Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Please Tell Me I'm Worth More Than THAT

A job search in Florida in the summer is almost comical.

Firstly, Florida is a state that pays below national average because of something called "The Sunshine Benefit". The reasoning for businesses here is that they can pay less because people aren't moving here to work, they're moving here to play. This puts those of us who are natives at a distinct disadvantage, no matter what our education level is.

Secondly, summertime is notorious as being a time when most business goes into hibernation: Local families are vacationing, and tourists usually come when the weather is cooler because it's so hot here that you could fry an egg on the pavement, sizzle bacon to a crisp, and leave the toast out on the lawn to get a nice tan. Butter melts at room temperature within minutes.

That also means that wearing a professional, fully-lined suit to a job interview is sheer agony. Of course you can wear what you want to an interview... as long as you're interviewing for a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

My mother has helpfully suggested that I wear arm pads in my suits, so that I don't have to trot to the dry cleaners after every interview. I'm telling you: They need to make arm pads like they make diapers. In fact, perhaps I simply need to start stuffing preemie diapers in each armpit. It might make me look slightly deformed, but at least I'll be wearing a fully-lined suit.

But there's a bigger problem yet.

I am a hot commodity. I say this without blushing because it's true: Employers look at my resume and salivate. But, they don't want to pay for me.

I recently went through six interviews (yes, six) for one job that would chain me to a desk in a bull-pen environment where I would share an office with six others who are on the phone constantly. A community bathroom is directly off that room, with no privacy. In other words, everyone in the room can hear every drop of urine that hits the bowl.

After the sixth interview, I was informed that I was going to be paid around $40,000 as a base salary, with commission. The base, I was informed, would be enough to make sure that I could live comfortably.

Comfortably? According to whose standards?

Here in Florida nothing is cheap any longer. $40,000 would be fine if I were a secretary married to someone who made more money and we wanted a little "pin money", as my grandmother would've called it. But $40,000 is not fine if you're a female executive with experience and great credentials and connections.

I'm a single mom. I grant you that my child could probably adapt to eating beans and rice for years on end, but my goal is to have a life above the poverty level that will save him from rickets and stunted growth. Additionally, it's hard to be a snappy dresser when thrift shops are your department stores.

Since then, I've been offered a variety of great jobs that don't pay a thing except for commission only.

I had a call from a woman yesterday who was, of course, trying to sell me on another straight commission job. She asked me if that would be OK with me.

"I'll be happy to consider it," I said wearily. "However, let me tell you that in my experience, companies that offer only straight commission with no base salary either don't have enough start-up capital or don't believe enough in their product."

There was silence on the line for a minute. Then she admitted that they were a start-up firm. To add insult to injury, during the ensuing conversation she told me that they would give us job assignments all over the country, and we would have to pay our own way.

I would love to meet the sucker that takes that bet.

Right now, a career at Kentucky Fried Chicken is looking pretty good.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Jeez, at least blogging is free?

The idea of you in a sweaty suit with pads under your arms looking all deformed made me laugh.

However, I do sympathise, not a great time to be job hunting.

Good luck!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel, Yeah, blogging is free for now. ;o) I'm sure the government will find a way to tax it, though.

Glad you like the suit idea. I think I'll patent it.

Thanks for the wishes! From your mouth to God's ears. :-D

Ed Abbey said...

Isn't Florida one of those states that has no state income tax? Still $40k is on the short side for a family in today's economy. Fortunately my profession doesn't work on commission. The unfortunate part is that like you, I'm getting old enough that nobody want to pay me what I was earning at the previous place. I've taken a few pay decreases switching jobs and now after five years at this one, am just getting what I was earning almost ten years ago.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, True, there's no state income tax (thankfully). It sounds like you're in similar circumstances!

The truth is that I could either do sales (which I was good at) or manage a sales team. Sales would give me freedom, but I'd have to deal with commission. Managing would give me stability, but no freedom.

I'd be open to either option, assuming the pay/opportunities were good enough.

daveawayfromhome said...

Companies want to make money, and it doesnt matter that it takes the effort of people to make that money, in the eyes of the owners, that money is theirs. Sadly, I see no end to this attitude here in the U.S., only a worsening of it. The pendulum is still swinging.
At my place of employment, the sales staff has been told that if they dont meet their minimum sales goals, they will be required to pay back their base pay (including the money spent on taxes and insurance). We've lost two salespeople so far.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daveawayfromhome, that pay back method is trendy. It's been popular in the past, and I hear it frequently lately.

The employer says (in an attempt to excuse this policy) that if a salesperson believes in themselves enough, they'll easily make the goal.

How about believing in the product?

There is no ideal product, and you can only sell what you're given, no matter HOW great you are.

I can sell better than most, but I can't sell everything. Recently I've run into companies that are selling:

1) Health insurance. Good thing that there's little of THAT to go around.

2) Incorporation packages in Nevada. Wow, what a concept! This idea played out YEARS ago, of course.

3) Staffing services. Good thing we're in such a healthy economy with a great job market, right?

4) Industrial tools. Thank goodness they're not a dime a dozen.

The Lazy Iguana said...

You forgot about the "right to work" provisions.

which I call "the right to get shit canned" provisions.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, As usual, we're in agreement. Thanks for the addendum.

daveawayfromhome said...

"Right to Work". Yeah, if by "to work" you mean "to be treated like a commodity if you're lucky (and like a 2-dollar crack-whore if you're not)".
We have that lovely little 1984-ism here in Texas, too.

daveawayfromhome said...

You said the practice was "fashionable"; does that mean that it was deemed too ugly to continue using? Why would anyone agree to work at a place that had that policy? Or is that why it went out of fashion?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daveawayfromhome, I see straight commission jobs die away in a healthy economy but come back in a tough one, because people in sales grow desperate and would rather have SOME kind of job and pay than NO kind of job and pay. And they'd rather believe in the possibility of GOOD pay rather than take a job at Burger King for minimum wage.

However, employers who sell that package to a salesman are people who (as I've said) either don't have the money to hire a good salesperson OR don't have any real belief in their product. They want the salesperson to be the test case - if they can sell it, then it IS something worth manufacturing/creating.

And yeah, that's what 'right to work' means.

Anonymous said...

The deal is much the same here, I live in Charleston, SC so pay is rather dismal for most jobs. I work in IT which made things even more rough, I was saved by the fact that I have a gov't job and it pays really well for the area. Twice as much as I would make in the private sector. Good luck in finding something worth your while.


Deb said...

Terrible how this is happening more and more.

Bee Repartee said...

UG. Just the word commission makes my skin crawl.

You are blessed to be able to be firm about what you are worth, like you said, the economy is pushing people into jobs because they need to put a roof over their head.

I have this vision of you in your hulk-esque diaper suit. hehe. Nice visual. Walmart has the best price on diapers. ;)

Here is to your dream job paying you what you are worth!

doozie said...

I pay $875/month for our modest apartment, and the jobs I have available to me are paying anywhere from $9/hr to 15/hr. I would not snort at 40,000

Saur♥Kraut said...

Doozie, you'd hate to hear what *I* am paying, and it's pretty average here. So, I'm snorting away. I WISH it were $875 a month. :P

Bee, Well, I'm blessed SO FAR. We'll see how long I can hold out! Let's just knock and wood and assume the right one's coming along.