In this Q&A a journalist-turned-grad student talks about the pros and cons of holding multiple jobs at once.
These days, it’s rare to meet anyone who has worked for the same company for more than a few years, let alone a couple of decades. In fact, the far more versatile job juggling — a term headlined in — has quickly become a norm in recent years, due in part to the bad economy, rising college tuition and other financial factors. Just last month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported a , while some private colleges and universities are charging as much as $50,000 per year.
Though job jugglers each have unique stories and pursue different occupations, many, including graduate student , would agree that this form of making a living is a necessity. Costa currently attends the University of Washington, where she is working toward a doctorate in English literature. I talked to the former journalist recently about how she makes a living as a job juggler pulling in an average of $3,200 per month.
What jobs do you currently have?
Currently, I teach English as a second language (ESL) online, I am an editor for a transcription company, [and I hold] an on-campus job with the Disability Resources office at UW as an assistant in their alternative media program.
During the regular school year, my 4th job is as a teaching assistant. But since it’s summer, I am filling that slot by tutoring in a month-long summer program for incoming freshman athletes.
What are your responsibilities for each position?
For the ESL position, I act as a “coach” where I guide students through the content they just learned in their online course and help them practice correct English structures and pronunciation.
For my editing job, I listen to audio recordings and compare them to the transcripts to ensure accuracy. This involves listening to a lot of foreign accents, technology product development conference calls, medical conferences, and police recordings.
As an alternative media assistant, I help students with learning disabilities and other disabilities that make handling physical textbooks difficult by getting them accessible texts. This might mean that I contact publishers to get electronic copies of texts or audio recordings, or, if those avenues prove unfruitful, I might have to scan and reformat a student’s own textbook or send a copy of a book to our staff of readers to record a customized audio version.
As a tutor with the athletics program, I attend an English class in the morning with the students to model good in-class behavior by taking notes, asking questions, etc. I also help the instructors facilitate writing workshops and help lead discussions of course texts. In the afternoons, I help teach a study skills class for the athletes by working with them in small groups to practice reading skills, or one-on-one to help them develop their writing skills.
During the regular school year, I teach whatever English course the university needs me to. Last year, I taught a first-year composition course [and] next fall, I’m teaching a “writing ready” course for incoming freshman, followed by [serving as a teacher’s assistant for] a large lecture course.
A photograph of Stevi.
How did you land the work?
I found the online ESL job through Craigslist. I saw they were hiring, so I filled out an application, did a voice audition, and met with their hiring team in person. I applied in February or March of 2010 and just assumed that I didn’t get it because I hadn’t heard from them. But in July, I got a call to come meet them in person at a Seattle talent search, and they hired me in August.
Editing for the transcription company was a job I brought with me from California when I moved to Washington for graduate school. I had been working for that company in a different capacity in-house, and they kept me on as a contractor.
Teaching for the university is built into my grad school contract, and I found my on-campus jobs (as a tutor and at the disability resources office) through my department’s graduate listservs.
Why do you choose to hold multiple positions?
It’s almost a necessity for graduate students. While I do get a stipend for teaching during the year, my stipend and teaching position are considered a part-time job. It’s expected that you’ll spend about 20 hours a week teaching, and then the rest of that time should be your time to liberally study and pursue your own work. While I didn’t come in to graduate school with any student loans (I attended undergrad for free under California’s Disabled Veteran’s Benefits program), my husband has student loans to pay. We’re also paying off other debt in addition to our regular bills and living expenses. Though my husband works, I needed to find other jobs in order for us to make ends meet and be comfortable.
I also think that I am the kind of person who functions best when I have to juggle a lot of things. I was so bored before I went to graduate school because I worked in an 8-to-4 office job where I had made myself so efficient that I basically had run out of things to do within my first two hours of the day. I don’t like being bored—it actually makes me really depressed. In order for me to facilitate being able to study, I need to have a lot of other things to do. So while I do feel that working this much is financially necessary, I also feel its personally necessary.
How do you manage everything?
I do have to be very conscious of my schedule and my time management. There’s a lot of color-coding activities in my Google calendar, that’s for sure.
How many hours a week do you work?
In the school year, at minimum 56 hours a week. I’m not even sure what an average maximum would be. Right now, things are a little different because it’s summer. […] All told, my summer work week is about 50 hours, give or take.
What kind of career do you hope to have after graduating? Do you think you’ll continue to maintain multiple jobs as a long-term career?
My goal is to get a job as a professor, which is a kind of multi-job in and of itself. My time would be split between my own research, teaching undergraduates, potential administrative duties, and possible mentorship/teaching of graduate students. I think a lot of non-academics tend to think of academic labor as very leisurely in the sense that we can technically set our own hours at the university of our employment, but what they don’t realize is that our labor gets dispensed in other places at other times. So while we do set our own hours, it’s not like we just wake up and teach for two hours twice a week. There’s a lot of other work that goes on and we are always up against personal and professional deadlines.
Any advice for job jugglers?
Leave time for a hobby. Allowing yourself dance classes once a week or something of that ilk […] gives you a place to expend energy.
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