Money Talks, So Should You

Young & Reckless: Career opportunities vs. financial security

Kaleigh Ward
by Kaleigh Ward, Dimespring 30

Yesterday, I learned the value of trading a promising opportunity for financial security. I recently concluded a six-month communications internship with the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED) and Office of Film + Music (OFM).

I worked full-time as an unpaid intern, and in turn, I gained a mountain of unbelievable support, work experience, and valuable contacts. Realistically, this was only possible because I have been living at home with my parents free of rent and was able to take the city bus to work and keep my living expenses to a minimum.

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Thanks in great part to my store of experience from this gig, which ended at the beginning of March, I landed a part-time unpaid internship with Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. This amazing opportunity was going to begin immediately after my internship at OED and OFM ended, and I made sure to ask extensive questions and shadow another intern before accepting the offer at Seattle Met to make sure it would be worth committing to another six months of unpaid work.

It seemed that the opportunity to work at such a well-known magazine would be well worth a delay in a paycheck and may help secure future jobs that I may not get otherwise.

The tricky part came in when I suddenly was offered a full-time paid position for the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) this week, which I am very passionate about and have great respect for. I did not anticipate getting an offer for a paid position that is in such direct alignment with my passions so soon, as I struggled to do so just a year ago before my internship with the city began.

Just yesterday, when I got back from my first day at Seattle Met and found out about this full-time job offer, I struggled enormously with the decision before me. Normally, I am very serious about my commitments and when I agree to do something, I’ll see it through to the end no matter what. Especially when it comes to job commitments.

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However, I’m in desperate need of money and the position at NFFTY would provide me with another huge store of work experience in a small office of incredibly talented people.

Ultimately, the decision had to come down to what I am more passionate about, and what makes most sense for me in my current life situation. If I have the option to earn a salary at a mission-driven organization that supports film and the arts, I cannot pass that up. Even if it means bailing on an opportunity I was so excited about, and one I so carefully agreed to commit myself to throughout the interview and job offer conversations.

This may be an obvious decision to some, but again, I take my commitments maybe too seriously, and I hate the idea of burning bridges and inconveniencing or overburdening those that think they can depend on me. After explaining my situation and my motivations carefully to the managing editor of the magazine, I was shocked to find out that not only was she OK with my decision, she was supportive of it and happy for my success.

It seems to be the case for young college graduates in competitive industries that internships are a must these days, and desirable paid work is only attainable after accumulating a good amount of internship experience.

I never expected I’d have to back out of this second internship because I landed a paying job that I really wanted. But ultimately, if the motives to go back on a commitment are in line with personal passions, and if that involves financial compensation, then the necessary decision is to break a commitment and risk ruffling a feather to better your own situation.

Kaleigh is a recent college graduate living in Seattle, Wash. Most of her financial knowledge comes from lessons her dad tried to hammer into her young, distractible brain long before she actually learned of their importance. Hopefully her crises will illustrate the importance of practicing some financial maturity for those who struggle with it as she has. Kaleigh is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.