By Kevin M
Over the past week I’ve been writing about the often negative consequences of various jobs and income situations. Today’s post is on the same topic, but it centers on my own personal experience with a job I probably would have been better off if I’d never taken it.
When ever someone has financial problems, there’s a strong tendency for others to suggest “why not get a part time job?” As well intended as that advice may be, I’m here to report that such advice isn’t always the way to go. Some jobs can actually cost more than they bring in…
A few years ago, in the middle of a time of significant financial distress, I took what I thought was a part time job with a local newspaper doing delivery.If you haven’t noticed, the days of the newspaper being delivered by neighborhood kids is long gone and being performed entirely by adults in cars.
On the surface, it looked like a perfect situation: an income of over $1000 a month for early morning work. I’d be done by 6:30 or 7 in the morning, so it wouldn’t interfere with my regular work. Or so I thought!
But some jobs can’t be fully understood until you’re actually in them.
Early morning meant 2:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Toward the weekend it was even earlier; 2 a.m. on Friday, 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. If I came in for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon to assemble the Sunday ad supplements beforehand, otherwise there was no point even going to bed Saturday night – I’d need to be at the shop by midnight!
If you’ve never been involved in newspaper delivery, you probably have no concept of the magnitude of getting the overstuffed Sunday edition of your familiar major metropolitan newspaper delivered to your doorstep each week.
As it turned out, I was spending an average of 35 hours a week working at my part time job, for which I was bringing home $1000. Translation: I was working a full time job for part time money.
Actually, it worked out that I was receiving the rough equivalent of minimum wage. But that wasn’t what made the job counter productive. I was working seven day a week and that will grind on anybody. My sleep patterns were completely disrupted, and I was sleeping when I should have been working at other things, drowsy all the time, and depleted at family times and social events.
I was using my own car to deliver the papers and paying hundreds of dollars for gas and repairs. Circling dozens of cul-de-sacs every day of the week with a car load of newspapers wears down brakes and tires in a matter of weeks, but who would have thought?
And the local newspaper wasn’t all that we delivered. In an example of how big picture events can and do affect us in our own little corners of life, newspaper companies, who have been in decline for at least the past 20 years, have taken on interesting ways of offsetting delivery costs of their own newspapers. We also delivered the papers for competing newspaper companies, along with free sample products, catalogues, and a perpetually heavier load of ad supplements.
Needless to say, Saturday and weekday editions are looking increasingly like the Sunday packages of old, stuffed with slick ad inserts, and no small number of them. Against the backdrop of declining circulation, I’m guessing the newspaper companies have taken to offering ad space at rates that are something unusually close to nothing.
All of this had to be loaded into the car, our family car, and ferried to more than 400 addresses, every day. And yes, it sounds cliché, but twice on Sundays; I had to deliver the Sunday papers in two shifts, so that the car could actually move after it was loaded.
Three and a half months, that’s how long I lasted. The solution I chose turned out to be a bigger problem than my financial issues. My mind and body, my family and of course my car all took a hit during my time on the job. And our money problems didn’t improve as hoped.
This job probably cost me as much in the end as I made on it, and took me away from other pursuits. It was one of those jobs that certifiably wasn’t worth taking.
Not all jobs–not all income opportunities–live up to the promise. Far from improving our circumstances, some have a real potential to cause more problems than they solve. Just as with spending our money, we also need to be careful how we earn it. A situation that can cost us money, or soak up our time for very little gain are best avoided.
Have you ever held a job that wasn’t worth having? What did you lose that made it not worth your time?