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June 3, 2011 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Which job would you choose?

Two job offers that I need to decide on very soon:

Background: I'm a certified middle school teacher. I had a terrible experience at my last school - I basically hated every day of it. However, it was my first year, at a very tough charter school in a very tough neighborhood of DC. I have two offers on the table - one as a teacher and one at a nonprofit.

Job 1: Similar charter school in Sacramento, which is close to my family. Would be teaching similar material. PROS: Close to home, lower cost of living, lots of paid vacation. CONS: It's in Sacramento, requires lots and lots of hours, the school doesn't really have it's act together. Also, I'm afraid to repeat the terrible experience of last year.

Job 2: Working in a nonprofit in SF as an Americorps VISTA member. PROS: The job sounds amazing, atmosphere at the office is fun, I love SF, the hours are reasonable. CONS: Basically would be paid nothing and it would be a real financial difficulty.

I'm really torn. I don't WANT to give up teaching after one year, but I also don't want to sign myself onto something that has the potential to be really, really miserable. I don't WANT to barely squeak by financially, but I would do it if I loved my job.


And yes, I feel extremely lucky to be in this position - two offers! I know many of my friends and family are struggling to come by one.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't have any money or any family nearby then the better hours will become a moot point. I would take the lower cost of living, higher pay and familiarity. That way when you do get a break you'll have the means to truly enough it!

It might *not* be as bad as you think it will be.
posted by pink candy floss at 4:50 PM on June 3, 2011

They would both be gambles as far as how bad they could turn out to be. Americorps jobs all tend to sound great on paper, but the reality can be very different. Would you gain some sort of valuable resume-building experience from the Americorps job to justify the extremely low pay?

Perhaps you could scope out the school to get a sense of it.
posted by sunnychef88 at 4:53 PM on June 3, 2011

The AmeriCorps VISTA program is a great program. On paper. But in reality, it is low pay, hard work, little respect or esteem, and not much to put on the resume. I was a VISTA for one year and honestly? I wish I hadn't done it. The money was terrible, I got sexually harassed and told I couldn't complain because I was "just a volunteer," never got to work in my actual area of expertise, etc., etc. I really think the program is a great idea, but I would never recommend that a person actually do it.
posted by mrfuga0 at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take the teaching job. It's very, very hard to maintain one's morale when one's labor is undercompensated. Even if the atmosphere in the office is generally "fun", the moment it turns hard or stressful you will be resentful of how little money you are making; and San Francisco is not at all fun when you are poor. You need money to live in a safe neighborhood; to enjoy the nightlife; to deal with its (numerous) inconveniences.

Be near your family and give teaching one more try. You can always abandon it if you really hate it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:11 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, do you want to make money now and have fun later, or have fun now and make money later? Personally, start making money now, make more money as you get more experience, and then when you hit 60-65 take off and see the world on your own terms and have fun doing it.
posted by deezil at 5:12 PM on June 3, 2011

I have been told that the first year is always hard at *whatever* you do, and that to try the second year, to see what it's like once you get passed the "culture shock" or the getting used to it bit.

Take the tough, higher paying job and save like crazy so you can evaluate your options next year.
posted by titanium_geek at 5:24 PM on June 3, 2011

The teaching job, because even if you end up hating it, you'll walk away with a solid two years of teaching experience for your resume. That's worth something -- I know from personal experience, as my two years of teaching experience eventually led to other interesting work in the field of education (outside of a traditional classroom).
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:27 PM on June 3, 2011

Do you want to live in SF? Because the time to live in SF is when you are YOUNG. It is not a family-friendly city. You'll find other broke folk to hang out with.

I had similar choices (not in the education field) and I chose SF... and it worked out for me. I would've gone nuts, or at least spent my formative young-adult years completely differently, in a more boring city.

What's the non-profit?
posted by samthemander at 5:29 PM on June 3, 2011

I have more experienced middle school teacher friend in DC who you should talk to. Memail me and I'll pass on this e-mail.
posted by parmanparman at 5:57 PM on June 3, 2011

I would also pick the teaching job. Give yourself one more year in the profession you thought you wanted to be in (it's a new setting, with a fresh perspective) and THEN decide the career change. AmeriCorps AND teaching both look great on paper but in reality have their fair share of issues. At least with the teaching job, you'd be better compensated. (Also - don't forget the value of experience. Look back on the past year. Anything YOU would've done differently?! Consider it a do-over!)

Also - if you have more money, you can make trips to SF and ENJOY the city instead of living in it, making nothing, and note being able to afford its pleasures.

Always give second chances.
posted by angsolom at 6:06 PM on June 3, 2011

I think some of the people who are telling you to take the teaching job have never taught before. Working at a charter school that doesn't have it's act together can be hell, especially if it's one of those places where school culture expects you to be there for hours and hours after school.

The one good thing about taking job 1 is that thanks to your earlier experience, you will know what to expect and can prepare yourself for it.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:42 PM on June 3, 2011

I'd go to Sacramento, if only to get a real answer to the do I not like teaching, or did my last school just suck that much? question.
posted by willpie at 6:54 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

My first year of teaching was miserable. I was at a school with a horrific administration - they didn't believe in/trust the teachers, and treated us very poorly. There was a huge lack of support. I spent the next three years at a school with a similarly difficult population, but an amazing administration. It made a HUGE difference. I wonder what you mean "the school doesn't really have its act together." If there's great leadership, and the teachers are trusted and treated well by the administrators, even if things aren't totally set with the school, the experience could be a much more positive one.

So yeah, depending on how the school is being run, if you have think you'll have a good amount of support at this school, I vote for the teaching job. And if you don't think this is the right school, and if you're ok with doing some more job-searching, I vote for finding a school where you will get the support. Generally, year 1 of teaching is way different from year 2, which is way different from year 3, year 4, etc.
posted by violetish at 7:25 PM on June 3, 2011

I'm a teacher and teaching drives me crazy!! Having said that, I would still take the teaching job. Your first year teaching is generally the absolute worst- it can really only get better. Also, you will be (as someone mentioned) getting a second year of experience and paid!! I would imagine the volunteer job could be re-obtained in the future but teaching jobs are hard to come by right now...well, here in nyc anyway. Plus, financial difficulties known ahead of time..yikes. Or maybe I'm just jealous!:) Either way, I still vote take the teaching job, try to defer volunteer job.
posted by bquarters at 7:32 PM on June 3, 2011

I'm not a teacher and don't have Americorps experience, so defer to the experts. But I'd just like to note that passed on your wording you clearly want to take the Americorps job. And yes, it might mean living on the margins. But that's what being young is all about. (I'm presuming you're in your early twenties.) More importantly, you'd do well to learn to go with your gut. I say take the Americorps.
posted by Karmacane at 9:08 PM on June 3, 2011

passed = based
posted by Karmacane at 9:09 PM on June 3, 2011

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