Has this ever happened to you? You see a job you would love to do and would be fantastic opportunity; it highlights all your key skills and seems to be made for you to shine; you admire the company, resonate with its values, and have great rapport with the team. You apply, are made an offer and the reality sinks in when you see the figure on the page. It is much lower than you expected or had previously earnt, and takes you back a step.
However, by this time you are emotionally invested in the company. You may have seen your new workspace, have started imagining a future working there, and begun (at least in your mind) to detach yourself from your current role.
What do you do? Do you take the job as is? Do you try to negotiate a slightly better rate? Do you hold out as a deal breaker and risk losing it all?
And what do you do about the disappointment and possible offence and hurt at being valued below your worth?
Arts Hub recently published a report on salaries in the arts, Salary Survey reveals Hard facts about our Sector.
The findings were that salaries in the Arts sector are:
- Lower than average
- Women lower again
- No real change expected
So in this environment – how do you progress your career and take care of your financial needs.
Financial wellbeing is one of the four pillars of wellness, which include, Career, Heath, Wealth and lifestyle. Andrea Warr, founder of WiserLife, an agency that follows a Whole Life approach to wellbeing, with companies and individuals, states in a recent article, “What is Well Being?” . “Wellbeing is unique to each individual and has added complexities based on life phase or age or gender or ethnicity or personality traits. Wellbeing can be about fixing a problem created by a trigger event that highlights an aspect of life that needs to be addressed. Wellbeing is also about prevention and building the foundations of a more healthy and productive longer life.”
The Japanese believe that practicing selfcare is a duty of each citizen to a well working society. Even the youngest children in Japan learn from the family, school, community, and nation how to be members of Japanese society. In each group, a child learns the self-discipline and commitment expected to be a supportive and responsible group member. The family, school, and nation all take on important roles in teaching the child the rules and norms of society. A child in Japan is a member of the "national family." All Japanese children are cared for by the whole society, and all Japanese adults help teach the norms and customs of the society. Children learn that the group is more important than the individual, and that the individual should not stand out, however, a strong sense of wellbeing and contribution to the whole creates a better functioning nation.
It therefore makes sense that good selfcare is the duty of arts workers if they are to contribute to the success of their practice, their careers and their companies.
But what do you do, when the employment practices (including remuneration) of the company or organisation (or the sector as a whole) work against you taking care of one fundamental tenet – financial security and self management?
I believe the issue of appropriate remuneration and opportunities for career progression is one that the sector has to take up as a whole as part of its promotion of wellbeing and safe work practices. Initiatives such as How Can the Show Go On and Melbourne Arts Collective – all specifically tailored to the needs of the arts sector, incorporating tools and strategies from positive psychology, as well as resources from clinical psychology to help improve understanding of mental health issues, their prevention and treatment.
For too long, the sector has worked in a culture of self-sacrifice to a vision or cause, and neglected the base needs of artists and workers. This change will not come if we rely on the policy makers and leaders to do it for us – because they are not the ones feeling this pain.
We need to make choices that support our own wellbeing – changing our mindset from a world of scarcity to one of adequacy. That is that we deserve to be adequately remunerated for our efforts and accepting anything less is doing a disservice to ourselves and others.
Of course this higher mind state is difficult to maintain when you really, really, want that job and know you will be happy there. However I suggest you take a step back and check what the impact will be on your four pillars of wellbeing and will it throw you out of balance.
Because as soon as one pillar is knocked sideways, your house will start to feel shaky and will be at risk at falling down. Is any one job really worth that and do you really want to work for an organisation that undervalues its workers: their skills, knowledge and contribution.