theunemploymentchronicles

What Are You Worth?

Spiggs* claimed, “[I] worked myself to the bone,” referring to the 46 hours he put in each week.  I didn’t doubt his ‘military’ effort, but no offense to Mr. Shoe-salesman Spiggs, I think that 46 hours is a typical work week. In fact, an average worker on salary may work more without compensation depending on the demands of his/her job. I know that my coworkers in the marketing department do….

Being that we were both college students, I found to my surprise that he was able to make about a grand a week.  The awesome job? Selling shoes.

Selling shoes = $1,000 per week (roughly $21.71 an hour). I bet you thought I was going to say he worked at some top notch financial company. For five delusional minutes, I wanted to figure out how to scheme my way into being a professional shoe salesman. Fifty grand a year selling shoes is not bad at all. And if you work at Prada, you can earn 80,000 dollars. Down the drain went the adage of college being necessary to secure a well paying job.

So, actually working 6 more hours a week for a 50,000 dollar annual salary is not bad at all — his job is more equivalent to cutting sinew, not bone. If someone approached me today and said, “Tiffany, want to make 1, 000 dollars a week? You just have to put in an extra 6 hours over the typical work week of the typical American,” you know what my answer would be? Heck, yes. And if I had to work 50 hours a week to make 80 grand a year, I would do that too.

After regaling the tale to my mother, she told me that sometimes “dirty” jobs make more money than office jobs. For many immigrants and labor workers, they believe that somehow education will lead you to have a high paying office job, where you don’t have to get your hands dirty; that somehow college will prepare you for a “dignified” job, where you can walk around with a suit and tie and have a fancy title that elevates your standing in the community.

This line of thinking is true in some respects. Having that nice B.A. on my resume automatically allows me to apply for most office jobs. But when the skills of the office job are equivalent to selling shoes (i.e. customer service abilities, doing inventory, using a calculator), what does it matter if I have a fancy title? The skills that I use in both jobs are the same, which begs the question: why is it that one job is entitled more ‘dignity’ or ‘respectability’ or ‘class,’ whereas the other is demeaned as ‘dirty’ or ‘low’?

Why am I talking about this? Because this topic is intricately tied to human worth and it is quite disturbing to note that they way most people view each other depends on how much money one makes and what kind of job one has.

When I worked at the food court before college, I was worth $7.25 an hour; when I worked as a seamstress in college, I was worth $7.50 an hour; and when I was a tutor, I was worth $20 dollars an hour. And this is before tax.

In the same spirit, when I was unemployed, I was worth $0 an hour.

Let’s draw a comparison between two jobs. Custodians that work for the government versus bank tellers. State custodians start off pretty well off: 16 dollars an hour, roughly $33,280 a year. That is, if you are not a victim of furloughs. And if you work as a bank teller for 12 dollars an hour with a company that pays for your health care benefits and subsidizes transportation (equivalent to 5,000 dollars worth), you are (ta da!) worth roughly $29,960 a year. So, which job is worth more? The “dirty” job or the office job? And does it matter?

To assume that a person’s value is worth how much they make per hour is ignorant because house wives, stay at home moms, volunteers and interns are truly valued for the time and effort they put in with their own responsibilities. However, we live in a society, in which there is no escaping the fact that many still believe a person’s value is based on a dollar sign. And your title.

Don’t believe me?

The next time you go out on a date, tell the person you’re a garbage man and see how his/her face changes. Then laugh and say that you’re actually a scientist.

But regardless of what position you are in now, the one validation that is worth any salt is your self-opinion.

*name changed to protect the person’s identity

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  1. […] Selling shoes = $1,000 per week (roughly $21.71 an hour). I bet you thought I was going to say he worked at some top notch financial company. For five delusional minutes, I wanted to figure out how to scheme my way into being a professional shoe salesman. Fifty grand a year selling shoes is not bad at all. And if you work at Prada, you can earn 80,000 dollars. Down the drain went the adage of college being necessary to secure a well paying job. […]

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