Saturday, July 26, 2008

Q: Where do the competent go?

A: Away

The other day we had the random good fortune of meeting a young couple and having them share some refreshments with us at our big ass dining room table. (Click here to see the big ass dining room table.)

Turns out that the husband is a former aeronautics engineer turned filmmaker.

We got to talking about the aeronautics engineering business.

He told me a story. It goes like this:

It was his review time at his employer, a very, very big company that put satellites into orbit. His boss sat him down and gave him a marginal raise.

My new guest was taken aback.

He said to his boss, “Look, I do just as much work as anybody here and I am paid less than most of them. I could easily go to your competitor and get 20% more than what I make here. And, then in a year or two you’ll try to hire me back and have to pay me another 20% more. So why don’t you just save yourself 40% and give me a decent raise now?”

His boss replied, “Look, if I bump you up to what you are really worth, I’ll have to bump everybody up. And, that’s not something that I am willing to do. Anyway, when you come back you’ll be more valuable.”

At that point my guest decided to quit aeronautic engineering and go to film school. He just didn't want to be in a business where, if you are at all competent, the only way you can realize your worth is to keep moving around to the highest bidder.

Makes sense to me.

So the next time that some recruiter calls me up and puts me in touch with an HR person that wants so know why I move around so much, I’ll have a ready answer: “… because I am competent.”


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