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  • About Me

    DJ Mark has been dropping trance and progressive house beats since 2000. He now hosts the Pacifica Radio Network's only syndicated dance mix show, "Trance on the Porch", originating from KZGM-FM in Cabool, MO since April 2009.
  • The Soapbox (Updated 7/10)

    Why I Quit My Job During “The Great Recession”

    It has been said that the best time to change careers is during a recession.  I’m not sure what the logic is, but something just feels right about furthering one’s education, making one more attractive to employers, when unemployment is high.  For all my life, going back to when I was 3 years old, I always planned on becoming a meteorologist.  I set a long list of goals to accomplish, from writing a weather page in the grade school newspaper, to starting a meteorology club in high school, to being accepted at a university, and getting my degree.  I executed every step of that plan, and had a little luck along the way.  Today, though, I am voluntarily giving up my life ambition to strike out into a different field that might offer more opportunity: engineering.

    In spring of 1998, I was one of very few high school students in attendance at a St. Louis chapter of the American Meteorological Society dinner meeting, featuring guest speaker extraordinaire Eric Rasmussen, a pioneering tornado researcher.  At the table I was sitting at were two gentlemen who ran their own weather observation business.  Never one to shy from casual conversation, the three of us enjoyed an evening of lively discourse.  By the time the meeting was breaking up, one of the two came up to me and gave me his business card.  “How old are you?” he asked.  “16” I replied.  “Well, I can’t do anything with you until you’re 18, but when you get there, give me a call.”  I was shocked- I impressed this stranger enough that he was offering me a job, two years into the future.

    In early 2000, I called him and reminded him who I was.  Surprisingly, he recalled who I was, and things were set in motion for me to become a part time weather observer at the airport in St. Louis as I was starting my undergraduate career in college.  At 6AM on July 1, 2000, I walked into the office as a wide-eyed 18 year old employee to begin what would turn out to be a long career.  It was the best part time job one could ask for- a high hourly wage, plus time on most shifts to study.  It was a part time job I held for 4 and a half years, until after graduation in 2004.

    When word came along that the St. Louis contract weather office was changing hands to a different company, the existing supervisor had conflicts of interest with his company and couldn’t continue working at the airport any longer.  The supervisor position came available, and even though it wasn’t my dream job, it certainly did pay the bills.  I did a phone interview with the incoming contractor and, once again, was offered a position, this time as full time supervisor.  I was the youngest staff member in the office even then, and would be running a staff of 7 people, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week.  I quickly adapted and learned from my mistakes beginning on January 3, 2005.

    There was something missing, though.  I had a great paying job, but it had little in the way of benefits.  No health insurance, very rigid hours, and limited upward mobility.  After a brief stint as contract manager from 2006-2008, where I was responsible at one time for 13 field offices, nearly 100 employees, and an annual budget nearing $3 million, that employer decided to leave the weather observation business because they couldn’t compete on a low-cost basis.

    Enter, once again, a different contractor in 2008.  It was then that two realities struck me: first, wages in meteorology were plunging as more and more degrees were being awarded for fewer and fewer positions, and second, my long term financial and career goals could not be met in the contracting business.  One cannot buy a house, start a family, or have certainty in any aspect of life knowing that your job would come up to the lowest bidder every 4-5 years.  It was then that I knew my future would have to be outside of the contract weather observation business.  The only question was when I would decide to leave the life of comfort behind to head, more or less blindly, into the future.

    So, like I did as a child, I came up with another list of goals.  First, find an engineering program that would help me get hired and succeed long-term.  Second, go to community college and fill in the gaps in undergraduate coursework that I would need for graduate school.  Third, get accepted into a good program and work out the financial aid.  Finally, quit my supervisor position in the world of contract weather observing.

    I had expected to stick with my third employer at the weather office until the end of the current contract cycle in 2012 at the earliest.  But things happened quickly as it was discovered that my advisor at the engineering university was to be vacating his position of power and would no longer be able to recommend which incoming students receive a coveted full ride scholarship.  Being the wonderful gentleman he is, pulled some strings as one last moment in his position to get me that scholarship.  The university is highly regarded worldwide, the scholarship only goes to 5% of incoming graduate students, and the opportunity would never come along my way again.  I had no options left: it was destiny that I enrolled in graduate school well before I had planned to, and leave my job earlier than I had ever anticipated.

    So, today, I called my own supervisor out of state to give my two weeks’ notice, put a hardcopy letter in the mail for their files, and sent an email to my staff notifying them of my impending departure.  For ten full years I have worked either as part time weather observer, a full time site supervisor, or a contract manager.  And now I am giving up a great position to take a 75% pay cut and become just another broke university graduate student.  Strangely, despite my overwhelming number of emotions, none of them are being felt too strongly.  I’m almost numb, resigned to staring my future in the eyes.  It’s a question of who will blink first.

    I will leave behind the reasonably well-to-do bachelor lifestyle, being able to pay the bills on time every month, and living the lifestyle (not necessarily the life) that I wanted to live, all in a search for something greater- a new career with ample challenges and opportunities.  It’ll take two years to accomplish, and will no doubt be difficult beyond belief.  Yet, I remain cautiously optimistic, even in times of severe recession, that I am making the right decision to quit my job.  I’m oddly comfortable with my decisions to this point, hoping that they will lead me to something even better than what I’ve been given so far.

    I now believe that you never know where life will take you.  Life is fleeting, always changing, much like the weather that I have spent ten years observing, and will soon no more.

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