What’s in a salary?

The past few months have given me ample opportunity to consider the complexities and annoyances of job applications.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about them, it’s that they’re like snowflakes, but far less pretty to look at. Two are never quite the same. Even the wonderful, thoughtful, delightful companies that ask only for a CV and cover letter take individual consideration of wording and approach.

The thing that annoys me most is not the variety, but the application forms that basically ask you to type out the content of your CV all over again, except this time in specific boxes in a specific order. Why? Employers: you’ll read the exact same information on my CV, but use far less of my time to do it.

I don’t mind the individually tailored questions that come with this type of application, they’re more than fair; they get to see how you react to certain situations and gain knowledge of your thoughts on various topics and ways of working. But really, why do you need my name, address and various other standard bits of information all in different boxes?

Until today I thought this was the most frustrating thing I could ask for. Perhaps frustrating is the wrong word here. Perplexing would be more suited. Today I was asked what my target salary is. This is a question anyone would be able to answer much easier when applying for their second or third job after university, but how to decide what we consider a fair starting point?

Ask too low and we may find our hands snapped off by recession-struck employers, but be paid below average for a job that deserves a bigger pay packet at the end of the month, with the added risk of not being able to cover our own finances. Ask too high and the opposite will apply: we may not get anywhere in the job market for others requesting less or we may find ourselves going for jobs out of our depth.

So how to pick a figure that reflects our position? One figure most certainly won’t apply to all graduates. Profession, degree and industry and obviously contributing factors, but I believe the experience we can bring to a business should also be reflected in a wage. Someone with less experience may require more training and more money spent on them, and this may need to be balanced in their salary.

What if this isn’t the only factor though? Whatever salary I think appropriate, the location of the job needs to be taken into account: salaries need to be higher in the South to accommodate for higher living costs, while those around my current area should take into account commuting costs; can I afford to earn £15,000 a year if half of that would be spent on petrol or train fares? Probably not.

Of course, there’s the major factor I’ve only lightly touched upon: the recession. If I get any job offers at all the media is telling me I’m more fortunate than I could ever have expected to be this year and should take it grovelling for little more than would fit in a small brown envelope at the end of the month.

Or maybe I could go back to delivering newspapers on my bike, like the last time I was paid in that format.

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One thought on “What’s in a salary?

  1. It’s not necessarily about the salary. It could be about those added benefits that come with employment. For example, some major companies provide private health and dental care for their employees and that is reflected in a lower salary. Likewise, there is the consideration of employee pension pots. You could look at a “golden” hello, for example, the £3-6,000 bursary for qualified teachers in their first year of employment.

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