Any moms or dads working for Think Tanks or Foundations? - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-15-2007, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm a 35 year old mom with a PhD in Politics, specializing in Public Law. I've been on the tenure track for 6 years and am seriously considering applying for jobs outside of academia.

I'd really curious to hear from people who work for foundations (like Ford, Gates, etc) think tanks (like Rand) and non-profits (Habitat, Red Cross, etc) -- what kind of education and training did you have? what is you work day like? how hard is it to balance family and work? what kinds of salaries do you make? what do you love about your job? what do you hate? how do you get used to 9-5 M-F with no summers off ?? :

thanks in advance!
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Old 07-17-2007, 12:08 AM
 
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DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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Old 07-18-2007, 02:00 AM
 
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Well, I don't work for a foundation, but I have worked with alot of program officers at foundations. I think you would be a great candidate! Pay would probably be better than in academics and the work would be interesting. No summers off, but you could probably negotiate for 3-4 weeks vacation depending on the foundation and your skills.

Have you considered working for a federal agency? I used to be a grants manager for the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development and if you looked at program positions at a federal agency you would have a good salary and great benefits. I found that working for the federal govt was actually pretty flexible and family friendly (alot of vacation, flextime, telecommuting options).

I worked at HUD for 11 years and I would consider going back when my kids are older. Right now I am working as a grant-writer for a private school and I am glad to be able to work part time.

Good luck!
Kathleen
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Old 07-18-2007, 11:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Kathleen, thank you for the response.

Program Officer positions do look good - I'm worried aboutu my lack of statistical skills (I do interpretive work, interviews, archives, etc.) and my lack of budget software knowledge.

As I've searched around more, I've thought about applying for social science research positions with the federal government, perhaps within DOJ or Interior (some of my academic work is on tribal affairs). The pay is significantly better than academia, but I've worried about the family-friendly aspects of a government job -- they seem so high pressure and always "on" -can you tell me a bit more about your time at HUD? What was a typical day/week like?

Also, what was living in DC like? DH and I met in NYC, lived in LA for 5 years, and are in the midwest now because we got so TIRED of city life .... are there small towns commutable distances away?

My ds is 2 1/2, we aren't thinking about making this move until he is closer to 4 ... so he'll be at an age where I won't feel as bad about the time commitment such a career change will take.

Please keep the suggestions coming, I'm taking notes (and so is ASusan!).

-Renee
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Old 07-18-2007, 03:40 PM
 
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Hello,

I'm a PhD in demography. I am a program officer at NAS. I do have a strong background in statistics, but that's rare around here. There are projects for poli sci PhDs, just have to find the right division and project. The one problem that I faced starting this job is the lack of security. We work on project based soft money. When the money is gone, we can be out of a job. I've been here 3 years and I'm working 50% now waiting for a fulltime project. I work half in the office and half at home. It works just fine because I have the kids at home and I need to be with them now. It's harder getting them into day care than finding a project.

So a typical day for me involves contacting my committee members, talking with the sponsor, planning meetings and doing some research. I spend about 20% of my time writing and 40% doing research. The rest is facilitating and planning. This job is much easier when you have good "people skills." I like the balance and the challenge. Fulltime is 37.5 hours. I usually work that and maybe a little more when I'm being on task all day. It's easier to do that with kids because you don't have time to gossip when you know you have things to finish and get home. I earn $80K. I started with 3 years experience and the PhD. My raises have been pretty small ( 2-4 percent annually), but next year I'll apply for a promotion which should get me $90K. That's not bad. When I moved here 6 years ago, I got an internship for $43K. So my salary has almost doubled.

I think working in fed govt provides more compensation like with sick days and vacation time. The downside is that some have bad facilities or are located way out. Program level people in govt have good lives. My DH works 4- 10 hour days. He gets family friendly sick time to take the kids to the pedi. He earns 90K. He travels to conferences and still works with a few academic departments on projects. He only works his hours and works at a relaxed pace. The quality of life really depends on the personalities in the office and the politics as with most places. When I worked with him, my office was much more stressful, but I never put in weekend hours.

I never considered academia because I felt that I had to be on all the time. I taught adjunct for a year and earned pennies, but I enjoyed teaching. I'd rather do that and work for the govt or a think tank than be on TT.

The one problem I find is that there are some very frustrated academics in Think Tanks and govt. The bureaucracy can drive you crazy and there are just a lot of people who don't want to do any work. You learn to relax your schedule because production comes more slowly again depending on the office and people. It can be frustrating when you are accustomed to working independently.

I like living in the city. Commute is much much better that way. I live in SW. I don't recommend the public schools, but the neighborhood is way tamer than NYC. It's not dense at all but it's easily accessible to amenities.

I say all of this, but I'm looking to move. The schools are a disaster here and I'm tired of trying to afford housing when I can't rely on public education. I love my job, though. I wish I could take it with me. DH is also midwestern, and he likes the pace here for the most part.

good luck!
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Old 07-18-2007, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mo,

Thank you - this is *really* helpful information. Especially the part where you broke down your day re: research/writing/people time. I am a natural bureaucrat and have studied administrative agencies and lawmaking since grad. school, so I don't think red tape would get to me, and the thought of a pace more relaxed than tt sounds good, too.

It interests me that your dh gets to do some academic research and gets to go to conferences, does he do so as a fed. employee, or as an independent scholar?

4-10s is an ideal schedule for me (right now I work 4-7s, plus at night/weekends from home).

I think I'd enjoy a federal job, the work plus the astounding pay and benefits - I don't think we'd like DC primarily because of ds ... but I know some fed jobs are in other areas of the beltway and even other areas of the country. Since you wre so forthcoming with salary info (thank you!), I'd like to asK: on 170K a year, can you afford to buy in DC?
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Old 07-19-2007, 10:42 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rainy32 View Post
Mo,

Thank you - this is *really* helpful information. Especially the part where you broke down your day re: research/writing/people time. I am a natural bureaucrat and have studied administrative agencies and lawmaking since grad. school, so I don't think red tape would get to me, and the thought of a pace more relaxed than tt sounds good, too.

It interests me that your dh gets to do some academic research and gets to go to conferences, does he do so as a fed. employee, or as an independent scholar?

4-10s is an ideal schedule for me (right now I work 4-7s, plus at night/weekends from home).

I think I'd enjoy a federal job, the work plus the astounding pay and benefits - I don't think we'd like DC primarily because of ds ... but I know some fed jobs are in other areas of the beltway and even other areas of the country. Since you wre so forthcoming with salary info (thank you!), I'd like to asK: on 170K a year, can you afford to buy in DC?
You are welcome. My DH works as a statistician for the fed gov. He and I both attend at least one conference a year paid for by work. We pay membership and work covers the rest including per diem. We take the kids and go as a family. It's not too expensive, especially if we can drive. He maintained a relationship with his grad advisor and so his work with the govt is beneficial to both of them.

There are fed jobs all over the country. DC probably has the highest pay because of cost of living adjustments. My DH's office is outside of the city, but that neighborhood is actually worse than living in the city. So we live equidistant to both our jobs and I walk to work 30 mins. He drives 15. It is a hugely convenient location for us right now. Since we pay for parking at home, it's better to have one car. We also both get transportation subsidies from work, @$100/month.

Now with our salary we can afford some houses in the district. We are not completely priced out of the market, but and this is a big but, we don't want a long commute so that's a little trickier. We are waiting for prices to come down a little more. They are dropping slowly. There is a coop in our neighborhood with 3BR townhouses for less than $500K. We'll more than likely buy one in the next couple of years. I want a good price on the house because we are going to be paying for education for a long time. That's the only solution I've come to for the education/housing problem for us. The big issue really is commute time. We could pay about the same for 3000 sq ft in VA and get better schools, but we would be driving in traffic 45 mins to and hour each way. I can't spend my time like that. I want to be close to my kids and close to home.
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Old 07-20-2007, 01:20 AM
 
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When I worked for HUD I was a "Development Representative" (really a grants manager) and my job was for a State Office in Chicago. We only managed funds for IL grantees, so my travel was limited to IL, except for trainings. I only went to DC three times in 11 years. Most of our training was in Chicago or other midwestern cities. I was also fortunate to be sent to training at the University of Maryland and at the Kennedy School of Govt.

My typical day was 9-5:30 (an 8 1/2 hour day with a flex start and finish). Many people in my office worked 7am-3:30pm. I did alot of reviews of municipal expenditures for housing, infrastructure and public service projects. I answered e-mails, phone calls and inquiries from my grantees (State and local governments and some non-profits). We also did site visits and on-site monitoring of projects and files (for fiscal and compliance monitoring). I probably had to travel for monitoring about 5 times a year, but I postponed alot of trips when my son was a baby (or took him and my husband with me).

I was on the phone alot, on the computer alot and reviewing reports. We reviewed annual reports, financial reports, project progress reports, etc. States and local governments also had to do 5 year planning documents, so we assisted and reviewed planning documents.

HUD makes both entitlement and competitive grants, so we also admisistered the competitive grants (which meant reviewing and rating and ranking grant proposals). That was definately the most interesting and fun part of the job. I administered some contracts - and I HATED that. The paperwork was never ending and we were far removed from the actual projects, so I always felt like a cog in a huge machine.

But I always felt good about the overall mission and goals of the agency. Most of my co-workers were great.

Chicago is a high cost of living area and we got paid based on our high cost status. We also got transit subsidies and I always felt well compensated. I remember that a co-worker who moved from DC thought that Chicago would be so much more affordable, but he found that it was still hard to buy a house (but certainly not impossible). I was a GS 12.6 when I left.

I had the opportunity to telecommute from home 2 days a week and I was glad for the chance to do that. I still had my son at the babysitter 5 long days every week, so that was hard for me. I asked to reduce to 3 days a week and I did that (part time from the office and 2 days a week totally at home with my son) and that was the best compromise for me. Unfortunately it was hard for me to really do my work in part time hours and keep up with changing regulations, etc. Plus I was just burnt out and wanted to have the SAHM experience for a few years. I was still expected to travel for work and that was hard with a nursing toddler. I took a leave of absence and then I finally left.

I would definately consider going back to a federal agency in the future. My kids are 4 and 7 now and I am working part time as a grant writer for a private school. The pay is a fraction of my old salary, but I am very close to home and I write my own schedule.

Hope that helps.

Kathleen
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