Friday, January 11, 2008

Panic, or no Panic?

I have a decision to make, so I call upon you, good people of the internet, to help me make it.

If you've been reading for more than a few weeks, you know that I worked for a place I call Panic Hire University last semester. I called it so because they hired me on a Sunday afternoon, over the phone, without the benefit of an interview or reference checks. They were desperate.

I needed the work, so I was glad to get it.

Soon after I started working there, however, I discovered why they were seo desperate to hire people and why they were so unconcerned about my qualifications: the place is a disaster.

No one ever returned my phone calls or email. And I do mean NO ONE and I do mean EVER.

It took them almost two months to give me the materials I needed to teach the course.

It took them until after THANKSGIVING to start paying me- (yes, I worked there for three months for free).

And let's just say ethics violations are EVERYWHERE.

For examples of this, click here and here.


I got a series of frantic emails from the good (snicker) folks at Panic last night. They outlined all sorts of courses that were available for me to teach and would I, could I, pretty please, teach as many as three of them starting in two weeks? PLEASE????

Now, I know what I said to all of you. I said no amount of money or fear of penury would induce me to work for these sloppy, unethical people ever again. But guess what? I just found out I lost my summer funding. And I just found out that my trip to Kilimanjaro is going to cost about $3500. And I just realized by loading up all this month's Quicken data, that the Great Cash Hemorrhage of 2007 was violent indeed. The only reason I am not sobbing uncontrollably is that most of the money that galloped out of my wallet in 2007 was not for stuff I actually wanted. I am broke through (mostly) no fault of my own. (I am also obsessed with retirement savings).

All this, plus the fact that Panic's retirement system matches 401K contributions at 8% has given me pause.

It would be a clear violation of my principles to work for these people, yes. True. But is would solve some of money issues, absolutely.

So money or principles? What do y'all think?


Avitable said...

Money. Always money.

Rick said...

Principles, principles, principles.

However, it's pertinent to include flexibility as a base of your moral standards so when the unexpected occurs, you can still operate within your environment while maintaining your calm and sanity (stop laughing, you know what I mean).

The first question I have is can you do better? Your other options are probably less of a financial security and yet they might be better for your soul.

What are your feasible options?

If you can honestly exhaust your options, open to possibilities, without excuses, and what you have left is Panic and those fuck-ups that run it, then go with Panic.

Set yourself up.

I don't choose the money. When I choose the money, I burn out and make a spontaneous (although neatly timed at a three month maximum) decisions to get myself to pastures of which I agree. Then I'm jobless and my partner is very angry, because, we are poor and live paycheck to paycheck. We're still working on a lifestyle that includes my happiness. (we're this close [holds out hands about shoulder width])

susan said...

I say take it, if you think you can last the semester. It's different than taking a job into perpetuity, as you've always got the end of the semester to look forward to, and you might end up having a positive influence on one of your students. And then you'll really be happy this summer when the semester is over and you've cashed the checks.

Also, I think Blackboard sucks.

LAS said...

Money most definitely - plus it's a temporary solution - it isn't forever. I may be the wrong one to ask this question of though - because I have issues around money - meaning a lot of fear about not having enough. The retirement matching would motivate me also, definitely.

e! said...

I have this conversation with my GF often. I have always been a big picture guy... and she, a little picture girl. Together we often find chaos in the middle.

What I always say is, "Principles are great, but they don't fill your tummy or pay your rent."

When you are wealthy and money doesn't matter, principles are fantastic ways to showcase how evolved you are, but honestly, for most people principles often get in the way of happiness (and fiscal responsibility).

I am not saying succumb to the darkside, but I am saying that if taking a job you don't like and are above on an ethical level deliver you from disaster and earn you enough money so that future decisions don't have to be so distasteful, I say go for it. Besides, anyone can do just about anything for a little while... as bad as it is, can you say that being homeless is a better route to take?

ByJane said...


Your karmic lesson is learning how to make lemons from lemonade. It is possible to 'get into' these kinds of classes. Trust me; I've done it. It just requires a slight chiropractic adjustment of the mind.

123Valerie said...

It's much easier to have pricipals when you're not eating dog food by candlelight.

nightfly said...

Well, nobody wants you to starve, or ride the rails as a colorful blogging hobo. So the question is, what sort of options do you have? If you turned down three other offers to work at Planet Crazy, most people would call you unwise, even if the other three options paid less; but if your options are Planet Crazy or "pay = zero" then it may be wise to take another orbit.

In that case, your sanity lies in working toward escape velocity (fiscally speaking). You can simply say to yourself, "It's for my eventual freedom, lah-di-dah." And you can find your hapiness in your other pursuits until then.

I agree with whomever said "Photography," since that is an excellent shot below (and not easy to get if you're using a standard digital). You could always combine it with your climbing or other passions and get shots that would set you apart from other enthusiasts. You could illustrate your own written works. (Or, you could drop a $4000 camera and $2000 lens off the side of El Capitan and curse my name. Even odds.)

(Word verification: "kiibei" - the brand name of the lens smashed to flinders at the foot of El Capitan. Curse you, 'fly!)

Maggie said...

First of all, NYU (who might actually *be* Panic Hire for all I know) used to match double my 403b contributions. As in, I would contribute 5% of my paycheck, and they would contribute 10%.
From Day One.
No waiting period.
No vesting.

I worked there for three years for shit salary, and I have like $20K in that 403b account. So if you're obsessed with retirement, def try to get a gig at NYU.

Now, regarding money versus principles... I say forewarned is forearmed. Part of the reason your experience with them was so bad last semester is that they had you by the short hairs, so to speak. They hired you the day before the class started.

This time, you have *them* in a bind. Sure, take on as many classes as you want, but insist that they set up everything they failed at before classes start -- course materials in hand, Blackboard set up, e-mail address delivered and functional, direct deposit payments arranged. If you don't have all of this by Day One of class, you don't show, you don't teach.

And you let them know this condition ahead of time, of course.

This doesn't address the ethical failures of, for example, the way other teachers do evaluations. But the failings of others do not have to be yours. Make them set you up properly, then conduct your own business admirably, and give your students possibly their only proper educational experience at Panic Hire U.

Set a good example, respect yourself and your students, and make some money. Win win.

Woodrow said...

Maggie's right. You have leverage. So take their money, but lots more of it than what they paid you last time. Bargain hard.

We're all whores, Nina. We're all just doing it for those dollars.

utenzi said...

Money wins for the moment, Nina. Go with principles once you have enough for the Kilimanjaro trip. And until then you'll be getting that sweet extra 8% in your 401k. Nice.

Kate P said...

I don't think I can add anything to what was said--except to offer my support, and say that the fact that you even think about ethics and principles puts you in an entirely different league from the get-go.

P said...

Oy vey, I typed out this big long comment, did the word verification thing, and then POOF! It was gone. So yeah, take the job if you can stand it, and take the money. You have them by the balls, so see if you can get what you want from them. And while you're there, you can fight the good fight.

You've had a hard year - it would be shame to scold yourself for doing something that would offset the hits you took in 2007.

P.S. I have a prezzie for you. A Happy 2008 prezzie. Want it?

LizB said...

When you have money, you can afford to do the things you love in your spare time. If there isn't another secure thing waiting for you, I'd say take the money for now until you can find a more rewarding position.

Nina said...

Avitable, I know. I can't believe how much I don't want to work for these people, but I need the money. Duh. Must do it.

Rick, I, too, burn out when I am working something or doing something that is in conflict with my principles, etc. But I am getting myself into the mental position wherein I have convinced myself that I don't have to be a bad and sloppy person just because the people I have to work with are bad and sloppy. So I am probably going to work there and try not to get sucked into their little culture.

Susan, Yes, I will be glad because if I do this I might be able to pay for Kilimanjaro without having to sell plasma for the next six months. But it will be busy and as mentioned.. they are all crazy up in there.

LAS, I have a therapy worthy issue around retirement savings. I would go into debt - seriously - go into debt to put money in my IRA. I am nutty about it. I can't help myself.

e!, I am pretty sure I can count on future decisions being distasteful - I am mostly concerned about how I can work there and not be made angry by these people. This will require zen-like concentration but I am pretty sure I can achieve it if I do MY job and not worry so much about whether other people are doing theirs.

byJane, yes, true. One of the upsides of working there is that they don't care what you do in the classroom as long as no one has to sweep the floors or take the trash out. I could come in with construction paper and Elmer's glue and it would be all fine with them. So... I probably will.

123Valerie, very true. I get anxious and sleepless and kind of scary in the eyes if I can't pay bills.

Nightfly, good question. I do have other options, but they are "maybe" type options and I can't be sure I'll have them until the last second, and I can't take the risk. Regarding other pursuits - I am giving all this serious thought. What I still don't quite get is a) how to get people to pay you for pictures and b) hmmm, since I spend so much time blogging, could I make a few bucks at it? Oh, who am I kidding. NO. But it all requires some seriously thought.

Maggie, based on your excellent suggestion, I wrote an email to the coordinator of the department asking for

1) a 5% pay increase
2) an office
3) full-time sub status
4) catered lunches
5) a private car and driver to pick me and drop me off from work
6) exemption from their stupid workshops

She naturally took this all as a joke, but was able to come through on a few of the above items. How interesting. No raise, no office, no, full time status, and no car - but I do get catered lunches (not kidding) and exemption from "meetings" - which is rather a big deal.

Woodrow, I followed Maggie's advice, because is correct, of course. Stop calling me a whore. It hurts my feelings.

Utenzi, yes at this point, Kili is driving the decision. Plus the 401K matching.

Kate P, I mostly think about the principles angle for my own mental comfort. These folks annoy me because they don't care about their jobs at all and it's really hard to be around and stay happy.

P, very good point - I need to reverse the damage of 2007. I also need to go to Kili this year because this is the year my friends are going, and while it would be ok to go alone some time later, I want to climb that one with my friends. It wouldn't be the same without them.

LizB, did you just say rewarding position? I want to read the Dickinson poems and talk about how I feel about everything... that would be rewarding. Maybe. If I didn't have to grade their essays, that is.

I am grateful for so many long, substantial comments advising me on this issue. I have no idea how I found you or how you found me, but I have done nothing to deserve all this kindness and sound advice. Thank you.