Work satisfying despite stress, low pay

Normally, I disregard pop online surveys, but CNNMoney.com’s recent “Stressful Jobs That Pay Badly” research summary by Jessica Dickler caught my eye.

Why? Because I have been employed in the top four of the nine jobs she cited. One or two wouldn’t have been a big deal, but having worked all four of the “worst” jobs warranted closer examination. More disturbing is that I have also performed aspects of jobs 5-9 during my career.

Ranked in order of combined overwork and underpay, the jobs mentioned were: 1. Social Worker; 2. Special Events Coordinator; 3. Probation/Parole Officer; 4. News Reporter; 5. Music Ministry Director; 6. Membership Manager; 7. Fundraiser; 8. Commercial Photographer; and 9. Assisted Living Director.

The first thing I noticed about the list of jobs was they all involved working with people. In my estimation, people are far more unstable than most elements, including radium. The unpredictability of people is what makes dealing with them so stressful.

The second thing I noticed about the list of jobs was they all involved working with people at highly emotional times in their lives. Face it, people aren’t usually thrown into the company of social workers and probation officers because they are doing well. No, they are there mostly due to unfortunate situations and screw-ups.

Special event coordinators, membership managers, fundraisers, and assisted living managers are usually trying to simultaneously please several privileged people who have serious amounts of money on the line. Everything had better go according to Hoyle or there’ll be Hell to pay. Along those lines, news reporters are paid to dish dirt on a deadline. More often than not, people hate to see them coming.

And music ministry directors? Talk about a thankless job! They answer to many, knowing they will likely please only a few. Rehearsing at all hours with diverse personalities and catering to diverse tastes for one-time performances, they only briefly savor the fruits of their labor.

While all positions have potential for frustration, the above-mentioned people professions are fraught with it. In my ideal world, people who work directly with people would get paid more than people who work with things or ideas. A lot more.

But do they? Nope. In fact, the opposite appears true. The further you distance yourself from people, the more likely you are to increase your profits, with fewer headaches along the way, too, for those who could afford to buy premium aspirin.

You’re probably thinking the jobs I’ve held explain a lot about me. My husband actually verbalized it, laughingly, from his engineering vantage point in a recession-proof industry. He suspects I’m strongly enough drawn to problem people and situations that I’d be willing to work with them for next to nothing.

He’s right. To me, there’s nothing more stimulating than a round of human chess with a worthy opponent, trying to check mate someone into doing the right thing for his/her own good. Nowhere did that scenario get played out more frequently than when I worked as a circuit court probation officer.

Operating on the theory that if people knew better ways of getting their needs met, they would likely use them, I used a combination of common sense, caring and legal leverage to assist people toward changing their lives for the better.

Most people were open to positive change, so that helped. Others needed a bit more “encouragement” to come around. And yet others either never got the point of self-improvement or didn’t care. I learned to take the good with the bad. However, the success stories outweighed the failures. I learned to celebrate incremental change because often that was as good as it was going to get, but still, it was something.

I’ve challenged my spouse to feel as good at the end of the day about perfecting the fit of a container lid as I do watching someone obtain regular employment, earn a GED, get their children back from foster care, or their health back following a debilitating stroke.

Stressful? Yes. Satisfying? Absolutely. Whether or not it’s been reflected on a check stub, the pennies and other change from Heaven nevertheless add up to a satisfying life.

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