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Devaluing your skills

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by wicked, Feb 12, 2011.

  1. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I was talking to a friend recently, someone who has left the profession and is now working as a government contractor.

    The topic came around to pay, and she mentioned that when leaving the field, journalists so undervalue themselves that they almost always seek the lowest salaries when applying for a job, etc.

    That's more anecdotal, for sure, but it seems to hold true in my limited experiences. And it seems we've been undervaluing our skills long before Joe Blogger in mom's basement was devaluing our work.

    Has it always been this way? For as long as I can remember (in my mid-30s), it's seemed to be the case.
  2. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    When your skills have always been valued at $25-$35K, it is difficult to imagine that they are worth more than that. We're programmed. I would like to think prospective employers would think otherwise, but anecdotal evidence from the board about the difficulty in convincing people outside journalism that you're qualified for a higher-paying job says otherwise. My guess is that, unfortunately, employers think that if someone else paid someone $60K or $70K or six figures, then that person must be a catch. But if they were only paid $25K or $30K or $40K, then not so much.

    Hopefully people have some encouraging tales to tell that counter this intuition.
  3. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Absolutely. We assume people in every industry can write -- that they can construct simple sentences and paragraphs -- because it is the most basic part of our job description. But often those people cannot write. Plus we've been bred not to care about or even mention money. Think about the process of landing a journalism job. You dance around for 3-4 weeks talking about everything but compensation, then the company makes a low low offer to start negotiations; you have that lowball start as a frame of reference plus the general belief in newspapering that only a cad would be so concerned about something as mundane as money.

    In the real world, there's more of a realization that money makes the world go round, so that conversation takes place early enough that if the company doesn't want your services, neither of you has invested much time or thought and you can walk away. In my experience so far, though, amounts that sound astronomical to a newspaper person are right about at market value or maybe below market value in other industries.
  4. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I strongly recommend seeing a career counselor. You can find one at your university or a local one-stop career center.

    He or she may be able to tell you what your skills would be worth in the marketplace. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
  5. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    or you might be pleasantly unsurprised!

    example: i was a journo a long time ago. went to law school. became a lawyer. started my own firm about three months ago, partnering with two others. there are so many law school grads out there that we hired two associates who get paid less than what i made in my last year as a journalist.

    sad, but true.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    My first job after journalism paid more that I was making covering the NFL (low 60s, plus freelance) but it was short-lived. When I interviewed for my current job, the manager said, "I'll bet you have no problem talking to anybody, that's a great trait." Turning around things on deadline is another pretty good trait journalists have.
  7. J-School Blue

    J-School Blue Member

    You'd be shocked at how rare the ability to write coherently is among the professional, college-educated population. I know I was. It's worth more than you'd think.
  8. pressmurphy

    pressmurphy Member

    Generally speaking, successful companies learn to pay the position, not the person -- a fancy way of saying a job is worth a certain salary and not a penny more.

    A mistake I've watched too many former colleagues make is that they aim low when they seek new jobs. Certainly, the economy dictates to some extent. But many ex-journos I've known don't aim high enough.

    Sure, apply for sports information vacancies because you're already used to making $29,500 and working weekends. But why not spruce up the resume a tad and apply for that opening for editor of college publications?
  9. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    I had a recent interview for a government job in which I stressed my skills on deadline, my being used to a fast pace and all that jazz.

    The interviewers looked at me, and said, "We have a much slower pace, here. Do you think you could adjust after being in newspapers all these years?"

    Naturally, I said yes. But I didn't get the job. They had interviewed at least 30 people for it, so I didn't get that upset.

    But sometimes, I wonder if employers are a little too concerned that we're so used to a fast-paced environment that we won't be able to adjust to a typical 9-5 day.
  10. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    From what I've been told and read on this board, it usually goes the other direction: If you've been a sports writer, you have to actually convince the prospective employer that you're capable of doing "real" work. They tend to think that it's all watchin' games and drinkin' beer. Think about how many times you've been told by friends and family something along the lines of: "Oh, you call that work!" It's typically meant as a compliment - they are expressing envy - but 99.9 percent of the population has no idea that sports writers have to hustle. No clue.
  11. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    I've found that the worst type of employer as far as devaluing what print journalists do, is newspaper companies.
  12. Seahawk

    Seahawk Member

    When I left the journalism world, it was for a 60 percent salary increase. I tried not to laugh when, before I was hired, my current employer asked for my previous salary, to "make sure they could afford me."

    I was pretty darn embarrassed to show them what a decade in journalism had earned me, salary-wise.
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