Monthly Archives: July 2014

Deal or No Deal?

There are many forms of communication, especially when you look at it from an employment realm. there is verbal and non verbal and it extends from employee to employer and back again. One form of communication that is not considered often however, is that of hiring and wages.

First, as I try always to do, I want to disclose that I am not writing this from an objective frame of mind. I am actively seeking employment right now and am sharing my perspective on what I’m seeing, so if your looking for a dispassionate treatise on working wage in America, perhaps you have wandered into the wrong blog..if so welcome and buckle up, here we go!

First and foremost, there is the habit of employers, once an application/resume has been submitted to say “Thank you for expressing an interest in the following position(s)…” (actual response). This is fine and well, it is the potential employer letting me know that they have successfully received my application and there is nothing further that I need to do to ensure its delivery and review. But then it ends there.  Full stop. No exchange. The end.

If you are extremely lucky and have applied at a business that is more communicative than most, you’ll get a confirmation or rejection once they have reviewed all candidates. But often times you get nothing. Your resume and potential future with company “x” has gone to wherever lost socks, ink pens, and that really awesome copy of your Pink Floyd album went. Call it an alternate dimension, or pocket universe, the end result is the same. You become that teenager pining away next to the phone hoping that person you like will call and validate your unrequited love.

In the rare event that you do receive a response, in todays economy most likely in the negative, they take the most unconventional tone. Some of my favorites, received just recently are “At this time, the search committee has decided to move forward with other candidates who more closely match the needs of our organization” or “Thank you for sending me your cover letter and application… Unfortunately you are overqualified for the position.”

It is this later response that I want to address for a moment. Being told that one is overqualified to work for a company is the harshest type of compliment. To my ear it basically says “we can’t afford you”. Now this too makes  sense if I had had the chance to make a salary demand and then refused  to budge from it. But as I was never given the chance, all it tells me is “were worried that your going to raise the bar around here and give the other employees hope for better conditions and wages and we can’t have that…”.

I was more than a little curious about this phenomena so I did a little digging. According to Miriam Salpeter at Aoljobs, the following are common reasons to stay away from “overqualified” applicants.

1. They worry the candidate will be “too expensive.”
2. Employers assume (probably correctly) that the overqualified applicant will leave at the first chance to land a better opportunity.
3. Hiring managers may be concerned an overqualified candidate would become easily disgruntled and unhappy in the job.

Ignoring the first “reason” which I have addressed, doesn’t it seem odd that employers are concerned that an employee will leave for a better opportunity at the fist chance? Wouldn’t anyone? And as for being easily disgruntled and unhappy, I would argue that crappy work is crappy work. There comes a point where we need a job regardless of what it is. For example, my degree is in communications. Would I love to be crafting a message for a firm like Edelman or Weinstein? (wink wink)Sure I would, who wouldn’t? But at this point in time, id happily shake a Little Caesars sign at a local intersection for an honest wage. After all, one can’t pay their electric bill on hope and aspirations.

Finally the other method of communication in the workplace which is often overlooked, is that of wages. Now I have to be honest here as well, I know my position on wages is not typical of most people. For example, I know that servers work for a startlingly small hourly wage and rely on tips. However, a tip by definition is called a gratuity. According to Websters dictionary a gratuity is defined as “something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service.”. Note the words “voluntarily” and “beyond obligation”. This means that if you show up at our table eventually and lethargically muddle your way through the meal and expect a 20% tip, your going to have a rough night. For those of you out there who have chosen the service industry for one reason or another, I applaud you. It is a difficult often thankless job. I know this because I have done it myself, and would never choose to do it again. That said, you chose this job.  And you chose to tie your take home wage to your level of professionalism and enthusiasm. Don’t get mad at me when you find one lacking due to the other.

However, over in the hourly wage world (we’ll ignore those salary people in this blog post, alas, its an ivory tower for most of us) there is another issue I have all together. Let me be clear, I will work for minimum wage. I say that to say this. I find the very concept of a minimum wage offensive as an employee. This concept say to your employees in effect “I would pay you less if only the law would let me. Thats how little I think of you and your efforts in this job”. To all employers out there, I know times are hard all the way around, but consider this, if you don’t want employees who do the bare minimum, don’t pay them the bare minimum.

This is not a cry to raise the minimum wage, but rather one to make it irrelevant. Anyways, thats my two cents on the matter.

The “Post” Post-Secondary Oddity…

First, for those of you who follow this blog, let me offer my apologies for not updating this in some time. I have recently, and at long last graduated with my BA in Communications from Marylhurst University, and during these summer months before beginning graduate school at that self same institution, I am doing what countless other graduates spend their summers doing……looking for a job. Well…maybe “looking for a job” isn’t quite accurate. Ive had jobs, quite a few in fact, what im looking for is a CAREER.

In a perfect world, one would search high and low for the ideal job, apply, and then in a timely manner be told whether they were on a short list for said job. At that point they would either interview or continue their search. Alas…much like communism, the pet rock, or reality TV…this is only true on paper. The real struggle in todays world to attain meaningful employment, or indeed employment of any kind is a sisyphean task. The difficulty lies not in employment, so much as anything resembling meaningful employment. No, I’m not too good to pump gas, bag groceries, or mow lawns (which in the grownup world is simply called landscaping for the sake of personal pride).

Where my difficulty derives is that after a long uphill struggle to complete my degree; which including the money, time sacrificed with friends and family, the lack of social existence, and the sometimes skull splitting nature of the subjects, its hard not to feel a little…dare i say it…..entitled to meaningful work within my field. Now I’m the first to say that:

1) No one owes me a job

2) I’m not entitled to anything but the freedom to pursue the career I want

3) Admittedly this is a “first world” problem

But i digress….

What I find baffling are the sheer volume of pyramid schemes, brand ambassador positions, and direct marketing openings out there. I recently had an interview with a “public relations firm” in the Portland, Oregon area who billed themselves as a firm who “combines strategic promotional genius with professional campaign implementation”. “HAZAA!” I thought, I have arrived. I am being courted by a firm right out of college!

These dreams were quickly dashed when I arrived for my interview a full 45 minutes early, wanting to make a good impression. The office door was adorned with the company logo in bright colors…..on a piece of printer paper scotch taped to the door. “No worries” I thought, “Maybe they’re a startup or this is a satellite office or something”. Upon walking in, clad in my navy blue suit and “lucky” tie, I almost dropped my portfolio. The room was populated by about a dozen other people, many of them barely out of their teens. While I won’t go into the variety of hair colors and styles present (it is Portland after all, allowances must be made) the amount of cut off clothes and slack expressions were a quick warning sign for me.

The administrative aid (I use the term charitably) was busy watching a pirated copy of some movie or other and couldn’t be bothered to do more than point me at a chair. Shortly thereafter I was called into an office that was so spartan it would put most police interrogation rooms to shame. All it was missing was the one way mirror. In its place was a cheap gas station map of the US with push pins haphazardly placed around the country. My interviewer, an early twenty something with hair that had that just right look of suave and just rolled out of bed, proudly announced that they now had offices in all of the cities identified by the boldly colored pins.

At this point every professional “spidey sense” I had was going berserk, but as a man with bills to pay I forced myself to pay attention through his pitch with all of the focus I could manage. At the tail end of the “how wonderful it is to be a full time employee” for them speech, he soberly informed me that all of their employees “start at the ground level as brand ambassadors and work their way up.”

At this point, barely restraining the urge to slide off my chair in disappointment, I asked what products they were working with. “Cabinetry” he proudly proclaimed, as though this product was the next longer lasting lightbulb or cure to some here to fore unknown disease. I thanked him for his time, and headed out the door and down the hall quietly murmuring to myself about the injustice of it all. Passing a teenager in the parking lot, who’s mother had just dropped him off, he asked me if I knew where the marketing office was. I pointed him in the right direction and wished him more happiness with the experience than I had.

The moral to this story? Im honestly not sure that there is one, except to say this. If your job hunting, first set a line in the sand. Tell yourself “I will do this, but not that. This is what I’m prepared to accept” And do your best to stick to it.

Im fully prepared to admit that I may be approaching this from a biased viewpoint, but as with all of my posts, I welcome advice, experiences and wisdom from you all. Happy Job Hunting!

 

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