Two months ago or so, I was realizing that I couldn’t achieve my dream–being a Costume Designer. I could get proximity to it through my job, but I’d never be able to get the right degree. At the same time, I was realizing that I resented the fact that I work very hard, and have a set of very specific and specialized skills, yet am paid so little that there would be no way for me to actually support myself on my income alone.
No, I don’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to support myself “to the degree to which I had become accustomed” but that even with a masters degree, a highly specialized skill set, intelligence and talent, I’d be the sort of working poor that couldn’t pay rent, afford medical care, or have cable, internet and electricity at the same time.
At the same time, as I finish my fourth year in this job, I realized that I was taking on more and more responsibilities and duties, but with no possibility of advancement. I started talking to my boss about that fact. He started working on realigning my responsibilities, but also on possibly reclassifying me and getting me a raise.
We’ve talked through several scenarios, and then, rather suddenly, a path opened up.
My boss told me today that as of August 01, 2014, I will no longer be a “Program Coordinator Level 06” but a “Costume Designer.” Poof. I’m a princess. The Dean has agreed to supply the funds for a 30% raise. It’s not parity yet, but it’s a huge step forward, and the title is a gigantic, amazing thing. It means that my co-worker and I are now classified the same. It means that each year, at my evaluation, I will ask for an “equity raise” as currently, today, my coworker makes more than twice what I make and does not have the scope of duties that I do.
Within two years, then, it’s possible that I will be paid much closer to what I am worth, and when my coworker retires I won’t even have to apply for that job if I want it, because, see–I will already have it. I am a costume designer. I design and construct costumes, fit and alter costumes to fit actors, supervise student labor in costume construction, manage production and overhead budgets for the costume shop, design and apply makeup for stage, teach classes, supervise the strike of costumes from each production, manage stock rentals, control, manage, maintain and inventory stock, arrange dressing areas for actors, supervise costume running crews and hire student employees.
I also get to keep the 9 month contract that gives me time to rest so that despite EDS, I can still do my job. We’re closing in on the end of a really intense period at work, but even though I’m hurting and tired, I know the end is near and I’ll have a few weeks to close out the semester and then the summer to rest. And when I come back? I get that new title and paycheck and still get paid to do what I love doing.
I’m glad I’ve hung in there, and I’m glad I have a great boss. Sometimes those things really pay off.