Monday, June 19, 2006

Money changes everything

Halfway through our second year and after one semester of working for our advisors, The Doktah started to have doubts about her choice of project. She did some soul-searching, and decided that she needed to switch advisors, but first she planned to take a nine-month sabbatical. For this time off from grad school, she had two options. She could either take a job as a research technician at the University of Florida doing neuroscience work that interested her and get paid less than a graduate stipend, or she could take a job at Proctor & Gamble doing less interesting work but earn a salary equal to $60,000 per year. Now remember, either job was going to be, by definition, temporary. She was only going to work at this job for nine months. And yet, she was not sure what to do.

Yes, I know. But she was on the fence. Naturally, when she asked me my opinion, I said, “Are you kidding me? Take the job with P&G!”

Ultimately, she sold out and took the high-paying job. She told me, however, that she asked a lot of people their opinions, and their answers were neatly divided down class lines. “People who have never had to worry about money told me to take the job at U of F, because that was really what I was interested in. But everyone who has had to work for their money told me to take the job at P&G, and then called me insane for even debating the question.”

I am not one to put money before all else. I would much rather have a job I love for $50,000 per year than a job I hate for $100,000 per year. But there is also something to be said for not having to worry about, oh, I don’t know, buying food. I remember having a discussion about this very matter with The Doktah when an undergraduate intern joined in. The Doktah and I were talking about the importance of money and the minimum salary we would be willing to accept for even the most awesome of awesome jobs. The undergrad listened for a minute, then broke in and said, “Well, I don’t know that it’s so important. I just spent a summer backpacking around Europe with essentially no money at all. I slept on the street sometimes, but it was the best experience I’ve ever had.”

I looked at him and said, “OK, but do you want to live like that for the rest of your life?”

The question startled him. Taken aback, he said, “Oh, um… no…”

“Yeah,” I said. “Money is important.

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