What am I worth?

This has been something on my mind lately. Admittedly, a lot. It’s about my monetary value when it comes to jobs. I am currently a visiting scholar, a board member on a state chapter of an international organization, a gifted parent education liaison for a local school district, and on the planning committee for three conferences. All of this I love, but none of it is paid. I know my work is important, but really, when it comes to jobs, what am I worth?

We all wonder that. Here in the United States it’s taboo and considered rude to discuss salary. I’m going to break this taboo today, so avert your eyes, my American friends! Or look and you may just learn something.

In 2002, my first salaried job was as assistant manager at a retail clothing store for teens. They decided I was worth $25,000 per year.

In 2004, at my second job, a for-profit university decided, as a financial aid counselor, I was worth $22,000, but agreed to match my salary at the time after 90 days.

In 2006, my third job, which I got just after graduating with my Bachelor’s, was as a financial aid assistant doing data entry and answering questions at a private university. They tagged me at $31,000.

When I left this university in 2012 after being there for six years, a promotion, and earning a Master’s degree, I made just over $40,000. I was a Financial Aid Coordinator.

In 2016, just before graduation with my PhD, I applied for a director position. I was called by the person doing the hiring. They suggested I apply for a coordinator position. The top salary they could offer me: $32,000 per year.

Now, today, in 2017, I am applying for jobs and have been for the past six months. I am being selective, only applying for jobs where I can get behind the role and the mission of the organization. I am getting turned down for jobs without an interview. Jobs I get offered are without pay, but “will be good experience” or “resume builders”. The worst (unsolicited) offer I received was to write courses for someone in exchange for resume tweaking and “LinkedIn optimization”.

I’m 34 years-old. I have been working full-time since I was 16. I have completed two internships, three degrees, and am wicked smart. I am creative, personable, and have a sharp talent for seeing problems in plans way ahead of time. Why is it so challenging to get an interview, or to get a job offer, or to get the salary I deserve?

But what is it I deserve? A recent chat with someone had placed my worth at significantly less than my husband’s, even though we have similar length of experience and I have two advanced degrees.

In all of these experiences, is there a bias because I’m a woman? You bet. I don’t imagine people would feel comfortable doing or saying these things to a man. But how do I get what I deserve?

Are you getting what you deserve? Maybe not. I heard employers will pay you one-fifth of what you’re worth to them. Do not sell yourself short. Trust me, they’re still getting a deal. Stand up for what you deserve.

For me, maybe I’ll give the job hunt a break, but something inside says maybe I’d miss that really awesome job I would love. For now, I’ll just keep working on what I love and when that paid offer arrives, I won’t accept anything less than what I deserve.


Graduation Celebration

A picture of all the lovely cards my friends and family gave me.

When my defense date was scheduled, Chris suggested having a graduation celebration at a local restaurant. I am not one to celebrate my accomplishments, but I thought, “I do miss my friends.” Being in a Ph.D. program is isolating. Finally now after five years, I get to rejoin society. 🙂 <smile>

Chris found this little family-owned restaurant near South City. It was so nice. The service was great. The food was great. They were so accommodating! If you’re in St. Louis, go eat there. It looks so unassuming from the outside, but it’s a wonderful place to eat or have a large party.

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out that evening. Sorry some of you could not make it. We need to meet for a coffee date. It was wonderful to get to see all the new little someones in our group and enjoy a meal without worrying about how much time I was spending away from my research and writing.

I always am the worst at receiving gifts, because I never expect anything and feel guilt when receiving gifts. Maybe this stems from my shyness. I’m outgoing unless the attention is on me, the person. In spite of my shy awkwardness around gift receiving, some of my friends and family were so gracious to give me cards, a coffee mug, flowers, money gifts, Star Wars nerdery, and wine.

Because of my guilt I feel when receiving gifts (I know, weird, right?), I always want to make sure I’m very responsible in buying items with gift cards and money. I thought very hard over the past week-and-a-half about what would be good to buy with the money gifts.

First I thought books, but then I figured the local library has a great selection of books and eBooks, and my bookshelf space is already “inappropriately overstuffed.” (I’ll own that one.) So, no on books.

Previously, I purchased my graduation regalia with a money gift from my parents and the bank of moi. (This is lovingly known around the house as my Pokemon outfit. Mom is evolving.)

This gift I would buy needed to be something practical and really applicable for where this degree took me.

For the past five years, I have been using a hand-me-down desk chair from my parents.

A picture of the old faithful chair and poor Jack Skellington

This desk chair was purchased when my family bought a new home computer when I was 13 – it was 1995. Because the foam in the seat is now worn out and the bolts are now just under the fabric, I sit on a Jack Skellington pillow. Sorry, Jack.

Considering now I will be doing a lot of academic coaching, independent research, and writing, thus working from home, Chris suggested it was time for a new desk chair. I searched, and read, and debated. The Steelcase Gesture did have the best reviews everywhere I searched. But did I really want to drop that much on a chair? The last desk chair I purchased was in 2000 for $99. Bless that thing for lasting 11 years. And, arguably, this current chair has lived a healthy 21 years and it was more than $99 when my parents bought it. If this new chair lasts that long, it would only be 13 cents a day. Please understand, I am not used to spending money on myself.

After hearing my debates for the past week, and giving an unknown number of exasperated responses, Chris told me to “get over it.” Heeding my famous advice, last night I closed my eyes, and pushed the “Submit Order Now” button. My new desk chair will arrive Thursday. Appropriately, I ordered the chair in same blue as the velvet on my graduation regalia, signifying Education. It’ll help me take on the complexities of the state of education.

I am so fortunate to have such caring family and friends to help over the past few years, patiently ignore my absence, and help celebrate my accomplishments. Thank you.

If you want to come attend my hooding ceremony and watch me evolve into a Ph.D. graduate while in my Pokemon outfit, it’ll be the 18th of May, 2017.

My dissertation defense: Experiences of College Students with Disabilities

My dissertation is titled An Exploration of the Lived Experiences of College Students with Disabilities. Some of my friends and colleagues attended to hear the great research. Now you get to watch it and share it with your friends and colleagues! The SlideShare is below as well.

Cookies, Candy, and Qualitative Research

Thursday, July 21 at 1 pm CT have my public defense of my dissertation: An exploration of the lived experiences of college students with disabilities (my dissertation abstract).

All are welcome to attend, or email me if you’d like the link to the live cast. If you come in person, you’ll be able to enjoy homemade cookies. Otherwise, you’ll have to BYOC.

An exploration of the lived experiences of college students with disabilities

Below is my dissertation abstract in its current form. Enjoy and please do let me know if you’d like a copy of the final draft!

This dissertation presents a phenomenological study of the experiences of students with disabilities during higher education. This study began due to the lack of literature available regarding the experiences of students with disabilities regarding their pursuit of higher education. The research focus grew from the enrollment rate inconsistencies between students with and without disabilities in higher education. The rate of enrollment of students with disabilities in higher education is significantly lower than the enrollment of students without disabilities. The reasons behind this are complex. It is affected by individual student’s choice to not disclose his or her disability, the transition preparation of the students with disabilities, and the experiences of students with disabilities at higher education institutions. Much of the literature focuses on data about students with disabilities, but little engages students with disabilities in the research.

A qualitative research design provided rich data. Data collected from individual semi-structured interviews was analyzed for themes and sub-themes. The interviews were correlated with observations and observer notes. Nine students with disabilities attending a Midwestern private higher education institution provided nearly nine hours of dialogue, observations, and notes to analyze. From this data, the following themes were extracted and listed here in order of strength, from least to greatest: identity (self-advocacy, self-worth), accommodations (academic life, support from others), social interaction, assumptions and stigma, and barriers. Specific observations or quotes were used to illustrate the existence of themes and sub-themes.

The illustrations developed from the data the student participants provided aided in designing the concluding arguments. The conclusion of the study invites administrators at the Midwestern higher education institution to examine the data analysis. Some of the student participants provided suggestions for improvement in the accommodation and support of students with disabilities. Additional suggestions for improvement were developed from the data. While the information provided from the student participants aided in appreciating the experiences of students with disabilities, more research is needed regarding the experiences of students with disabilities in higher education.