When I was in high school, a guidance counselor tried to give me a breakdown of the salaries various types of people could expect to earn. A high school dropout would be lucky to earn $18k a year. A high school graduate would be able to make $20-25k. A college degree would bump you farther to $30-35.
Before I began my career, this was the only advice I’d ever gotten about salary expectations. Ironically, every potential employer since then has asked me for my salary requirements during the interview process. Not knowing what to actually expect, I once took a job that only paid $25k because I believed the company president when he told me that was what I was worth.
This set the tone for much of my career. I did what I could to earn an extra 5% here or 10% there, advancing from junior to senior positions and chasing after a loftier position with increased responsibilities. I’ve always wanted to follow an upwards-pointing career trajectory, and that covers both what I do and how I’m compensated.
One day, I’d like to have a C-level position. But the current trend for C-level executives to take salaries of just $1 is disheartening.
Often, compensation in a position is equated with the achievement that position represents. You get a promotion and a raise, not a promotion and a pay-cut. We look at CEOs with so-called “golden parachutes” with disdain, but really, they’ve earned their new income through the positions they’ve held and the jobs they’ve performed.
I’ve worked my ass off to get where I am today, and I would challenge anyone who alleges that I’m earning more than I deserve in my position.
Seeing CEOs herald their $1 salary makes me question what they’ve achieved in their lofty positions. On the one hand, it’s inspiring to see someone make such a sacrifice (forgoing a million-dollar salary) for the sake of their company. On the other hand, for someone leading large enterprises, to take such a ridiculous salary requires you to be independently wealthy in the first place.
I have trouble respecting a multi-million dollar company headed by a CEO who takes next to no salary staffed by hard-working men and women earning far less than the CEO is forgoing in the first place.
I work hard to do what I do, and I have an objective to one day hold a higher position with more leadership potential. I hope that comes with more than a $1 salary, though, because I definitely think anyone who’s worked hard enough to earn a salary that reflects their effort and responsibility.
Frankly, the $1 salary club is a gimmick; one for which I hold absolutely zero respect.