Last week, Patricia spoke about her journey in work-life balance and wellness. So, this week, I’m going to share mine. The biggest problem that I have in work-life wellness is admitting when I am out of balance and taking steps to actively correct it. I tend to look on the positive side of things, but that can also mean that I ignore signs that things aren’t working for me. I am focused on work-life balance now. But, even so, it’s a constant negotiation!
Personal Wellness Post-Penn State
So, it wasn’t actually post-Penn State when I took my first full-time job in consulting. But, I had basically moved on from living on campus. As a result, I decided to finish my dissertation remotely. I was feeling a little constrained after 3 years of living in such a small town. At that time, I hadn’t considered becoming an academic. I thought that I was going to become a consultant in the long-term because that’s what I spent most of my graduate career focused on gaining experience within. After some deliberation, I decided to take a position in a client-facing role at SHL.
I figured that I could work on my dissertation during the evenings and on weekends. My first boss there also let me work a reduced schedule, allowing me to work one day a week on Penn State-related tasks, as long as I had finished my other work. I really liked that position and met a lot of great people. However, I was also really enjoying reading up on my dissertation topic and was starting to realize that I might enjoy conducting research on my own more than I thought I would.
Around that time, I was working on a paper with a colleague, Dr. Christian Thoroughgood, which just completed data collection. I also got good news that another one of my projects had been accepted at a journal. I had published a paper in a different discipline with another faculty member before. But, this was different because it was in my field. Suddenly it seemed that I might actually enjoy more of the aspects of academic life than I had previously thought. But, I was still enjoying SHL. So, I decided to remain there and focus on finishing my dissertation as a way to get a more senior position in the company.
Personal Wellness Became About Following My Interests
While I was at SHL, the company went through a lot of changes. We merged with another company. As a result, the company restructured my role. Instead of being client-facing, I was now on a team where I was mostly responsible for crunching numbers behind the scenes. The company also went entirely virtual. Afterward, I was alone a lot. The company was new at managing virtual work and my job wasn’t interpersonally focused. So, I began to feel a little lonely and less happy with my work.
I didn’t realize how ready I was to leave until I got a phone call from Dr. Sam Hunter, a professor at Penn State. He told me about an open position at Villanova University for a faculty member in psychology. He knew that I had gone to Villanova as an undergraduate and was from Philadelphia. I was so excited about the possibility of becoming an academic and about being in an research focused environment. I surprised myself!
After talking to a lot of trusted mentors, I decided to switch gears from being a consultant to being an academic. One thing that I will always be grateful for is that my boss at SHL was so supportive of me taking a good opportunity. I had a lot of conversations with family and friends during that time as well. He was really encouraging me to think hard about what would be best for me, even though they would have liked to retain me. That support was so helpful!
Moving on From Villanova: A Tough Personal Wellness Choice
I truly loved being able to focus on my research after transitioning into academe. I was also really enjoying teaching, especially my courses on diversity and inclusion. The Villanova community felt really comfortable because I had attended the university as an undergraduate. I was publishing papers in well-respected outlets, while getting high marks on my teaching evaluations. In terms of finding meaning, I had also become really involved in service efforts in the local community. I finished my dissertation and graduated within a year of starting that position. Things were finally starting to congeal.
However, I had to learn a hard lesson. I was enthusiastic about the position, but this meant that colleagues often asked to me to over-extend myself. I was asked to do a lot of service to the university and to students. When I was asked to do things that might have been overloading my schedule, I was saying yes. I wanted to be a good team player. My work-life balance really started to suffer as a result of my increasing work demands. Further, toward the end of my 7 years there, the University went through a number of administrative changes. These changes affected the extent to which faculty felt valued within the community that we were working so hard to support.
Personal Wellness Comes to a Boiling Point
I tried to ignore the impacts that these changes, combined with my overloaded schedule, were having on my work-life balance. Finally, my husband and I had a long conversation. I realized that I wasn’t going to be happy there in the long term. It was hard to leave many of my colleagues, who I really enjoyed working with. But, I was able to find a great position at GWU!
Also, because I was unhappy in my prior role, it spawned conversations with Patricia about starting Workr Beeing. So, without that time of “squeeze”, this project would never have been born. Sometimes it’s hard to see the bright side when you’re making tough decisions. But, I wouldn’t have made changes had I not experienced some hardship that was impossible to ignore.
Where I Am Now in My Personal Wellness Journey
I was so lucky to find a great position at George Washington University in the Department of Management. The role is great! I have a lot of time to get my research done and I feel really supported by my department. They value my time and that has freed me up to really think hard about my projects. I feel like I have gotten so much done in my first several months. But, I still have time to work out, be a part of Workr Beeing, and spend time with my family. I feel like things are so much better – although there will always be challenges that I’ll have to negotiate.
The main takeaways of my journey are:
- Your wellness isn’t just about whether or not you CAN do a job. It’s also about whether or not you find your job interesting and meaningful. If you think another job might be more engaging, don’t be afraid to check it out!
- You can’t ignore the negative aspects of a job forever. Something that was mostly good for you before, may not be mostly good for you in the long-term. Don’t be afraid to make a change, even if it’s hard to leave some people or aspects you do like about the job.
- Good things come when you privilege your work-life balance and find a role you fit well with. Workr Beeing was born partially because I was frustrated with my full-time job. I never would have moved to GWU if I didn’t have a fire lit under me. Sometimes what seems like a really hard time can turn into something great. Connect with your inner values and find the right next step!
What are your work-life balance tips, based on your journey? We would love to learn from you! Put your advice or wisdom in the comments. It would be great to share best practices with each other!