Hideas: Teachable Moments (or just another way to say crap that goes wrong).

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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  1. TominAlbany says

    When you ask what the position pays and they change the subject? That’s a teaching moment. They never learn though. Do they?

    1. hiflycycling says

      They could easily have just listed the pay range in their job description if they needed to narrow down applicants quickly.

      Salary from another job isn’t even part of the equation – a job is worth a job multiplied by the capabilities of the person hired to perform it. Want awesome performance from an awesome player? Consider awesome pay. Want mediocre performance from a mediocre player? Consider mediocre pay.

      Employees are a company’s most valuable capital – not commodities.

    2. DaveinME says

      Nope, they don’t. I am in the job market and can’t believe the number of job listings that ask for your desired salary. These employers should take the time, consider the position, and what they are asking to have done, and then match the market rates for the position. I went through a three-hour interview a few weeks back and the last question was what did I earn at my last job. I responded that that had no bearing on my applying for the job I was interviewing for and that was that.

  2. Brent says

    It recently became illegal in Connecticut for a prospective employer to ask a candidate what they’re currently making. I don’t know how many other states do this, but I would expect the number to grow over the next couple of years. I’m surprised it is not already done in more leading-edge progressive states like Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, California, Oregon or Washington.

    1. hiflycycling says

      It says lot about the company right away if this is their hiring strategy for sure. I just keep wondering where are all of these amazing work places with progressive, mutually beneficial management-employee relationships are that I keep reading about.

  3. DaveinME says

    Heather – you wrote, “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).”

    This has tormented me for years as a type one diabetic and as soon as I land another remote job I have plans to relocate to Spain where they have single-payer health insurance and getting my meds and supplies is no hassle at all. My wife and I are on a Cobra right now since I was laid off, and the cost for basic coverage is $1,300/month. That is fucking nuts. Even without the cost, the pain of dealing with insurance companies and third party medical distributors would drive anyone insane within minutes. Just getting set up properly with my new health insurance for this year took 6+ hours on the phone.

    1. hiflycycling says

      I’m so sorry, Dave, that’s sucks. I wish we (as a collective society) weren’t so phobic about just discussing a possible solution. Even baby steps – like offering all Americans the same insurance plan our Senators and Representatives get. Then our next step is tackling the parasite.

    2. TominAlbany says

      The problem with disabling the parasite? It’s an industry with thousands of people working those jobs. Now, I’m not using jobs as a way to prop up costs. But, I’ve thought about this a lot with respect to our tax system. The state and national tax systems could be so much simpler, yet still progressive. But then what would we do with all of the tax accountants, HR Blocks, turbotax, etc.

      That the layers were ever created is the catastrophe. Because dismantling them will cause real people real pain.

    3. southcarolinamtb says

      THIS is a big problem that has tormented me for years, too and TomInAlbany brings up a big reason why it perpetuates. There is a powerful industry attached, with lots of employees, lots of big buildings, lots of political donations, even some societal donations (like a hospital system donating to a local NICA chapter, or sponsoring an athletic field). It is a tangled, deep catastrophe.

      Here is something cycling relevant about this, for me anyway. When i think about this mess, you can see it in my Strava. I’m lost in thought, upset about this health care “industry” and I just soft pedal my whole way home. I suspect that I am not the only one that does this. So, for the sake of cycling and segments lost, let’s please get this thing fixed!! 😉

  4. Hautacam says

    Heather, if you’re open to living on the wet side of Washington i can recommend a major employer with awesome benefits… its not in the bike industry but parts of it are bike-adjacent, and it needs lots of people with great communications skills… if you’re interested, ask Padraig for my email, and pm me. I have no hiring pull or clout but i can unreservedly recommend my employer.

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