K would be tough. OP, the stress of this low salary is very negatively affecting your quality of life. You can still write and earn a living wage in other jobs – go out and try writing elsewhere to make more money, and if you really want to, freelance on the side!

    Reply
  183. Earl Grey Fae

    Hi OP! If you do decide to try a corporate job, you can always tell yourself that it’s only for X amount of years. It’s okay to want security and nice things; maybe all you need is to live the well-paid life for a couple of years and then go back to doing something easier after you’ve experienced a couple of nice vacations or purchased a pretty bauble or two. You sound like a creative person, and many creative people need to switch life up with alternating challenges and periods of rest. Like you, I prefer living the flexible low-paid life, but right now I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone in a challenging job and am squirreling away as much money as I can, so when I’m ready to go back to making less I have an emergency fund for peace of mind. I will also have a more diverse resume, so going forward it will be easier to make money if a life emergency happens. Any job is going to have its challenges, why not get paid what you deserve, at least temporarily?

    Reply
  184. LurkieLoo

    Overall, I would personally rather be stable than happy. I actually left a job I really enjoyed without having another lined up because I literally needed a 25% raise to make ends meet. When I asked my immediate manager for a raise (actually citing some really great reasons for one) and was immediately denied, she was shocked that I gave my notice on the spot. She begged me to stay until I found something, but I knew if I didn’t leave, I’d get sucked into stagnation while getting further and further behind. I started working for a temp agency with an immediate 50% increase in pay, which gave me a foot in the door to a lot of places as well as the flexibility (in the short term) to turn down assignments if I wanted/needed to be somewhere else.

    If you haven’t asked for a raise, maybe you could start there. Even though it’s only been a few months, maybe you can cite some examples of really good things you’ve done.

    Otherwise (from my perspective), I’d probably be happier struggling for a year or two at a soul sucking corporate job for the right amount of money knowing I have a financial goal and end date in mind.

    Reply
  185. Moolea

    OP, if you are a writer or someone who needs to be creative and learn, don’t become a bid writer. Look around, there are other ways.
    Example – some companies have in house magazines that could fulfill the lifestyle element. Even thinking about in flight magazines… The point is your careers adviser had no idea of the mulitude of jobs out there. I didn’t know my job existed until I stumbled on it. Don’t do a boring job if you’re a person that gets bored. Try harder.

    Reply
  186. mf

    Writer here who works a desk job by day.

    Trust me on this: loving your job > loving the paycheck, provided you make enough that you are not struggling financially. Financial stress can really put a damper on anything, but that aside, hating what you do for 40+ hours a week is HUGE. It really lowers your quality of life.

    Reply
  187. First Timer

    I honestly just debated this same question only a few months ago. I have a professional license, and I left a corporate job for a public service one just in March. It was a 50% pay cut for me. I really liked my old job, especially my manager and my boss’s boss, and I felt a huge deal of loyalty towards them, as they hired me for my first “real” professional job. But I wasn’t fulfilled with the work I was doing and had a strong internal urge to pursue a path in public service, in a very specific role. I got the opportunity to make the switch, and I took it, after a lot of debate.

    I truly could not be happier. I’m following my passions and doing something I absolutely love. I feel like I’m making a difference somehow. And while I’m certainly living on a much tighter budget, it’s worth it to me.

    Some caveats, though: I did have a fair amount of savings, so I’m not constantly feeling stressed about making ends meet for basic necessities. I make just barely enough to pay my monthly bills, so I’m not losing money each month. I also am single and childless, so I only really need to worry about supporting myself.

    I am also doing something I am so strongly passionate about. The job is great, my new coworkers are amazing, etc., but I’m following my dreams and doing work I feel so strongly about, and that’s a huge motivator (the motivator, frankly) to make the sacrifices to make this work.

    Whatever you decide to do, best of luck to you!!

    Reply
  188. Kiwi

    Bid writing’s probably particularly detail-focused and copy/paste-y. It’d bore me silly and I’m a tech writer.

    In order of creative scope, I reckon writing jobs go something like:
    fiction
    creative non-fiction – this is probably where you are now
    science writing
    marketing content
    tech writing
    bid/contract writing

    Even within tech writing, there are more and less creative jobs. Mine’s about mid-way, but I’ve heard of people writing instructions for games and their work’s seriously creative.

    So don’t jump straight to bid writing! There are other career paths that’re likely to suit you better.

    Reply
    1. Birch

      I actually don’t think bid writing is so uncreative! It’s the only item on that list in which you actually create something: you are designing a program, service, or product.

      Reply
  189. Erin

    I’ve moved between journalism and corporate communications roles throughout my career thus far (12 years in), and the pull between love and money is a real struggle! But I don’t necessarily find the corporate comms less rewarding- it’s just different. And I usually take roles where I am still able to freelance, so that I can do that if I have something I want to pursue. I find that approach is a pretty good balance for me.

    And there really is something to be said for being able to afford to enjoy yourself sometimes.

    Reply
  190. ambivalent

    Maybe there’s a bias here of people recommending to choose money over love of your job (I’m oversimplifying, I realize) because this is the bunch of people reading a blog called ‘ask a manager’ and have the time to answer questions, instead of devoting more time to the job they love? But joking aside, you probably won’t actually know what type you are, unless you try making the change. And as many others have said, you’re still young, you can switch back if you decide the ‘corporate’ path is not for you. And in the meantime you’ll probably acquire some useful transferable skills, that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Changing jobs can help you mature, and get to know yourself better.

    Reply
  191. Coywolf

    OP, you mention you have a passion for lifestyle journalism so I’m thinking that if you truly love something, nothing can stop you from doing it right? How about taking a better paying job that will help you live a more financially stress-free life and do lifestyle journalism (or writing?) on the side? As a blog or something. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what lifestyle journalism is exactly, but there are many content creators doing what they love all over the internet, on youtube, twitter, whatever and some I follow have full time jobs and love what they do on social media so it doesn’t feel like a job to them while they still live a comfortable life from their main income. Who knows, maybe your blog or something can take off and you won’t even need your full time job anymore!

    Reply
  192. Birch

    Switch to bid writing and continue a little freelance journalism on the side. You could even start your own blog, website, etc. That way you get the more comfortable life you want, but don’t give up on the journalism dream. You might even become a better journalist working for yourself and only working on the projects that you choose. And if not, you can let journalism go, once you’ve seen the other side and can make a more informed decision. Keeping up journalism on the side also makes it easier to switch back to it later if it turns out that bid writing really isn’t for you.

    I’ll also add that even a short period of signficantly higher income while maintaining the same level of spending can really put you ahead financially: when it comes to savings, you can do a lot with a little, but nothing with nothing. I know this isn’t your long-term plan (you want to increase your standard of living), but maybe try it for the first 6 months to a year and you’ll have more to work with (i.e., invest and put toward that house), even if you eventually go back to journalism.

    One last thing: poverty is horrendous. I don’t mean your current situation in which you can’t keep up with the Joneses, though obviously it’s not ideal; but when you are truly struggling to pay the rent (or appease your hosts, if you no longer can afford your own place) and afford food and most of your clothes have holes or stains or no longer fit properly. (Maybe in the UK there’s more of a government safety net, but in the US it’s a real threat.) I think J.K. Rowling hit the nail on the head (unsurprisingly, from such a successful writer) when she said that poverty “means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.” When you don’t have much in savings, you run that risk all the time, and I imagine it’s even higher if your field is highly competitive and poorly compensated. Right now you are looking at this decision from the perspective of your friends’ lives vs. your current life, but you might also consider it from the perspective of a less sexy job vs. one spot of bad luck away from destitution and a real struggle for survival.

    Reply
  193. somebody blonde

    Have you talked to your friend about whether she likes being a bid writer? Sometimes jobs that sound “boring and office-y” jobs are actually pretty interesting if you’re doing them rather than just describing them.

    I also think you’re thinking of this as way too black and white. You don’t have to choose between your poverty-level job that you love and a middle-class job as a bid-writer that you may not like. There are literally thousands of occupations out there, at various levels of income. If you’ve only been in one profession for your entire career so far, you probably have a very bad idea of what other people’s jobs are actually like and also how many jobs you might like as much as you like journalism. So you are basically tailor-made for informational interviews. Comb your network and try to talk to everyone who has a job you think sounds interesting, and ask them what their favorite and least favorite things about their work are, what skills and personality traits are most crucial in their work, etc.

    In terms of the abstract question: money is more important than job satisfaction up to a certain point. As soon as you can afford your basic monthly expenses plus a little savings, I think it’s more important to get a job you like than to up your income. But I really think it’s not helpful to see money vs. job satisfaction in tension. High-paying jobs are not inevitably worse than low-paying jobs. There are tons of good and bad jobs at every income level.

    Reply
  194. SS Express

    My husband and I both have jobs that we kinda like but do not love, but we make good money. We aren’t exactly rolling in it but we own our home, our car is only a few years old, and we never ever worry about money. We’re busy during the week so we hire a cleaner, send our ironing out and buy pre-marinated meat and bagged salads for quick dinners. My health isn’t great so I get whatever medical treatments I need even when they’re expensive. A while ago I bought a pair of jeans and after a few wears they stretched out too big, so I just went back and bought them in a smaller size instead of wearing uncomfortable baggy pants forever.

    I grew up with not a lot of money so being able to solve problems just by spending money and not thinking twice about it feels like such a luxury. I can’t imagine loving any job as much as I love being liberated from financial stress.

    Reply
  195. Rosiotto

    As someone dithering between trying to stay a route to a job that I love but that currently impoverishes me or packing it all in and taking the money – thank you all for your comments! It’s been great to read both sides and has helped me make some choices about how to move forwards with my job search.

    Reply
  196. London

    OP as an experienced person approaching 30, living in London, you’re certainly underpaid/undervalued.

    If you do not want to move industry, have you considered that if you handed in your notice in your job, your company would try to keep you and increase your money/promote you?

    Especially if you have details of another job offer that you could ask them to match.

    Reply
  197. C.

    I was in this EXACT predicament last year. After working in publishing for years and barely making ends meet (even after rising the ranks), I realized that–as I was coming into my 30s–I couldn’t do this anymore. I loved the work, but I just couldn’t reconcile living paycheck to paycheck with how hard I was working on a regular basis. It wasn’t worth it to me anymore when I realized that I had other goals and ambitions for myself outside of work, so I decided to take a job that still allowed me to use my skillset but for a company that paid a good salary and afforded a better work-life balance for me in the long run.

    I won’t lie: it was hard to leave, and I still experience the “what-if” moments from time to time… but by and large, I don’t regret it. Now, instead of making publishing the center of my entire universe, I’ve taken up freelance writing again (in addition to my full-time job) as more of a paid hobby now. It allows me to still do what I love to do, but doesn’t make it the livelihood that I depend on anymore.

    Reply
  198. boop the first

    More money is worth it IF you actually have a good use of that money. Reducing your financial stress could be worth it. If you are an outgoing person, it would be worth it.

    If someone’s income was just supplemental, or their job/family situation didn’t give them the freedom to travel, or they didn’t have any friends, or otherwise just didn’t truly NEED the extra money, then happiness with the job becomes priority.

    I was in the latter cat for a while, but recently had a job change that paid just a little more. Unfortunately it was a bit of a bait-and-switch in terms of hours (EVERY time I get a part-time job, it becomes full-time due to businesses preference to stay poorly staffed). Usually these are jobs I hate (I guess I hate all jobs), but this one is the first “skilled” job I’ve had, and also the first job I’ve had that pays a little more than minimum wage so I’m torn over whether I should be mad about giving up my passionate side business due to time issues, or happy to feel useful for once.

    Reply
  199. UsedtobeBroke

    As someone who worked in journalism for a few years with awful pay and extremely long hours – I loved it. But I knew I couldn’t live off of it. I was buying a large sandwich once a week and eating a piece of it every day to survive. So I made the tough decision to leave, and it took a few job hops from there, but I found a job I absolutely love that pays nearly 3x the amount. I now have a house just outside a very expensive city. Money isn’t everything, but it is possible to have a job you love on a salary you can live on. It might take a few “frogs” to get there, but it’s worth it. The benefit to being a good writer is that you can work in any industry, so consider what it is you love about your current job and try to translate that. What I loved about working in journalism was the sharing of knowledge – so I ended up in a nonprofit where my job is to spread knowledge that helps others.

    Reply
  200. MCMonkeyBean

    I think this is 100% personal and not something anyone else can decide for you. Whatever makes you happier in your day-to-day life. If you like your daily work but spend everyday thinking about the vacations you wish you could afford, then switching to something that makes more money could be the right move. But if you come back from those vacations only to have to drag yourself into an office you despise then that’s not really a better situation. Obviously it’s ideal if you can have both, but which one is the priority is something everyone has to figure out for themselves.

    Reply
  201. Alexandra Hamilton

    As long as I don’t *hate* the job, I’m choosing the money all day erry day. I have zero interest in living on peanuts when there is a (realistic) better option. Going from “no money at the end of the month” to a 50,000 pound salary seems like an absolute no-brainer to me. Nothing is stopping you from writing whatever you want in your free time! Go get paid!

    Reply
  202. Bevina del Rey

    Does your partner make significantly more, or is s/he poised to do so in the near(ish) future? My husband love love loves his job, it pays garbage, and I like my job just fine and make 2x as much (because the world doesn’t value non-profit frontlines human services work as much as they should, and I’m in healthcare, which pays better.) His pay will never change majorly while he stays in this particular job and this company, but it won’t change much either if stays in the field. I’m happy making it easier for him to do his job but if I made the same as he did we’d be pretty strapped for cash and something would have to change.

    As someone who doesn’t consider myself extremely materialistic, I love being able to spend 50 bucks on a nice face cream or go out to dinner without panicking. Money doesn’t make me happier, but it affords me the opportunity to have relaxing experiences that I enjoy, which does make me feel good; it also minimizes the anxiety of wondering how to pay for things, or the anxiety of feeling like I have to decline social events because of money. With this in mind, it sounds like you would be a bit happier if you made even 10,000 pounds more a year, and you can do this while staying in the field. I’m making 30K more here in the states in a very expensive city than at my last job and it’s been a game changer. More travel, less stress if we get a vet bill, not worrying about the cost of avocado. None of these things ‘make’ us happy, but can loosen the tightness of the emotional belt a bit for some people.

    Don’t forget–you’re very young, and the idea of 30 creeping up on someone can make a person really think, “Where “SHOULD” I be by now in my life?” vs. “Am I meeting my needs comfortably enough to thrive?” Compare your answers to those questions, see if you can make a shift to a place that pays you better but still allows you to do what you love, or supplement your income in the ways many creative folks in the comments section have suggested!

    Reply
  203. Marina

    I spend ten years working as a volunteer coordinator in nonprofits, and just finished my first year in IT at an insurance company.

    YES, it’s ok to have a job just for the money. It’s not for everyone – some people would be miserable spending 40-60 hours a week doing something they aren’t emotionally invested in. For me, as I’ve gotten older, more and more of my “real life” is outside working hours. I need a job that’s engaging and that doesn’t make me miserable, but I don’t WANT a job that requires my heart and soul because I’ve got other priorities for those.

    I’d recommend looking at job tasks, rather than titles. What tasks do you most enjoy at work? What past projects have been especially satisfying? What environments (both physical and people) have been the most comfortable? Is your love of journalism the act of sitting down and writing, or the investigation, or putting puzzle pieces together, or the things you get to see and do and learn about? Focusing on the work rather than the title will help you get a clearer picture of what works best for you.

    Reply
  204. CM

    I think either decision can be right, and it can also be right to vacillate between the two things from time to time. There have been times in my life when I was just so fucking tired of being poor that I took jobs I didn’t like (like, jobs that grated on me so much I thought I’d lose my mind) so I could earn some extra money and experience the joy of having disposable income for a while. But, after a year or two of that, I always felt like I’d robbed my life of meaning and went back to finding work that was closer to my heart. At this stage, I’ve just accepted that whatever decision I make right now is for RIGHT NOW and not the rest of my life. The decision could change in a couple of years, and I’m good with that.

    My advice to the OP would be to focus on what feels like the right choice NOW. It’s true that you’re not guaranteed to get a full time journalism job again later, but you’re not guaranteed much else in life, either.

    Reply
  205. Jaded journo

    I am a journalist and I earn six figures so my life is comfortable but I hate this job and would take something I loved more for less pay at this point. I, however, am farther along in my career and life than you are and have accumulated things and traveled and all of the stuff you have yet to do so, I can work for less money now.

    I think you can take the job that pays more money and do the writing you like as a side gig. Best of both worlds. Enjoy.

    Reply
  206. Kitty

    I’m really feeling this right now. My dream was always to work in one sunset of my industry, so I took a job in a different subset that seemed like a step closer to my dream. Then the more I talked with people in the dream job, I realised it pays 5k-7k less than my current salary, which is already pretty average.

    I’m feeling similar to the letter writer, that my priorities have shifted and I’m tired of always struggling with budgeting and want to earn enough to have a comfortable lifestyle and buy a modest apartment.

    I’ve thought about trying to transition into government or corporate jobs that use the same skills as mine, but those jobs are even more competitive then my industry (and it took me 6 years to even get this job, my first permanent role in the industry). I also worry about the same things as the LW, would government/corporate be super boring.

    Haven’t quite figured it out yet. I’ve given up on the original dream because I don’t want to take a step down lifestyle wise with that kind of salary. But I’m also not sure about pursuing higher paid and potentially less interesting jobs. So I guess for now I’m staying in the middle, with interesting but not dream job, and average pay.

    LW, are there any types of average paid jobs that would use your skills and still be interesting for you? Does the job your friend is offering only come as a full time gig? Could you dip your toe in by trying it freelance or part time to see if it’s for you? Good luck!

    Reply
  207. Tiger Snake

    I don’t think this is a decision Alison, or we, can make for you OP. So instead, let’s try looking at where you are currently:

    – You like what you do currently – on a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied do you think you are doing your job each day? Notably, what are the factors that lead to significant increases and decreases?
    Now, how does that compare to doing the ‘stuffy, office-y’ job? It is something you’ll have to do day in day out for years either way, so what are the factors that really impact that happiness level, and what can you do to influence them? (I’d also ask, how are you not certain that pursuing your current career wouldn’t end up with a similar position that makes you balk.)

    – You make a mention about not sure whether the lack of promotions was because you hadn’t been with any of your companies long enough, but not how long you were there for. In most fields, I’d say I’d look for a promotion after a few years, so if you’ve only been In journalism for 3 years and had multiple jobs I wouldn’t have expected a promotion yet.
    BUT the other factor here is my expectations are based on common scales of what expected performance is for each level. Does your current company have any documentation describing what sort of behaviour, capability, performance etc. is expected at the next level up? How do you think you fair on that scale, and how might you go about both improving yourself on those and go about demonstrating these characteristics in your current role? (And, does applying these change your enjoyment and happiness of work at all?)

    – The job/field you’re in a highly competitive – rather than sit back and accept there will always be someone better, that suggests to me you also need to constantly work at improvement and having means to demonstrate that improved level to employers just to stay in the running. What kind of personal resources – time and financial – is that really going to demand on you going forward, and are you able to support that?

    – What are your partner’s thoughts on the matter? If they’re in a position where they provide the lion’s share of your combined house savings, income, general utilities and so on, are they okay with it – short term, longer term, etc? Are you able to support yourself if you break up, or something happens that causes them to lose their job? (*knock on wood*)

    Reply
  208. KTLFM

    You should consider writing a way for you to do business (for example, as a writer on fiverr) and business should focus on sales, hobbies that will kill you. A good article can make you have fun in mind but the bill at the end of the month will extinguish it. Think about money because only the money will inspire you to write and will make you do not write this story a second time.

    Reply
  209. Horatio

    OP, my partner and I both relate to this pretty closely. We both work in theatre – he’s an actor and I’m a director – in a city I would classify as slightly more expensive than London. He’s lucky enough to be able to work Equity gigs pretty much full-time (and has a part-time job for the two or three weeks he’s in-between shows), but the pay is still tight and inconsistent. I personally need consistency in both pay and schedule, so I got a day job working as a fundraiser in a theatre and I direct shows that rehearse on evenings and weekends. Nonprofit arts orgs are not the place to find the big bucks, but I make significantly more than I would have if I freelanced full-time, enough so that I can pay for small vacations and eat out and do some things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Is fundraising my ultimate passion? No, but I still get to work in a theatre, my co-workers are great, the commute is decent, the work itself is interesting and enjoyable 90% of the time, and I make enough that I can be picky about which directing gigs I take outside of work since I’m not relying on them for the money.

    I guess what I’m saying is – it doesn’t have to be an either-or kind of thing. You can find solutions that make you happy at work and also pay you enough so that you’re not stressing over your bank account. There are jobs out there that might not be *exactly* what you want to do, but are close enough that you’ll still look forward to going to work in the mornings. Or, as many others have suggested, you can find a job you don’t hate and use your free time to follow your passion.

    Reply

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