A fun one from the archive (2007)
I came across this article from MarketWatch on the Ten most overpaid jobs in the U.S. and thought it was worthy of discussing. I don’t want to focus on whether these occupations are overpaid or not (I’m sure the people working in these roles would disagree with the author), but instead on what we can all learn from this article. First here is a list of the ten occupations:
- Wedding photographers
- Major airline pilots
- West Coast longshoremen
- Skycaps at major airports
- Real estate agents selling high end homes
- Motivational speakers and ex-politicians on the lecture circuit
- CEOs of poorly performing companies
- Washed-up pro athletes in long-term contracts
- Mutual-fund managers
Next, here is my list of some of the common threads amongst the ten occupations chosen by Chris Pummer of CBS MarketWatch with the input from anonymous compensation experts, and an academic examination of how someone might approach the “problem” of increasing their income by looking at these common threads:
- Create a situation where meeting your demands becomes an extremely attractive alternative to not meeting them. Some people would refer to this as identifying points of leverage.
- Banding together with other highly skilled co-workers into a union is one approach that people take.
- Another is to take create sufficient revenue for an organization so that the company doesn’t want to risk interruption of that cashflow.
- People are afraid of someone messing up their wedding photos, their investments, or their safe journey.
- Put yourself in a position to directly protect a customer’s memories, finances, or their life itself.
- Pro-actively create the perception that it is the usual way of doing things for a customer to tip you or pay you a percentage of their bill (regardless how big).
- The people at the airport taking your bags at the check-in counter do the same job as curbside check-in (they give you a ticket and check your bag), but we all believe it is accepted practice to tip the curbside check-in person and not the person at the check-in counter inside. We tip a “waiter” for taking our order and giving us food and drink, but we don’t do the same for the “cashier” at McDonald’s do we?
- Organize the people in your “profession” and work to create barriers to entry that can be used to control supply.
- Trade unions do this to some extent with apprenticeship programs and the like.
- In addition to Orthodonists, Pharmacists and Veterinarians have been accused of this.
- Identifying a job that most people wouldn’t want to take, but where a highly qualified person is desired, can result in a job that might pay quite well.
- If you are a supervisor, try to position yourself to supervise the group of people in your organization that makes more money than the group you supervise now (usually a supervisor will make more than the people he/she supervises).
- Most talented managers won’t take on a position at a struggling company, and as a result the company will either have to over-pay to get good talent to join or be satisfied with hiring people who want to stay in the local area or couldn’t get hired by a better performing company in the industry. If you have a tolerance for risk, seek out opportunities at underperforming companies in your industry and play up the career risk about moving from your successful company to their unsuccessful one in the compensation discussions.
Would it be wrong for an individual or a group of employees to look to game these common threads consciously?
Organizations are constantly looking for ways to put downward pressure on wages, so would it be wrong for individuals to look after their own self-interests and attempt to maximize their ability to take care of their family?
I would argue that it is the responsibility of the individual to protect their own self-interests and look to maximize their wages in the same way it is the responsibility of the organization to look to minimize wages for the self-interest of the shareholders.
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