Friday, April 9, 2010

Financial suicide

posted Tue, 19 Sep 2006

I sent my resume to this non-profit consulting agency last week. The words “non-profit” scared me, because they equate to “low salary” in my mind, but the job description included the words “MBA” and “experienced,” so I thought maybe the money would be decent. How could they get experienced MBAs otherwise?

It was for a cool job, too -- consulting to small businesses in the Delta. I love micro-enterprise development. It’s what I did in the Peace Corps. I love figuring out how to make businesses work better. You can do that in any business environment, but you see results so much faster with small businesses. You go into a mom and pop operation and identify and solve the problems they didn’t even know they had – it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

I was pretty sure they would call me – I threw all the right non-profit buzzwords into my cover letter: micro-enterprise, indigenous women, Peace Corps, co-op. These words matched the spirit of the company’s website, which emphasized that they serve women and minority-owned businesses. I don’t care about that stuff – I care about people-owned businesses, but I was telling them what they wanted to hear. Marketing, you know.

Sure enough. I got home from lunch with a friend and found a message from them on my answering machine. I called and the woman interviewed me right then and there. Kinda surprised me, but whatever. I mean, the job is in Memphis. I could have gone to their office. It’s two miles from my house.

I’ve gotten into the swing of interviews, I think. I think. The interview is going well. I’m giving all the right Peace Corps answers. Fortunately, they happen to be true. I loved my Peace Corps job. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life. Truly. I worked with a group of indigenous women who woved and sold their traditional textiles in a small store. My job was to make them profitable. We never got to profitable, but we got to considerably less unprofitable. (I discovered it’s hard to motivate people to make the tough decisions if they keep their jobs no matter what, which is what happens when the office staff salaries are paid by a grant.)

After about 15 minutes, she tells me that because they are a non-profit, there is not much room for negotiation on pay. I don’t think she’s making me an offer, just trying to figure out if we should bother talking any further. She says, “All our consultants start at $X. Would that be acceptable?”

$Y is what I made last year. $X = $Y/3.

True, it’s $X more than I am making right now, but it’s one-third of what I made last year. ONE-THIRD.

It is also the same salary I made in 1988. Which was two years before I went to grad school. Not to be a snob or anything, but before I went to a top-20 grad school. And got a 4.0 GPA.

“No,” I say as politely as I can. “No, it would not.”

I have wondered if I would have the guts to turn down the wrong job. Now I know.

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