A lot of the jobs I've been
applying to ask for my "salary requirements." Am I the only one who has
a complete panic attack over this question? I'm always torn between
"Enough to make rent and eat out once and a while" and "a bazillion
dollars." It's a pretty loaded question. Mostly because, as Americans,
we're pretty tight-lipped about the whole salary thing. So, in truth, I
don't really know what a fair salary is for most of the jobs I'm
applying to. In fact, I never really knew what a fair salary was for
the jobs I actually had. And, obviously, if a company is willing to
pay me a bazillion dollars, I'll take it. But then again, if writing a
high salary requirement means my application gets tossed in the trash
bin, I'd probably be better off underestimating my worth.
(Entering panic mode)
(Leaving panic mode)
I recently read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not)
Getting By in America," and was interested in what she had to say about
the work force's perpetual fear of revealing how much we do or do not
make. She suggested (in not this many words) that we should shout our
salaries from the rooftops. Because our silence allows the employers of
the world to *ahem* nickel and dime us.
Since she wrote the book, a lot
of handy tools have popped up on the internet, like Salary.com and
PayScale.com, but job titles can be deceiving and have multiple
definitions across employers. For instance, my husband's title (before
grad school) was Senior Research Associate, a title usually reserved
for six-figure salaries and PhDs. But he had neither. And when I was a
reporter, the same title seemed to offer anywhere from $20,000 to
I should also say that when I did finally break the silence
about my salary to a friend working in a similar job at the same
company, we learned that my friend was getting paid a wage that could
be loosely defined as "one constitutional amendment away from slave
labor" in comparison.
So, what do you say Chicago? Should we start telling everyone how much
we make? When the waiter asks if we'd like another glass of wine: "No
thank you. I make approximately $30,000 per year, which isn't really
enough to get drunk." Or we could start having "Here's how much I make"
parties where everyone dresses up as something associated with their
income bracket. Charlie could dress up as a nice stock option. Hilda
could dress as an employee-funded health plan.