How to quit your "impact" job and not feel guilty.
A new advice column makes the case for why it is okay to step away. Plus: a profile of a hottie with a cool career you might consider, some links to how-tos, and more.
This is Yenta, a newsletter that matches my friends to jobs/ideas/dates/each other. If you’re currently searching or open to a job please let me know by filling out this form. If you’re looking for romance/dates, please let me know by filling out this other form. Hiring? Just reply to this email.
Lastly, we have a place for people to directly swap jobs/housing/projects etc. You can always find it at sahar.io/yentathread. Every time a new issue of Yenta comes out, there’ll be a new fresh thread to check out. So go there now!
Okay, that’s all the logistics. Now onto our main event:
Welcome back to Yenta! We have returned after a hiatus titled: Sahar Worked On Elections And It Was All-Consuming.
In this email you’ll find:
What I’ve been up to
Marxist Career Advice: Leaving the progressive industry
A career AND dating profile of Sivan, Community Organizer
Thinking about job hunting like a growth marketer
How to get more out of this newsletter (a reminder)
What I’ve been up to
First off, I’ve been a busy boy across the web. If you like, you can listen to me trying to forge common grounds with right-libertarians by making the case for breaking up Facebook on the radio show, A Free Solution. I’ve also written some other pieces:
I made the case for why we need new, defiant, holidays
One Weird Trick for A Better Society (arrest people for white collar crime!)
Lastly, I helped elect Joe Biden in my day job, and raised $84,123 for a variety of candidates and causes.
For a few years now, I’ve been joking that my hobby is “marxist career advice”. I’ve spent many hours-long conversations with people asking for help with figuring out their life, and my basic orientation involves ideas like “yes, all labor is exploitation, but you still need a job” and “alienated labor is a true crime of capitalism. I shake my fist at it. Now let’s talk about your resume”.
So this might be the first in a new series. Here’s our first question!
I'm thinking of quitting my very cool progressive political job. It is an important job, but the working conditions aren't great. People are overworked, underpaid, and everything is chaotic.
I come from poverty. I've continued to struggle with poverty and housing-insecurity through my adult life. My current employer makes a big deal out out of below-nonprofit-range salaries as a sign that we are deeply committed to the movement. I feel guilty about wanting to spend a few years making a higher salary - which I want to do so I can build up a savings net and allow myself more opportunities to join progressive fights in the future.
I want to do the right thing. I don’t want to feel guilty. How should I think about this?
Conflicted in Carolina
First off, conflicted — I’m sorry that’s happening to you. There is indeed a frustrating pattern where people who consider themselves on the left, pro-worker, pro-equality, etc end up becoming the worst bosses. That’s wrong. You deserve respect, fair treatment, and psychological safety at work, just as much as anyone else does. My buddy Ned Resnikoff wrote a seminal piece on this in Jacobin in 2013: When The Union Is The Boss. You might enjoy it.
You’ve expressed guilt about the idea of leaving the movement, let’s say. Let’s interrogate that! There’s a term for a thing where membership is tied to your employment: an industry. If you take the logic that “you can’t be in the movement unless you’re hired to do so” to its logical conclusion, you’ll end up with a political strategy of hiring 51% of the country in a progressive nonprofit. That’s obviously not going to work.
When I was considering the same question a while ago, I came to a few realizations:
If I stay in the professional left, and give up the training, socialization, resume, and money I’d get from going into industry, I don’t think I’d be thanked. Instead, people might implicitly think of me as not good enough to get a “real” tech job.
If I stay in the professional left, it’d be very hard for me to get a tech job where there’d be more than 3 people in the department. Little opportunity for growth, or focus.
If I go work in industry, and then come back, I’d be seen as having magic startup/SF pixie dust. People would trip over themselves to hire me.
If I work in industry, I would not be seen as speaking for my employer. I could be as radical or frank as I want. Whereas when I work for the professional left, I have to be careful of not pissing off potential future partners, clients, bosses, etc. In other words, I need to be insulated enough from professional blowback to frankly call out some vendors or groups are actively harming the cause.
If I leave for industry, I’ll be replaced in my current professional left job by someone who is roughly as talented as I am. They will do the work. And even, to be generous to myself, let’s say they are $30,000/year less productive than I am — depriving this one organization of 30k/year of productivity is a small price to pay for my happiness. (And who knows, this job might be an actual step up / dream for the person replacing me, as opposed to the noble sacrifice it is for me right now)
All those predictions turned out to be true, to some extent.
I don’t know your full situation, of course. And so I can’t tell you what to do. But I hope you take these points in mind. (And, while it's important context, your current and past poverty and housing insecurity aren’t the determining factor here. You don’t need that as a "get out of guilt jail free" card. Because you should be out of guilt jail even if you had a comfortable middle class background. Does that make sense?)
Lastly, this: when we try to unionize workers at McDonalds, we don’t attack them for how terrible their employer is. We see them, accurately, as partially victims — victims that deserve a higher minimum wage, dignity and respect at work, and a union. So, too, when you work for BigCorp, you are not your boss. You are not deciding to use Congolese slave labor, etc. You’re a worker, who needs a job somewhere. A worker who deserves respect, dignity, solidarity — and a union.
Hope that helps.
(Do you have a career advice question? Ask us at email@example.com)
Career and Romance Spotlight:
Sivan, Community Organizer in Boston
A NOTE: One fun thing we do on this newsletter is highlight people with strange, fun, or offbeat jobs you might not have considered for yourself. Perhaps you’ll be inspired! And even if you don’t end up going down this career path, you’ll still enjoying reading about it.
This time, we’re doing it with a twist. Sivan is a community organizer at an organization I help run, but Sivan is also single and eager to let the world know she’s romantically available. You might want to reach out to Sivan. That’s good! But be specific if you’re interested in career stuff or romance stuff. Can’t be both. Don’t make it weird.
Hello! Who are you?
I’m Sivan Ben-Hayun, I am a community organizer. I'm 24 years old, I’m approximately a woman, and I'm queer. I'm here to talk both about my work and to let the world know that I'm open to romance.
Hi Sivan. Thanks for joining us. To start, let's get to know you a bit -- how do you use your time professionally?
I work full time at Kavod, a Jewish ritual home and organizing hub. There I work as a community organizer for the Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sephardi and Mizrahi Caucus as well as the lead organizer for Kavod’s Anti-Racism Curriculum team.
With my caucus hat on, I spend my days having one-on-ones with caucus members, planning programing and working to create a long term strategic vision of who and what we are as a community. With my curriculum hat on, I have even more one-on-one conversations with team members and representatives of communities that want to bring us in an run workshops, facilitate team meetings, and coordinate and attend all workshops. I also do a couple of things for the broader Kavod community like sit on Kavod’s Coordinating Team.
Before Q I was a fan of all the regular ‘indoor cat’ activities like going to shows, poetry open mics, museums and stand-ups. My favorite thing to do was to just share physical space with people I like. I am currently working my way through America’s Next Top Model.
Wonderful, thank you for those details. Helps us set the scene. Can you help our readers better understand what "community organizer" means?
Great Question! I have a drafted tweet from literally yesterday about how much I hate trying to describe what an organizer is. A community organizer is someone who mobilizes community members towards some sort of shared shared goal. That person often has to do some amount of work to discover and articulate what that goal is.
Hmm! Could "community organizer" be a career? I don't see majors in "organizing" in colleges or master's programs, for example. How does someone start breaking into that industry?
If you want to get started as an organizer, I would say join an organization, show up, and say yes to being organized! (Personally, I did learn some things in college (from classes but mostly through experience in campus activism.)
I think the phrasing of ‘breaking into the industry’ is really kind of weird. Most organizers are not paid. While lots of organizers are trained, many don’t wait to have formal training before they start organizing. If you are a person who has ever wanted to get something done, and were able to corral the right people, and got it done, you probably already have so many organizing skills. Organizing is for everybody.
Organizing is for everybody. Love it. Now, let's start shifting towards our dating questions. One thing that makes people attractive is, well, being successful and happy. So, to satisfy both our professional and romantic interest in you, can you tell me a story where you did your job really well? What was it like? This is a moment to brag about yourself!
This is a hard question to answer. The best moments are often just when I have a really good 1:1 conversation. (I actually remember feeling that way after our first 1:1, Sahar ❤). It's kind of hard to tell that as a story that's interesting to people.
That said, here’s a recent story: I lead a meeting for the Anti-Racism Curriculum Team. My goal for that meeting was to have three folks express interest in joining a soon-to-be-formed Core Leadership Team within that team. I spent a lot of time with that agenda (and a volunteer leader on the team!) backwards planning what I needed to get an excited ‘yes’ from the folks in the zoomroom.
That meeting actually looked a little bit like workshops the team runs, and by the end of the meeting, when I made the proposal and ask, every person present was interested in having a follow up conversation with me.
Nice! That’s actually a big deal! Speaking of things that tend *not* to happen -- what is it like to date during covid?
I spent the first 6 months of quarantine living with my parents on Long Island. I wasn’t really trying to date while living at my parents house, so I spent a couple of months adjusting to a breakup that happened right before. Then I landed in this very intense Gay Yearning Situationship with a friend who lived in central Mass. That ended really abruptly after a couple of months.
Since moving back to Boston in September, I’m on the Apps and have been on a couple distanced dates with not a ton of success. I’m looking to start zoom dating because I hate being outside in the cold. But it’s really hard because my top love languages are quality time and physical touch. Makes flirting very hard.
I bet. Let's try to help. Hypothetically, an amazing romantic match for you is reading this conversation right now. Who are they? What are they like?
They are a very rad covid conscious queer Jew. (#ShomerCovid) They are probably an artist or in grad school. They have a kind aura and really love to laugh. They like to be casually touched.
And what should they know about you?
They should know about me that I’m usually really fun. When the world isn’t on fire, I spend most of my time joking in the company of friends. I care a lot about the people in my life. And, I am actually shorter than most people think I am.
I can attest to all that. Except maybe the short thing. I never checked.
Okay! Let's seal the deal on this hypothetical perfect match for you. Sivan, what makes you attractive?
Physically I think I’m attractive because I have a nice face, a banging bod and sometimes my hair looks good
But I think what makes me most attractive is being a loving goofy spirit. Which is also what I like in other people. Often I like people who kinda look like me. It’s a little embarrassing. :-P
Okay, rad queer #shomercovid jew with a kind aura and great laugh -- this is your moment! Sivan -- let's say someone wants to ask you questions about community organizing -- how can they reach you? And let's say someone reads this and thinks you're a hottie with a body. What should their next move be?
If you wanna ask me something about organizing you should email me Sivan@kavodboston.org but if you wanna ask me out you should slide into my dms on Instagram @sivanatenine
I’m a Real Home Body and a thus a perfect quarantine girlfriend but I have some major plans bubbling for post quarantine
You heard it folks! Thanks Sivan for your time and openness.
(Are you ready to tell the world about your crazy job, search for love, or both? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thinking about job hunting like a growth marketer
My friend (and former housemate) Kushaan wrote something a while ago that I still think is valuable. Four Tips to Hack Your Next Job Search.
Yes, it has a SEO-style title. It’s still solid, good, advice.
You might also like Five Questions for Marketing Career Transitions.
How to get more out of this newsletter
(AKA: “Where does the matchmaking happen?”)
Right now, a bunch of people are posting jobs, housing, and offers to work in this Facebook thread. Go there! I do a new one every month. Follow me on facebook, or subscribe to this newsletter, for updates when a new one is created. You’ll always find the latest version at https://sahar.io/yentathread.
I also have a rolodex of people looking for jobs, and looking for romance. You can add yourself here (jobs) and here (dating). Are you hiring? If you tell me what you’re looking for, I can skim that rolodex and see if we find a match.
I’m always looking for people with weird/offbeat jobs to profile. Same with hot friends who want the world to know they’re available. Are you one of those people? Bonus points if you’re both. Let me know!
Lastly, I’m spending more time these days writing about technology, monopolies, and political economy. Plus whatever personal stuff comes up. You can get a new email each time I write something by going here.
One more thing
It’s good to be back. Thanks for being my friend. And remember — I like you for who you are. You are special. There’s no one in the world just like you, and there never will be again.