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Old 07-22-2004, 02:23 PM   #1
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The State of Work in America; Or, Are You Nuts Enough to Work Here?

As some of you may know, I just graduated from college and am looking for a job, preferably in publishing, but I'm looking elsewhere (events planning, administrative support, Wal-Mart, etc.) because publishing is such a tough market. I was looking for jobs online today and I came across one ad which I will excerpt for you all here:

You will also be expected to read (on an ongoing basis, and on your own time) several books on copywriting techniques, strategic marketing, etc...

Your attitude should be upbeat and positive, bubbling over with can-do flexibility. You must be very responsive to requests from other employees and clients. You must be able to learn how to intuitively and scientifically probe for client needs and requirements. You must also be available to occasionally work nights and weekends (typically from home) to make deadlines...

Along these lines, we need a person capable of taking responsibility for themselves and their work — who values a ‘career’ — and doesn’t want to forget about work when they leave at the end of the day. We’ll need you to learn how to ‘manage your manager,’ so you proactively ‘pull’ work onto your plate, through each client project — keeping your time best organized...


And here's the kicker:

We want a person who is looking to commit for the long run (5 to 10+ years), and we’ll train as appropriate. Approximately 10 hours per week to start; expected to ramp to 20+ hours per week in 3-4 months. Compensation starts at up to $17 per hour...

So let me get this straight: for $170 a week (BEFORE TAXES!) you expect someone to be at your beck and frickin' call, study on his or her own time, be willing to work nights and weekends, "manage his or her manager," and God only knows what else?!

I'm not above learning on the job, or putting in some grunt work to get ahead, but some of this strikes me as a bit ridiculous for a job that starts at 10 hours a week and is "expected" to ramp up to 20 in a few months. It's fine for someone living at home whose parents are supportive of this kind of thing, but for a grown-up looking for a real job, it's patently ridiculous. You'd have to be working a second job for 25-35 hours a week for at least a few months to be able to do this, which would surely not leave you very much time for your "homework"--and how could you promise to be available nights and weekends?

What I'm getting at, I guess, is this: How good is it to be "married" to your job? Do the employers that expect this really have a right to do so at such piss-poor compensation (granted, $17 an hour would be great if you were doing it full-time, but for 10 hours a week--?)? Do any of you have jobs like this and what do you think of it?

In the interest of full disclosure, the job is in the Philadelphia area (read: not cheap to live), offered on-the-job training, and a woman-friendly, flexible office.
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Old 07-22-2004, 02:40 PM   #2
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I wonder how many people take unpaid positions to get into an industry? It certainly happens in entertainment and politics.
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Old 07-22-2004, 02:52 PM   #3
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I'm well aware that people do *do* it. My question is whether or not it is ethical to pay people so poorly, or, as you mention, not at all, in the name of "getting experience." And then, on top of it, being and the proverbial beck and call of one's employer and job even after the end of the day.
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Old 07-22-2004, 03:22 PM   #4
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Originally posted by paxetaurora
I'm well aware that people do *do* it. My question is whether or not it is ethical to pay people so poorly, or, as you mention, not at all, in the name of "getting experience." And then, on top of it, being and the proverbial beck and call of one's employer and job even after the end of the day.
I think what bothers me the most about the idea that people should accept extremely poor pay or even no pay at all in order to 'get experience' is that it inevitably means those from a less financially secure background are excluded. Clearly it's impossible for a graduate to pay for their accommodation and other living expenses on $17 an hour, while a graduate whose parents can afford to help them financially may well be able to work for a tiny salary in order to get an advantage in a particular industry.

From my own experience, I absolutely hate seeing the number of people doing volunteer work for the sole reason that it looks good on their CV and will give them an advantage in applying for jobs. I spent anything from 20 to 40+ hours a week volunteering at college and it made me so angry to see the number of people who obviously didn't care about the work and were reluctant to spend more than an hour or two a week on their volunteer project. They would openly admit that they didn't really care about the project they volunteered on, but knew that saying they had helped organise a conference or chaired a student society would impress prospective employers.
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Old 07-22-2004, 03:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees


I think what bothers me the most about the idea that people should accept extremely poor pay or even no pay at all in order to 'get experience' is that it inevitably means those from a less financially secure background are excluded. Clearly it's impossible for a graduate to pay for their accommodation and other living expenses on $17 an hour, while a graduate whose parents can afford to help them financially may well be able to work for a tiny salary in order to get an advantage in a particular industry.

Yes, exactly. People who are bright but already struggling financially are automatically excluded.
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Old 07-22-2004, 03:43 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees


I think what bothers me the most about the idea that people should accept extremely poor pay or even no pay at all in order to 'get experience' is that it inevitably means those from a less financially secure background are excluded.
This is why I could never be a social work major where I go to school. They're required to do a full time internship (and I think theirs has to be year-long, not one semester) and if they accept any pay, it doesn't count. On top of that, you're still paying the $25,000 per year in tuition b/c you're getting credits for the required internship. Now, say I wanted to be a social worker. I could never, ever achieve that goal! This year I'm working close to 30 hrs a week while being a full time student and I'm still taking thousands out in student loans. Sometimes I hate my school b/c administration just assumes everyone's rich and spoiled and can mooch off mommy and daddy until they're married off and popping babies out.
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Old 07-22-2004, 10:27 PM   #7
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Definitely.

I think the bigger question, however, is it just the low pay and few hours that are unethical--or is it wrong to expect someone to basically marry his or her career? This is the "American way" these days and it shows no signs of stopping. That's what I'd really like to get people's thoughts on.
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Old 07-22-2004, 10:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by paxetaurora
I'm well aware that people do *do* it. My question is whether or not it is ethical to pay people so poorly, or, as you mention, not at all, in the name of "getting experience."
I was in a position where I considered doing this.

I had finished school, and had no student loans (generous parents), and found a job in a prestigious research laboratory that I really, really wanted. Actually, there was no job listed, I went to speak to the principal investigator (world renowned scientist) and told him a bit about myself and how I'd really love the experience of working in his lab and if I had to take 1/2 of the pay in order to work there, I would do so.

He looked at me and said "when I see you, I don't see half a person, why would I pay you half the salary?"

He then created a position for me and payed $6K/year more than he should have (he put me in a higher category than the union would have placed me based on my experience). Therefore, I think it's up to individual employers and there are great ones and then there are ones who love slave labour.
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Old 07-23-2004, 09:39 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by paxetaurora
Definitely.

I think the bigger question, however, is it just the low pay and few hours that are unethical--or is it wrong to expect someone to basically marry his or her career? This is the "American way" these days and it shows no signs of stopping. That's what I'd really like to get people's thoughts on.
It depends. Some people have a career b/c they want to and others have a career b/c they have to. There are so many other fields I'm WAY more interested in (meteorology, vet. medicine, anthropology...) but I simply can't afford the amount of schooling it takes to get a job in one of those fields. I don't see how any boss could expect someone to be more devoted to his/her job than his/her family and friends.
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Old 07-23-2004, 10:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by paxetaurora
Definitely.

I think the bigger question, however, is it just the low pay and few hours that are unethical--or is it wrong to expect someone to basically marry his or her career? This is the "American way" these days and it shows no signs of stopping. That's what I'd really like to get people's thoughts on.
before im married and have kids, am i willing to spend obscene amounts of time in my office getting things done for future benefit? yes.

between work and second language training, i regularly 'work' 60 hours a week or so. additionally, i am still employed as a 'student' so pay is low, im not contributing to a pension and i have no paid vacation.

yes, it probably is pretty stupid but it is reality. to some extent culture and society has bred me to accept this but it really doesn't bother me.
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Old 07-23-2004, 10:44 AM   #11
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Part of the meaning of the term Wages and Conditions means naturally 'conditions'. And while it is impossible to get a feel for a company in a job advert, it certainly seems as if this company doesn't give it's share in return. Reading through that I was waiting for the kicker to be the hours would be in the 60-80 a week range, with a salary starting at whatever the equivilant is of about 50K Australian. Slim pickings, but you do this to get ahead, and when the company is meeting it's obligations and coming halfway.

The ad you posted does not show any of that. And I reckon it is wrong.
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Old 07-23-2004, 12:22 PM   #12
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As for me I work to live, I do NOT live to work. I am fine with doing a little overtime here and there when necessary, but I have a LIFE and refuse to spend it at work. My time is far more important to me than money or getting ahead. That job sounds like my idea of a nightmare!

The more people cave to these sorts of demands, the more companies will push them. If they can have a month off in Europe, then we should be able to do the same here, for example.
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Old 07-23-2004, 01:08 PM   #13
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Yes, I do think its unethical to ask so much of an employee and not offer compensation to match...companies like the one pax mentioned take advantage of prospective employees who know that the only way to get a foot in the door in certain industries means working for almost nothing, doing the work of 3 people and acting as if the company is doing you some big favor by allowing you to work for them.

I think an employee should at the very least get back what he or she puts in...meaning long hours are okay if you are paid enough to justify those long hours.

I know someone who got a coveted internship postition at Capital Records and all he ended up doing was fetching coffee and acting as a personal slave for his department. He was treated like crap and after 2 years of doing that WITHOUT PAY, they let him go when he asked to be put in a paid position, which he was promised right from the beginning.

The few times I have hired someone at my business, I generally paid them more than the industry average...I'm not going to expect someone to put in 8-10 hours a day for my benefit unless I feel they are being fairly compensated for their time.
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Old 07-23-2004, 06:17 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
I wonder how many people take unpaid positions to get into an industry? It certainly happens in entertainment and politics.
It should be illegal. These are just creative ways to get around the constitutional amendments against slavery and indentured servitude. Of course, looking at history, our entire world is on a foundation on unpaid labor...how sickening. How dare people expect to actually get paid a fair wage, when we have dividends to give to the fucking stockholders? Or how about that multi-million dollar benefits package that the CEO needs? I'd like to shove "unpaid internships" up their tight, greedy a$$e$. And to think...not only do we not get paid, but we end up *paying* schools so we can work for free? Fuck...I'm sure Karl Marx would be thrashing around in his grave...



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Old 07-23-2004, 07:31 PM   #15
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the thing that amazes me the most about this is that people who say that they are automatically excluding anyone who isn't in a sound financial situation already can not even apply
a consequence is that the company is probably missing out on better employees because they chose to spent as little money as possible in teh short term
which also is wrong

almost as wrong as taking advantage of people under the guise of them gaining experience
every working person gains experience
perhaps we should all accept a pay cut
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