You can’t complain about something unless you’re actively trying to do something to rectify it. This applies to diets, elections and personal circumstances. And in this spirit while acknowledging that professional fulfillment is eluding me these days, I applied for a product manager position in the cycling division of a tire company. I excitedly crafted a cover letter to address their job description implicitly and obsessively polished my resume again, then emailed my little personal press packet complete with magazine reviews and letters of recommendation from previous supervisors to the proper address. I was contacted within days and a phone call with human resources was scheduled.
The day for the call arrived and after briefly and stiffly exchanging pleasantries, right out of the gate the woman on the other end of the line queried, “How much do you currently make?”
“Well I’m not currently a product manager.”
“Well I need to know your current salary.”
“I’m not a product manager nor do I work in the cycling industry so it really has no bearing on this discussion.”
“I need to know if you’re in the range of what the position pays.”
“And what does the position pay?”
“Well … uh, um … well … it’s, it’s in the range of … And what are your salary expectations?”
“We haven’t talked about the position yet and what it entails for me to provide an expectation.”
“Well I need to know a range to see if you’re even a possibility.”
She was fine with asking for very personal information about my current income yet balked when I asked for perfectly relevant information about the position at hand. Once she shared the salary range for the position, I shared the salary range of former product manager positions I’ve held as an offering in what had already turned into a negotiation. Needless to say, I didn’t make it past that initial screening discussion and I don’t expect any more calls from that tire company soon.
I’ve read a number of articles that outline why sharing salary information with prospective employers should become a practice of the past, that it should actually become illegal to ask a prospective employee for personal salary information in the same way it’s illegal to ask their age or about other protected data. And that just seems logical (refer to interaction with tire company above). But that’s a fairly new discussion and until the idea has made its way to a broader audience, my interaction with the tire lady came across as me being argumentative to a prospective employer and not just going with the flow.
Think of other things we keep doing over and over again that don’t make sense. We say we’re giving up carbs then go nuts on Taco Tuesday. We say that this year, for sure, we’re going to ride the #Festive500 yet then watch our miles start precipitously dropping in September. We vote incumbents into office and lament how they go back to Washington and don’t get anything done because of politics. Or the king daddy one of all—we continue to buy into a health care system that has an additional parasitic industry attached who takes payments yet doesn’t provide any actual health care (yes, I’m talking about the state of current health insurance, an entire industry theoretically devoted to improving health but that doesn’t provide any actual health care).
But I keep paying for my health insurance because I haven’t found a viable alternative for it yet. And if I am to investigate employment opportunities I better come to grips with sharing salary information or come up with a better way to dodge that discussion like shouting, “Look, someone famous!” Or perhaps my job hunt is focused on exploring the wrong parts of the business altogether anyway. Maybe I’m not seeing that the positions I keep applying for don’t make sense any more. The cycling industry is shifting and I’m not a hungry college kid that will take any job for any salary, regardless of local cost of living.
I do know that I’m supposed to be learning to make the most of what I have and so by extension, that means making the most of my current employment as well. I can begrudgingly admit there are parts of my job that are enjoyable and it does provide many learning opportunities through teachable moments (just another way to say crap that goes wrong).
The best silver lining of all is that while I may not get to help develop new tires any time soon, at least I get to keep riding my beloved Michelins.
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