What’s My Worth?

Three jobs were recently brought to my attention. The first was for the VP of Special Events at an entertainment company, another was short term freelance work at a performing arts school and the last one was a typo at a newspaper.

I received a call from an in-house recruiter at a movie studio who asked if I’d be interested in coming in to meet with them about the job. “Absolutely,” I said. I emailed him my resume, then waited. And waited. I dropped him another line the following week. “I’m waiting to hear back from the hiring manager and once I do, I’ll be in touch. Thanks,” he wrote two days later. He never was in touch.

I had a former colleague and two friends lob calls and emails into the company. These are well respected industry heavy hitters. Still no response.

Three weeks later I emailed the recruiter again. A few days later he wrote back, “Nice to hear from you. At this time I am told that there are a few candidates the EVP has been speaking with. I should know more in the next few weeks. I will keep you posted should anything change.” Huh?

How did I go from ‘we’d like to meet you’ to leper so quickly? I found out that at least two people were interviewed for the job. One a manager from another entertainment company and the other in events at a newspaper. Their mid level titles indicated that I was out of the price range.

I’m too expensive. Or at least I’m perceived to be. They were looking for cheap, inexpensive, low-budge. It seems that many companies are going that way. Why pay for experience when you can get someone for half the price? Budget-cutting is the new black.

During those six weeks, I had mixed feelings about going back into the same job I had once held. On the one hand I knew the job, the players, and the frenetic pace. It’s comfortable. It would have been turn-key. But there was a pang in my gut telling me to move forward not back. The fact was that I had been bored with my last job for at least three years so getting back into the same position in a new company could have made me miserable. Familiarity breeds contempt.

“You need a new stage, not a repeat performance,” a good friend texted me. He was absolutely right. I want to learn something new so I will stay engaged and interested in my work.

I heard that the woman from the newspaper got the job. My only disappointment was for the people who had gone to bat for me. The company didn’t even give me a courtesy interview for their sake. But maybe it was for the best that I didn’t interview. If I had met with them and didn’t get the job I would have felt bad.

A few days ago I had an interview at a performing arts school for possible freelance work. Their events manager was leaving and it coincided with their two biggest annual events of the year, so they were in a major bind. I met with five people at once. This doesn’t bother me as I’d rather get it over with instead of sitting in a frigid conference room as people come and go for five hours (see blog post The Similarities Between a Tech Company Interview and Waterboarding). As it turned out, the head of the department knew my brother! Small world!

The meeting went very well. They were looking to either hire a new manager or find a freelancer to fill in until they found someone permanent. Since the manager job was well below my experience, I was looking to freelance. The HR person met with me alone after the meeting to discuss my fee. How do you put a price on your experience? I first asked her what their budget was for these projects. She skirted around and didn’t answer but told me what the manager made per year. I had thought about my last salary and divided that down to an hourly rate. Then I took $25 an hour OFF of that and made it a lump sum per project (I know, if I were a man, I would have ADDED $25 an hour). Part of me thought I had undercut myself and the other part of me thought I was way overpriced.

Turns out it was the latter. I’m not sure if they can find a freelancer who will work 40 hours a week for less, so they are continuing to try to fill the permanent position. I happen to know someone who would be a great fit and suggested they interview her…she’s meeting with them today. If you aren’t suited for a job, then suggest someone else who might be. I believe in good karma!

Two weeks ago I saw a job posting on Career Builder. It was for an Associate Director of Special Events at a newspaper. The listing read $350,000 in bold! Now, I’ve worked in events for a very long time — ain’t nobody getting $350K as an Associate Director, Director, VP or SVP! What a huge misprint for a newspaper! So, for shits and giggles, I applied.

A week later, I received an email from the Director of Events saying that he was looking to fill this position quickly and would I be available to come in the next day. Sure, of course I can (after yoga). He wrote back with a huge email listing everything that he wanted to discuss during the interview. This included the seven large events they have each year (“come with questions and ideas on their current events”); list the five largest projects I’ve worked on; a summary of my history supervising a team of employees and vendors; a summary of my history with regard to managing the P&L for an event including best success stories; and a couple of examples running difficult sponsor integrations/activations. Sure, no problem.

And finally, the last question: “So that neither of us wastes time on something that is not a good fit, can you let me know minimally where you’d need to be on salary in order to consider the position?”

I wrote back that I was confirmed to meet him at 1PM and was looking forward to it! I pretended not to see the salary question. I figured that I should just take the meeting and we could discuss money in person. How far south of $350K could he be? Turns out he was in Antarctica!

He wrote back saying that he understood the questions he was asking were a lot to turn around in less than 24 hours (true, but I could do it). “Also, if you have any insight into my compensation question please let me know. I just want to make sure we’re on the same page before you drive down here.” I wrote back my minimum salary requirement. It was $75K BELOW my former salary.

“Shoot, that’s going to be out of our range,” he wrote. The maximum was ANOTHER $75K LESS than my minimum. “Let me know if that’s in your wheelhouse” he wrote. Uh, no, it’s not in my wheelhouse, boathouse, bathhouse or any other type of house I don’t own. Geez, for everything that the position is asking for, they were paying next to nothing!

I wrote back that unfortunately the salary was too low for me, but that I was available for freelance work if he were interested in moving in that direction. Also, I wrote, “you should know that the Career Builder ad listed the job at $350K” and included a screenshot. I bet he had to put a diaper on after reading that.

If you haven’t already figured it out, the woman who was the Associate Director at the newspaper got the VP job at the movie studio. She moved up. But what happens when you are at the top of your game, then what? It’s a smaller square footage to move around in at the top of the pyramid. Your resume is impressive but perceived to be expensive so you don’t even get an interview. You interview but what seems logical in price scale for you is absurd to the organization. You discuss minimum compensation requirements only to find that they are a 26 hour flight south of what you can afford to live off of.

What do you do now? You stay positive and move forward. You think about freelancing…or if that crazy idea you once had could work…

Stay tuned.


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