Here I stand, a well-educated art student, working on a third degree in art. I can knit, knot, crochet, candle-make, sew clothes, screenprint, draw, darn, etch and sketch, print with a letterpress or an inkjet, and sculpt or carve most mediums. I can tell the difference between a 1/0 and a 2/0 needle file and tell you the correct way to make burs in linoleum block. Oh, and I do metal-work/jewelry, photography and graphic design professionally (in my spare time, ha!).
Oh yes, and I have a hungry child to feed, and a few extra hours available in the tight cracks between classes, which is why I was knocking on the door of my former employer, a craft store located in every small town in America. Seven years ago, I happily worked there and made about $9/hr. Surely, with a dual degree in Graphic Design and Photography, and a third art degree in process, I’d make a bit more, right?
I landed myself in a new city and seeking some quick cash, hit the applications. On a tip, I applied for a position at this certain craft store. The manager was massively impressed with my mad skills and offered to create a position that would best utilize many of my well=rounded range of talents and interests. The second interview brought great expectations of the enormous help I could provide the store, especially since I’ve previously worked there and was familiar with every aspect of the store.
One minor detail, the hiring manager failed to mention: they pay minimum wage. No, not minimum wage to unskilled new hirees, but minimum wage to EVERY applicant who walks in, regardless of skill level or background. They knew I wouldn’t possibly accept minimum wage, so they did me the favor of bumping that figure up 65 cents. $8.25! The hiring manager asked how I felt about that glorious wage offer and I stammered I hadn’t made less than $10 for most of my working career. And the degrees! The manager insisted she felt morally obliged to pay me more than 1/32 of what I was worth… but… well, she couldn’t because lower level management didn’t make much more than the offer on the table.
Although the economical climate has changed in seven years, one would surely expect a more qualified applicant to make at least the same as she made at the employer seven years ago. How has it become acceptable practice that one would insult a college grad by offering a mere eight twenty-five an hour? Seriously?!
Now, the devil’s advocate that happily resides in the crooked corners of my mind chides me, reminding me that some money is better than nomoney… right? I mean, I enjoyed working there, didn’t I? And do I really have the time and patience to reestablish myself as a Graphic Designer in this temporary village of residence? nah…
So back to my $8.25 per hour. Figure in tax I’ll be paying in my village of residence and then again in the town of my employment, plus the gas and time required for the hour-long roundtrip down back roads on a good-traffic day. (As in one where I don’t get stuck behind a tractor or caught in rush hour, and it doesn’t precipitate in any way whatsoever) I can’t forget about the time it takes to drop my son off at daycare while I’m gone.
Here’s the kicker: for a five hour shift, when I factor in an hour and a half for drive time on a sunny day, minus taxes and the cost of 3 gallons of gas… not including car maintenance, upkeep or insurance or the cost of my uniform and it’s upkeep
… I’d be making a whopping $3.54 per hour, which might help defray the cost of the babysitter. So much for getting a college degree.
[Insert maniacal laugh here]