FROM THE BY SARAH NIGBOR How we should measure success I saw something online that resonated with me. My cousin-in-law, Amanda, made the observation that we are taught to measure career success as 50 …
BY SARAH NIGBOR
How we should measure success
I saw something online that resonated with me. My cousin-in-law, Amanda, made the observation that we are taught to measure career success as 50 percent salary, 50 percent job title. The more money you make, the more successful you are, right? That’s a long-held belief of many. Or the more important your job title, the more fancy it sounds, that also must equate to success, right? I disagree, though I didn’t always feel that way.
After I graduated from college, it was tough to break into journalism, at least in this area. I wasn’t willing to move away to pursue a career, because I didn’t want to leave my grandparents or mother. I felt they needed me nearby, and I honestly didn’t want to leave them or my friends either. I did a lot of freelance reporting, but could never land a full-time job. It seemed for every newspaper opening, there were 10 candidates. I never gave up though, and eventually became a full-time reporter for the New Richmond News.
In the meantime, freelancing didn’t bring in enough income to live on, so I worked for many years as a server/bartender at Philander’s in Prescott. I loved that job. It was hard work and the hours could be long, but I made so many friends there. I became a part of their family and they treated me as such. I learned so much from that job, such as how to be assertive when I needed to be, the power of team work, the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, the value of hard, honest work. While I value my college education very much, that job taught me life skills I wouldn’t have learned in a classroom. Again, it took me a while to realize that.
A part of me was always ashamed to be “just” a bartender/server. I felt that I wasn’t truly living up to my potential. I worried that my college education had been a waste of time and money. I worried that my family wouldn’t be proud of me unless I had an impressive job title, or a “real career.” I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
If I could go back and tell myself to stop worrying, I would. Haven’t I said before that with age comes wisdom? At least sometimes that happens.
After being hired at the New Richmond News, I ascended the ladder at RiverTown Multimedia quickly. I became editor of the Pierce County Herald 16 months later. Two years more, and I was regional editor for four newspapers. While at the News, I had kept working at Philander’s part-time because I loved it so much, but when I moved to the Herald, the load became too much and I gave up my part-time gig.
When I became regional editor, it was a career goal come true. I had finally made it. While I loved that job and my co-workers, working in a corporate framework where employees didn’t seem valued soon took its toll. We were continuously asked to do more with less, while layoffs and cuts came left and right. To do the job well, and I hold myself to a high standard, I was working about 80 hours a week. I had no time with my family and when I did, all I could think about was the mounting pile of tasks and deadlines. I didn’t take care of myself physically; during that time, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and struggled with those symptoms. I couldn’t sleep at night and the crushing guilt of not being able to spend time with my kids was closing in. It all came crashing down one June day in 2019 when a doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.
The point of my walk down memory lane is that success isn’t always measured by salary and title. I will always value my college education and encourage my children to go, but not with the sole goal of landing a “big” job with “big” money. College opened my eyes to new ideas, taught me how to think critically for myself, and yes, gave me skills I use every day in this job.
But I will encourage them to look at the whole picture when it comes to success, which my cousin Amanda also talked about. Things to be considered when measuring success should include (along with salary and job title) mental health, physical health, free time, liking what you do, a healthy work environment, and whatever else is important to you. Money is important because unfortunately, we need it to live. But there’s more to life and happiness, as I learned. Whether you are a server, bartender, editor, reporter, teacher, mechanic, engineer, or CEO, if you love what you do and you can make a living doing it, then that’s what matters.