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How I Ended My Suffering & Got a Better Job
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guest post by Karen Swanson

The recession hit in 2008 and workers across the United States learned just how quickly things can go from good to bad to worse in a matter of months, weeks, or even days. For me, it was a slow fall to a hard and sudden impact on rock bottom.

I worked at a real estate agency for over 10 years, working my way up from my receptionist job I had after high school. When things were on the verge of getting rocky, my employer invested in certifying me for a real estate license, trading in their receptionist for an agent. With no college education in my plans, this was my lucky break at a promising career.

That on-top-of-the-world feeling was short lived, however. Just five years into my new position, the housing market crashed and so did my dreams. As a single mother, I had to re-evaluate what I was going to keep a roof over my family's head and food on our table. One thing I was sure of was that my job search had to go from start to finish--fast.

When I was offered a job as a manager at Sears two months into my job search, I didn't hesitate. I felt that it was a step backwards in terms of my career, but it would serve as the only thing keeping me from sinking in terms of finances.

There was no time to think about whether I would like the job or not, it wasn't something I could allow myself to consider. Just a year into my rebound job, my wants in life that I had suppressed began to find their back on my priorities list.

Like many others in my predicament, I had forgotten that pursuing a job doesn't mean I have to sacrifice one of my basic rights, the pursuit of happiness. It was then I had my "ah-ha!" moment: when it comes to making a living and being a happy, it doesn't have to be one or the other.

With the help of friends, family, and the Internet, I outline a plan that would get me to where I wanted to finish in life.  I enjoy working in a challenging environment, something I felt back in my real estate days but I knew that the industry was different. For the fresh start I was looking for, I needed to get back in the classroom. To combine what I know and what I love, I decided to take business classes that would give me the fundamentals I needed to work at higher positions at a real estate agency. To compete, I had to be equipped with the same tools my competition would have.

Online classes were my light at the end of the tunnel. The nature of the retail industry allowed me to have rotating shifts--perfect for juggling time between work, family, and studies. My program had me on course to earn my associate's in just two years, and towards graduation, I picked up my my job search for potential post-grad leads.

Today, my name tag shows something I wear proudly because it reflects who I really am, and where my real potential has gotten me. Even now as Karen the Loan Officer, I haven't stopped there. Currently in progress for my bachelor's, becoming Karen the Senior Loan Officer would have once been unimaginable.

Long ago, my dream was to have a career, not just a job. A career and a job both give you a paycheck, the major difference is that a career is something that is part of your identity. Back then, that dream came true when I was dealt a lucky hand. Now they come true because I've always got my lucky Ace on hand--my associate's degree.
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