• Milly Skiles

Standing at the Career Crossroads

Once I made the decision to return to work, I had to figure out what direction to take. I just assumed I would go back into journalism. With a background in newspapers and magazines, who else would have me?

To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea. In all my journalism jobs, I never made more than $20, maybe $22 an hour.

I distinctly remember being a reporter and borrowing my parents’ car to make the commute. It was a VW Vanagon, so naturally, it broke down one day and needed a new transmission, which I couldn’t afford. I was probably making less than $20 an hour at the time.

I approached my boss and explained the situation. How was I supposed to do my job without a car? How could I repair the car on my paltry salary?

“Maybe borrow money from your parents?” he suggested helpfully.

“Shouldn’t I be able to afford these things on my own?” I countered. "I mean, I am an adult with a college degree."

To this, he shrugged his shoulders. “Well, I don’t know what to tell you.”

I had to give up the job.

Suddenly, my college dream of saving the world through investigative journalism dissolved into harsh reality. The truth was, I would never make money at journalism. I struggled to accept this.

I learned to LOVE a dinner of perfectly cooked rice, jazzing it up with spices and a little butter. At the market, I’d mull whether to get a six-pack of beer or a substantial meal. (Of course the beer won!) I borrowed money from my parents and friends. It felt almost normal.

My one small victory, the one thing that made me feel like an adult, was when I got my very own apartment. Fed up with roommates, I settled into a tiny studio in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. My neighbors were tenants leftover from the days when the building served as a heroin whorehouse. It was loud, crazy – definitely entertaining – and it was all mine.

When I got married and became pregnant with our first child, my husband suggested I be a stay-at-home mom. I jumped at the chance. It was bliss not working for “the man.” A few years later I decided to go back to work and got my dream job. But the pay was terrible. Horrible! With no hope of a raise. Ever.

“Well, we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love it, right?” my colleague said cheerfully. I resigned myself to fate and kept my head down. After the birth of my third child, I took time off again, grateful to not work for peanuts.

Then 2020 hit. As the year slowly, painfully marched on, it became clear that we needed extra income. Something had to give.

“I could, uh, go back to work?” I reluctantly suggested to my husband. Quite frankly, I was very comfortable being a stay-at-home mom. And besides, financially it didn’t make sense for me to go back to work. How could I find a job that would allow me to shuttle my kids around? How would I afford child care if I couldn't?

Dutifully, I started scrolling through job boards. There were very few journalism jobs. When I did see a job, I doubted my ability to even get an interview. Why the hell would anyone give a job to me, a lazy mom who decided to roll her ass off the couch after eight years? I started to panic, feeling the pressure of our shrinking income. I felt very alone and powerless.

Late one night, in desperation, I fired off a post on an old Yahoo Groups I belonged to for working moms: "What other jobs are suited for my journalism skills?" it read.

To my surprise, I got several responses. In summary, the response was, "Uh, yeah, you moron. It's called content writing." One person even offered me work right then and there, which I modestly turned down. Like an idiot!

It was a revelation. Oh yeah, marketing!!

And just like that, a door opened.

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