May 17, 2018Juggling Act
For the majority of individuals, a 40- to 50-hour workweek at one job is normal. However, 7.6 million American workers hold two or more jobs, and some athletic trainers fall into this category. Whether it is juggling several part-time jobs or a full-time athletic training job plus a part-time athletic training position, the challenges this scenario presents can be daunting. Waking up and experiencing an early commute, working late nights, long weekends, and juggling numerous responsibilities makes for a stressful lifestyle if you do not make your schedule and self-care a priority.
I was in this situation for eight years. After I finished graduate school, the economy fell. My dream of working at an NCAA Division I university did not materialize as I had hoped. I ended up working full time at a physical therapy clinic. However, I did not want to lose my skills or connections, nor did I plan to stay in that position long. So I also worked part time at a community college teaching a couple of classes, and I was an hourly athletic trainer at multiple colleges. In addition to this, I covered camps and tournaments on the weekends.
After eight years of juggling these three settings, I accepted a full-time position at Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) as an Assistant Professor in Health and Human Performance and in the Athletic Training Program. In this role, I have been able to apply lessons learned from the three-job experience and impart those lessons to athletic training students at CUAA in order to help them understand the dynamics of the profession and prepare them to meet their obligations and responsibilities as an athletic trainer. To get through the challenge of juggling multiple jobs, I offer the reader who may be in a similar situation a few things I learned along the way.
Do what you love
I love athletic training and helping the profession grow. While I did experience burnout on several occasions, I really do enjoy my career. A benefit for me was that each setting was something different.
Even though working at a physical therapy clinic was not where I thought I would start my athletic training career, I looked at it as an opportunity to strengthen my rehabilitation skills. Being an hourly athletic trainer kept me on the field doing what I loved, which was caring for athletes. And teaching gave me the chance to pass on the knowledge and experience I have gained to the next generation. Managing these three settings over eight years would not have been possible if I didn’t enjoy going to my numerous settings on a daily basis.
Depending on the positions you are juggling, if you are not organized, it is very easy for unplanned events or deadlines to pop up. Just when you think you have one night to yourself, you remember you have to write an exam, you are called to cover a game for someone who is ill, or coach changes practice times on you. Take a few minutes to look at the schedule for the week and prioritize what is most important. This will help you get your work done efficiently and possibly leave you some free time to do something you enjoy.
Plan time for yourself
While it would be ideal to plan on one or two days off each week, it might not be possible with the schedule you have. Personally, I never had the opportunity, so I at least tried to give myself several hours where no work was involved. This allowed for my mind and body to relax. Instead of worrying about the work I just did or what I still needed to do, I was able to recharge my battery so I was effective in my next task.
If you are able to take a day off, try your best to disengage from work and attend to your self-care. This could be exercising, spending time with family or friends, or simply relaxing with a good book or movie.
Focus on the end goal
For the majority of athletic trainers juggling multiple jobs, the decision was not made because you had a lot of free time and were bored. It was made because you had to make ends meet, or a full-time position wasn’t available. Whatever the reason may be, just remember each step is one more toward your goal of single-position employment. It is important to focus on that end goal when you are nine hours into that volleyball tournament on a Sunday, after working seven days straight, and have to do it all again the following week.
Life and professional experience can present circumstances beyond our control. My advice to those juggling two or more positions in athletic training is to focus on being effective in the jobs you have and on the ultimate goal of single-position employment. Finally, don’t forget to also focus on yourself, as self-care is the one area you can control in order to maximize your experiences and ensure future success.