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How NOT to Determine Your Salary

Last week I was chatting with a rad young lady who is about to start her final semester of college. When the subject of careers and negotiation came up, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. (“Teaching young people how to negotiate their salaries” is what I write down on the religion line on surveys.)

I asked what salary range she was asking for, and she quickly answered: “$37,000.”

It struck me as an unusual number for two reasons:

  • First, it seemed mighty low. Many people live happy, stable lives on as much or less—but she was a high-achieving college student entering a STEM field in one of the ten most expensive American cities. I expected double or triple that amount.
  • Second, what’s with the non-round number? Usually when people talk about hypothetical large numbers, they do so in intervals of fives and tens. It’s why the JonBenét ransom note haunts us all to this day! (And by “us” I mean rubberneckers who were alive in the 90s and/or true crime nerds. Surely everyone belongs in one of those demographics.)

So I dug deeper. “Why that number?”

She explained that she sat down with a notebook and wrote down all the expenses she might have in a given month. “Rent, internet, groceries, student loans, car insurance… I added it all up, multiplied by twelve, and added 10% for savings. It came out to $36,200, so I rounded up just to be safe.”

My nurturing altruism joined forces with my baser capitalist instincts to manifest a camera to do a dolly zoom on my horrified face.

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I'm nervous to publish this. But you know what? It's okay to talk about your failures.

Confession: I Hate My Job and I Don’t Know How to Leave It

I don’t fancy myself a hypocrite. And yet I haven’t been practicing what I preach.

We talk a lot about career advancement as a path to financial independence here. You’ve got to angle for promotions and ask for raises and, most importantly, switch jobs on the regular.

And yet I’ve been stuck at the same company for almost eight years.

And I don’t want to be.

In that time, I’ve been promoted three times and I’ve received multiple raises. But it’s a small publishing house on a metaphorically small, remote island within the broader publishing industry.

And unless my boss gets torn apart by angry maenads sometime soon, I’ve literally reached the top of the ladder here. There’s nowhere else to go within my company, and very few options for other publishing jobs in the area.

I feel trapped. I feel like a failure. I’m bored, directionless, and frustrated. I want to enjoy going to work again. I want to feel challenged and get paid more.

So because I’m feeling rather… truthsome right now, I want to dissect my current career stagnation. I want to confess my failures and seek absolution. People of the Internet, be gentle with me.

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