I’m a 25-year-old content creator and marketer with my own freelance business. I’ve been in business for a year and a half, and I’ve been out of school in the working world for five years. I’ve worked for a variety of companies under different agreements over the past five years–– full time, part time, temporary, contracted, project-based, internship. I’ve worked for for-profits, startups, non-profits.
I worked full time for a startup that crashed and burned–– a situation where the owner lied his way out of paying me thousands of dollars owed for my work; a situation which also inspired me to start my own business and set my own rates. So I’ve been through a LOT in just five years in the working world, and that experience now dictates the rates I charge in my own business.
So you can imagine how frustrated I was when I got a job offer from a start-up that put me through multiple assessments, multiple interviews, and made me put together a case study of my past work…. Only to offer me $15/hour for the same work I charge $50/hour in my own business.
Now, running your own business is hard, and sometimes you really need consistent hourly work each week to stabilize your revenue. This job offer was for 15 hours a week–– but at $15/hour, that’s way less than I receive for my hourly work at my part-time gig at the gym (and gymnastics is a low paying industry).
I can easily see how someone who’s desperate for stable income could snatch up that job. I’ve been there. Hell, I’m there right now.
But I immediately rejected that job offer. Why? Because if I accepted that job, I would also be accepting a devaluation of all my experience.
You should almost NEVER accept a pay cut, and here’s why...
Experience = Value
In a capitalist society that bases your value directly on your experience, that means– on paper –your value you cannot possibly go down. As long as you’re gaining experience in a given field, your value goes up. That’s why a Millennial taking a pay cut, in almost all situations, is a SCAM.
Millennials haven’t been in the working world for very long, so naturally we have less experience. That means less value. But since experience dictates value in this society, your value goes nowhere but up.
If your value isn’t based on education (and employers are caring less and less about your education), if your value is truly based on the skills you have and the experience you’re steadily gaining as you age, then your value can only grow with time. Any employer that tries to convince you different is trying to take advantage of you.
Many Internships Are Scams
Internships are meant to give you some experience to start with, but instead many companies use them to take advantage of desperate Millennial workers.
Internships and jobs that promise to “pay you in experience” should only EVER be starting positions. If you already have relevant experience and a company offers you a job that “pays you in experience,” DO NOT ACCEPT. That company has no respect for you and there’s no mobility in a company that devalues you from before you even start the job.
You know why some places ask you what you used to make at your old job? Because they want to get an idea of how past companies have valued you, and what they can get away with when it comes to valuing your work.
Advocate For Yourself
If our society demands pay based on experience, then there’s absolutely no reason why a Millennial who’s been in the job market for a number of years should take anything less than they’re making now. Your pay needs to go up.
If you’ve been at the same company for more than a year, haven’t gotten a raise, and don’t have a raise scheduled, you need to ask for one.
It doesn’t matter if you’re working at Edward Jones with an offer from IFC or you’re working at McDonald’s with an offer from KFC.
YOUR VALUE ONLY GOES UP.
Accept nothing less than what you deserve and continue advocating for more.
And if you’re like me and you work for yourself, you need to be steadily valuing yourself higher as you gain more experience. It’s tough, but you need to demonstrate to clients and potential clients that your value, just like everyone else’s, only goes up with the experience you gain.
The Rare Times To Accept a Pay Cut
As Millennials, there are few times one should ever take a pay cut. We’re at the beginning of our careers and most of us can’t even afford life on our current incomes.
The only time you should ever accept a pay cut is when:
There’s a written timeline of when your pay will rise back up.
You’re taking a risk on a start-up that needs low starting costs and you can handle it financially.
You’re doing work that’s greater than yourself and you can handle it financially (IE. non-profits work)
You’re starting in a new career field where you have less experience.
In a working society that demands experience as the basis for value, Millennials must NEVER accept an employer devaluing their experience. The next time you get a job offer for less than you’re making now, you tell that employer exactly why you’re refusing the offer: YOU ARE WORTH MORE.
And to all the employers out there looking to squeeze a low pay rate out of an experienced Millennial with the hope that they’ll give into their desperation and accept your shitty, low-paying job–– good fucking luck. When you don’t value your workers at what they’re worth, you’re going to start losing good workers. Stop thinking with your wallet. Start thinking with your brain.