This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and
works as a financial advisor retired at 34. He is married, has three kids. Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.
I’ve been working a couple odd jobs lately. One example is the civic census. For about three weeks, I went out almost every evening for two hours and knocked on doors. The weather was pretty good, people are mostly helpful and I enjoyed doing it. I’m not sure exactly how much it will pay, but I’m guessing around $1,000. That will work out close to $20 per hour. I used to earn more as a stockbroker, and I could likely earn more if I returned to work, but I feel like I’m helping my community and there’s the added benefit that I get paid to exercise.
I also decided to work a polling station for the provincial election that took place in Alberta on April 23. It was long, but not very demanding. We worked from 8:00am setting up our polling station (there were six “stations” or tables in a school gym), doors opened at 9:00am for voting and it was pretty quiet until about 4:00pm. Then it was busy until doors closed at 8:00pm. (The good news for democracy is that voter turnout was around 57%, far higher than 41% in our last election.) Counting the ballots took from 8:00pm to 11:00pm.
Besides the attraction of serving my community, I chose to work the election in order to better understand the democratic process. Since learning about democracy and government in grade 6, I’m haven’t been taught about how our democratic system works. As it is, I barely remember anything I learned in grade 6. Volunteering on a couple of campaigns and helping with the vote was a great experience to see first hand how our citizens choose the politicians that represent us.
The pay isn’t too bad, either. Because there was a senate selection, there was some extra pay beyond the regular rate. In fact, I earned $375 over a 15 hour day, which works out to $25 an hour. It may not feel like much money, but it seems fair for the work we did. When the returning officer phoned me to ask if I would help with the official count, I agreed. I had the idea that I would enjoy seeing the rest of the process: what happens to the ballots after they’re counted on election day.
When I showed up to the election office the day after, I was a little surprised by the work they had to do. All the materials that came back from the polls had to be sorted into three groups: trash, recycling (maps, forms and papers that were written on, directional signs) and unused materials. We spent about three hours just clearing the office of the items that we didn’t need. I was working with two retired people and we spent three hours. In fairness, the returning officer (who was probably as new at this as I was) warned me that the work was going to be manual and the pay rate would be lower.
At the end of the afternoon, she asked me to sign my pay claim form. It said: 3 hours x $12.00 = $36.00 total. I feel ungrateful for just how underwhelmed I was. $36? I made more than that in an hour as a stockbroker (whether working or just catching up on economic news). I had to pinch myself and remember that I was working to serve my community and learn about democracy, not to earn income. And a good thing, too, because my wife just laughed at me when I told her I had earned $36 that afternoon.
Have you done a job for a reason other than money? Is it better to volunteer outright, or to earn something, even if it undervalues your abilities?