Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Glamour Jobs Don’t Pay the Bills

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress or singer. Someone famous. Actually, I really wanted to grow up and become exactly what this woman was in the late 70s/early 80s:

I didn't really "get" that acting and singing required, you know, talent. Ironically, I learned I had neither of those talents when I auditioned for my first musical in high school: Grease. I landed a role as one of the people who stand in the background and sing.

Throughout high school, I learned I was my drama teacher's choice for human background scenery. That's okay...unless you're a megastar, actors and singers make very little money.

In college, I chose broadcast journalism as my major. I started out working at the radio station. One night while working at my part-time job at the movie theater, the morning DJ I'd been listening to for most of my adolescence was there for an event. 

I told him what my major was. His advice. "Major in something else. Radio DJs don't make any money."

I don't think I quite grasped what he was saying. I switched to TV journalism. I even did an internship. I spent countless hours at my college TV station. Senior year, I started investigating the average starting salary for a TV reporter.

Back then it was $12,000-$15,000...and you had to move to a "small market." My classmates graduated and moved across the country. Today starting salaries are in the mid-20s, with the overall average for TV reporters of all experience levels in the high $30,000s.

After college, I accepted a job in PR. For six years I did that job, topping out at $23, 1999. Then I was offered a huge pay raise to go into I.T. HUGE.

I tried to leave, since taking computers apart was not my thing. I learned to do that, I'd have to take a ten percent pay cut. I stayed...and stayed...and stayed. Techie jobs paid better than anything else where I worked. When I started writing freelance, I learned something else. If you can write about tech and finance, you can make more money than writing about most other topics.

Supply vs. demand. If you can get someone to take a TV reporter's job for $23,000 a year in Nowheresville, Iowa, why pay $30,000? Or $40,000? People are lining up to stand in front of a camera in a corn field somewhere for little to no pay, after all.

Plus, if you ask a classroom full of kids what they want to be when they grow up, how many say, "I want to be a software developer" or "I want to manage a company's network security infrastructure?"

I'm guessing none.

What did you want to be when you grew up?