I struggle to discuss salary with you, job seekers, and even more when it comes to discussing how flexible you are. Interestingly, I have no problem calling you up at work entirely out of the blue, introducing myself, and essentially letting you know that what you’ve been doing in your professional life has been great, but that you could do better. The audacity and brashness of the concept is remarkable, but I’m comfortable with it, as if I was ordering takeout from the chicken place around the corner. But once the conversation reaches salary discussions, I clam up and get nervous like it’s Valentine’s Day and I’m back in my fifth grade classroom. But why?
In December 2014 I found myself at an event mingling with the senior partners and the head of a business discussing goals for the upcoming year. It was a snazzy affair, and I was in between some relatively successful people – thankfully nobody noticed that I had no business being there, but I acted like I did. The topic of goals for 2015 went around the circle – some said they wished for greater “fulfillment,” more “happiness,” more “satisfaction,” and other ambiguous concepts which sounded like they came directly from a bad Hallmark card. One person, however, said flat-out that in 2015 they wished for more money. I paused, and nearly choked on the twelve-dollar hors-d’oeuvre I was munching on.
That pause I experienced that day is super similar to the hesitation I have when discussing salary with you, job seekers. Somehow, I had this conception ingrained in my mind that discussing money out loud was a negatively-viewed, dirty thing of sorts, better off mumbled and skipped over quickly rather than openly dwelling on it. Motivated by…money? What about company culture, employee engagement, passion, mindfulness, and all that other good stuff that blogs, articles, and speeches preach about endlessly? Does money as an open personal and professional motivation really have a place in 2015?
The answer is: absolutely. The drive to make money is an excellent motivator, hands-down. We all have our own personal reasons to make it, but regardless of how much passion we have for our career, most landlords and credit card companies only accept cash – and we get up every day going to work knowing this. Passion is necessary to have a career that is worth anything in a spiritual sense (and I’m a firm believer in this), but passion won’t ever pay our bills. We drag ourselves out of bed every day to make money, and if someone is not motivated by money, at least in the most basic sense, I probably wouldn’t want them on my team.
I grew up in a traditional Italian family that, like most Italian families I know in the community, is deeply motivated by money, and isn’t afraid to display it. Yet, it remains a taboo topic of sorts in my family – a new car, house, or vacation is something to be acknowledged with a silent nod, and swept under the rug. It’s as if our bills and basic luxuries were paid by a generous, abstract force of nature. The concept is avoided outright. Sure, my father used to teach me the value of money, of being careful with it; but never did he say to me “money is good, kid – go get it, and hurry the hell up.” I wish he had.
The desire for money has been given an alias in the context of our modern public sphere to mask some stigma that we have been told surrounds it: we call it “success” instead of openly saying “this person made a hell of a lot of cash.” Of course, being successful does not only imply making piles of money, but I’d hesitate to suggest that the majority of people use the term “successful” for someone who is overflowing with happiness in their professional career – those people are happy, fulfilled – but not “successful” as we tend to define it.
The drive for making money helps us work hard. I own my work in a way that I never have before because of the fact that (potential) piles of money depend on it. Someone is dangling a future, a dream, a vision on a string in front of me – it’s up to me to reach out and grab it. Still, let me be clear: larger social forces should not dictate one’s definition of success. Everyone has different levels of “success” (i.e. money) that they’d like to achieve, constructed by and for the self – what’s enough for me might be way too little for you. And that’s great. Don’t compare your level of success to someone else’s – but definitely have your own level, be proud of it, and go get enough money to hit that level. Work hard, invest yourself, and make sure your personal stake (i.e. your desire for money) in your work is high, and your work will reflect it. Go hard for those pesos – your company will thank you for it.
– Stefano Faustini, Headhunter/ Recruiter – Pronexia Inc.