A. Hannah Spadafora
Lead Researcher. The Meaningful Work Project
Founder. Project Director. Editor. The Conscious World
What does your work and education history look like?
As of 2019, my credentials boast three fields of study: Anthropology (Master of Arts), Philosophy (Bachelor of Arts), and Religious Studies (Bachelor of Arts), with additional minor requirements completed in English and Psychology. All of these cost me more money than my earnings have increased since earning them, as of yet, and—while forming my passions—aren’t experientially as impressive as overcoming the struggle to survive before, during, and after completing these programs of study. Concentrated mostly in the last 15 years, I’ve worked at both paid and unpaid jobs, an internship, unpaid work facilitated through school opportunities, and volunteer positions. These have been held across mostly the ground floor of the fields of research, teaching, tutoring, customer service, retail, restaurant, call center, direct sales, product demonstration, user experience, canvassing, pet sitting, childcare, website design, other sales [used books, an online class on writing improvement, photography/poetry e-books, and an attempted handmade jewelry business], as well as non-profit, office, graduate, and editorial assistance roles.
How would you define Meaningful Work?
To me, perhaps due to my introversion/ambiversion*, meaningful and enjoyable work involves creativity, knowledge, a noble cause, and control over the terms of my work. I like to read, write, plan, research, design, create, visually-organize, talk with people in ways that go beyond sales pitches, help out, work independently, complete computer tasks, and feel like my work is both ethical and making a difference. Delivering presentations for teaching and conferences can be enjoyable too, at times, though I ultimately decided in high school theater/mass media that I liked being behind the writing/direction/camera more than in front of it.
*rlua[I] / iNfj on most recent Sloan/Jung scales (rcUaI/INfp being my previous long-standing results.
What defines unsatisfying work to you?
The most unsatisfying/most personally frustrating things I’ve done for work have been when I’ve had to pitch a sale or fundraise for organizations that felt like begging uninterested, annoyed people for cash, to carry hot plates and nearly overflowing drinks, to fake a smile to jerks, to deal with 10 fires going off at once because a store/restaurant was slammed and understaffed, and/or dealing with unhappy people--those customers, coworkers, or managers fine getting in others faces with regular screamed demands and critiques.
What do you do?
I currently work from home as a long term, full time Customer Experience Representative for a service evaluation/review publication company as well as currently in a contract as a short-term, part time survey interviewer for a research/consulting firm. Both of these positions are remote, from home, and conducted via phone and computer. For the former, I report user experience responses following home maintenance services, gathering qualitative and quantitative data through phone based survey interviews. I also listen to audio files and perform data entry, transcribe homeowner comments as they speak them in our phone interview process, and edit my shorthand/slightly for customer ambiguity and sentence structure after.
For the latter, which has only been a few hours each pay period so far, and which is only a three month stint that will end by the finishing of September, I similarly gather and enter information from business owners via short phone-based demographic/information verification surveys for another local research firm. In both of these separate but similar positions, I am making warm-lead phone call; for one, to give surveys to homeowners about customer experiences of rendered maintenance services/recently bought homes, and in the other, to business owners to verify and collect demographic and statistical information.
How did you get involved with your current work?
I moved into the former role after starting as an editorial assistant at a sibling company owned under the same umbrella corporation that produces guidebooks on the top rated companies they perform survey interviews for, to ensure that subscribed homeowners able to afford company services know the best places to call. I found the latter role on a fluke, through an acquaintance I'd remained contacted with on my Facebook network, and applied after checking out and being impressed with the organization's record of commitment to creative, thorough, and social change oriented research showcased via their website and the credentials of their staff, as well as looking into other limited third party information on former/current employees experiences working for the firm (Glassdoor reviews.)
Do you like what you do?
For these past two years following my post-graduate teaching stint, while trying to get my foot in the door for another career position, I've bided my time, grateful for these other convenient positions allowing me to prioritize creative work that I had grown tired of pausing from, and waiting for the right time to focus on.
In the meantime of needing to pay bills, it hasn't been too bad, working in this the neutral zone of ground floor level scripted call center work, transcription, editing, and data entry. It’s an okay, fairly decent, neutral if not perfect opportunity to get to be paid for typing or calling comfortably from my bed at home, heating pad on anything that aches, low-volumed classical or jazz playing in the background/music of my choice in my non-phone/transcription audio ear, cat happily purring by my side. By neutral, again, I mean I like it enough to let it pay the bills while I work on things that are more important, personally, to my soul and true work interests. It’s independent, something I can flexibly schedule and when necessary clock in and out around health, cooking, cleaning, life, and other interruptions—and, notably alright, while I work on my dreams on my off time. It’s not the creative work I seek as my next career step, but I’m grateful and comfortable, if not quite enthralled.
Though I can’t complain much about the actual duties of it, the redundancy, lack of creativity, sometimes difficult-to-achieve incentive stats, and micromanagement of time records required among the general gratefulness and relative comfort can admittedly be less than thrilling. Further, the financial reward is at a level less than comfortable survival. The first job’s low compensation is $10.50/hour; the second research firm is better, at $15/hour—but the second is only a few hours I’ve managed to squeeze in, being very part-time, temporary, and contract based. The translation of this for a worker without savings wiggle room is: limited hours, delayed check-by-mail payment, ending soon, and thus difficult to prioritize over my job which offers full time, direct deposit, and isn’t going to disappear in two seconds. Lastly, in all of my work right now (the two call/data positions plus writing and other work for this online magazine), I sometimes get a little stir crazy, as the low compensation, availability for remote positioning, and requirement for a relatively calm/quiet background atmosphere while making calls means I probably spend an unhealthy amount of time cooped up in my apartment. It can also be a little frustrating, when unhappy people call in/pick up--but it probably happens less than it ever did when I was directly in customer service, retail, restaurant, and sales, which I’m thankful for.
These small matters aside, I'm also very grateful for any extra opportunity, especially working for both a publication company and research firm that I'm impressed with the work of. Also on the positive side of scraping by, in the meantime of trying to get other goals going, I have been re-centering my health. In previous work in customer service at retail and restaurant locations, my symptoms often flared due to the difficulties of handling hectic schedules with little to no sleep from my circadian rhythm malfunctions /sleep phase delay disorder, as well as due to the consistently physically taxing tasks quickly wearing out my energy and strength (not hard to do for someone with a chronic health conditions/less spoons to start with.) I like that I can rest and balance, and not expend extra physical energy running food, busing tables, or taking public/car share transit (which is also expensive and sometimes emotionally taxing.) Further, despite not getting out of my apartment often and the low compensation provided, more home time has allowed more skill building time for primarily Spanish focused language practice, some self teaching in statistics, software listed on advertisements for jobs I desire, and building some web coding skills. This time around paid work, creative work, and health balancing has also allowed for some time time spent building my knowledge base of interesting professional fields--from effective strategies for marketing your skill set in applications to jobs I actually want, to how to develop/get funding for independent creative/research/organizational work, and in gaining more information on non-profit management, user experience design, project management, and other advice books padding my repertoire of career research. This is a trade off I haven’t always been able to make during non-remote jobs/while working and attending school in the past.
So, at this very moment, my work is not teaching, upper level research, project management, or something otherwise intellectually/creatively stimulating, but it has led me to have some time for the launching and publishing of this magazine, for recruiting participants for this research project, and for starting to set up a framework to seek funding for when we have a loyal readership base/more contributor input, and a full issue to release to people. It's also let me take some extra time upping my game as I search for the chance to step up into another well compensated position that is independent or leadership based, and in an attractive and/or affordable location. My current reset date to accomplish this career shift and/or have my research/creative work funded is by my lease end in January, 2020. My time in the rat race has been valuable in it’s own experience and skills-building kind of way, but growth is always the goal.
What jobs have you enjoyed the most in life? The least? Most: Research (ethnographic interviews, literature reviews, statistical survey design/analysis) teaching, tutoring, non-profit, office, graduate, and editorial assistance roles. Online class creation, writing, web design, communications, editorial, and creative work.
Least: Restaurant, retail, and anything involving cleaning (whether for myself, other people, a store, a restaurant, a school, or the bodily things left behind by cat, dog, horse, or baby.)
What would you be doing, if money were no object, and you could choose your career path?
If money were no object, and I could choose any work, I would be writing, reading, creating, and building; organizing projects that try to promote positive change in the world; analyzing policy and program practice and making recommendations that persuade people to do things better in the world; designing communications for public, staff, and management audiences; creatively producing unique assemblage art; interviewing and deeply discussing things with others to gain a better understanding of other’s perspectives; sharing what I learn, create, think, and visualize via books, film, classes, presentations, and design; assisting projects with organizational, design, office, and care work to see others visions come to life; and/or leading group activities in engaging learning.
My career goals are thus to be a researcher, ethnographer, professor, teacher, project director, program evaluator, policy analyst, author, publisher, curriculum designer, non-profit manager, communications assistant, or perhaps, if none of those work out, something in film making (documentary/visual anthropology style), graphic/web design, coding, or other creative venture. Some of these roles I’ve already fulfilled to an extent, but never at a sufficiently well compensated, fully committed, professional level.My health limits certain possibilities, as it’s difficult to ask for flexible scheduling and partial remote status for most positions I’d like to step into; few positions above my station allow this without requiring an already-significant multiple years long record of success, and the competition has so far beat me out.
Additionally, if I had more resources, I would have returned already to earn a PhD in public policy, and at various points over the years pursued certificates in planning and economic development, non-profit management, data science, web coding, k-12 teaching, and/or TESOL/ESL (<in order of interest level, most to least)—though it’s frustrating to already have spent the last 15 years already having earned degrees and gained experience across fields, but to still need yet more to be granted the opportunity to step up, and I still have to consider time commitment versus flexibility options as well as debt impact versus growth potential.
In name of making my own path when doors aren’t opened to me, I have started to pursue dreams outside formal career paths that I hope lead to long term professional, financial, skills, and experience growth. In taking on responsibility for The Conscious World and launching The Meaningful Work Project as my latest research/independent writing, editorial, and publication project, I am gathering and attempting to lead a team of contributors, keeping my research skills from other projects sharp, promoting our shared stories and media on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, engaging in public, contributor, advertiser, and audience communications, and raising funds to pay our contributors/offset operation costs and time spent on labor.
This adds to other long term projects--multiple manuscripts across fiction/non-fiction/poetry lines; creative hobbies and career skill building activities I’ve been trying to step my game up on; and the significant pastime of the job hunt, every time I cyclically decide to return to it, despite my limited success moving up to a position above what I’ve been granted opportunity for in the past.
What are your life goals outside of your career, work, and money?
It’s hard to answer this, because under wants-to-be-unfettered capitalism, all of my life goals outside of work are tied to it by the link of finances—a small rented house, cabin, condo—as opposed to a shared apartment. A private place, or shared again, but more spacious, as to feel private. In some ideal alternate reality, even an owned steady place to put my shit and call home without such high rent costs--though I’m sure I’m underestimating property tax, realize the cost of house repairs is exorbitant at times, and know there are things I likely have no familiarity with that probably also cost when you own. Also, to live in a city with great transit, to have health care that I can afford to take care of my issues better with/that hopefully helps when needed, to have cats, to travel more, to have a really good cat sitter for while I travel, to have time for both leisure and stronger bonding within a social circle of similar values/interests /hobbies /lifestyles /ambitions. These are important to a comfortable life, in my interpretation, but a good life requires something more—the sense of personal purpose and lasting impact of dedicated work brought to fruition. When you hear the words American Dream, this is what you think of; I’d prefer the right to a fulfilling life, opportunity to be trained to job/skill advancement, and chances to pursue dreams (and to not go bankrupt/homeless/lose everything in the process)—for those who want such--to be global reality. One of my current life goals is to do work that connects back to this vision through this project.
To see more on Hannah's work trajectory and search for a fulfilling and financially sustainable livelihood, check out these links:
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