What Are You Worth?

Several weeks ago I was listening to a podcast (a podcast producer listening to a podcast? What a shocker!) and there was a little nugget of conversation that has stuck with me. However, I want to state at the beginning that this post is “throwing some shade” so I’m unwilling to name the show or hosts. The individuals don’t deserve internet hate for describing their experience within systemic inequity.  Even when that place is one of incredible privilege.

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The hosts of the show were talking about starting out in their journalism careers how hard they had to hustle to get any kind of a break. The scene they were describing was one that required a lot of privilege to back it up. One host, who now has a strong background in tech reporting, wanted to attend SXSW and ended up needing to go on her own dime. SBSX tickets cost anywhere from $299 to $1225 and do not include lodging or meals. This was described as a scrappy, pick yourself up by the bootstraps move to get ahead in her career. While it definitely worked, I certainly don’t know many people that could front that kind of cash.

As the hosts continued, they talked about the difficulty in mentoring young people in the profession because they want to encourage people to expect to get what they’re worth in financial terms, but in the beginning stages of your career “you’re not worth anything.”

Full stop.

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If you are doing work for an organization you deserve a living (and dare I say, thriving) wage. Yes, you might be gaining new skills in the role (you should be gaining new skills in the role!) but what you bring to the table is worth a lot. And you deserve to do your best work without being stressed out about how to pay your rent, put food on the table, or pay for quality daycare. 

And if you’re in a role where you are paying people, pay them what they’re worth. If you’re paying a contractor, use reputable sources to determine what a reasonable budget is. If you’re hiring an employee, take an honest look at how valuable that role is to your company and pay accordingly.

As we continue to strive toward equal pay for equal work, we need to ditch the mentality that early career professionals aren’t “worth anything.”

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