£480k per week for David Beckham? A mere £240k per week for Wayne Rooney? Is it just me, or has the world gone mad? I’m not denying that they may be very good at what they do but it feels like, for the last 10 years, I’ve been fighting a battle to keep young people’s salary expectations realistic against the media’s very public obsession with footballer earnings and ‘get-rich-quick’ reality TV stars.
It worries me that lots of the young people I have worked with over the last decade seem to think that it is impossible to live even comfortably unless you are earning a 6 figure salary (and preferably one that doesn’t start with a ‘1’). I cringe as I think back to a session I did about 12 months ago with a class of young adults. I gave the answer “about £12-15,000” when I was asked to say how much an entry level receptionist could expect to earn in London, only to be asked genuinely “is that per month?”
Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect the media to change (and, many would argue, why should they?) but it would be nice to think that our young people were growing up in a society where they were not constantly bombarded with examples of people earning huge (and largely unrealistic) amounts through doing - relatively speaking - very little. From what I have witnessed professionally over the last decade I worry that many young people really do lack an understanding of the value of money, of what constitutes a decent wage, and the role that hard work plays in its acquisition. Mostly, I worry that there are too many people out there for whom money has become the only symbol of success and work happiness. This is leading them to make inappropriate career decisions by discounting lesser-paid jobs (but not necessarily badly-paid jobs) that they could actually be very good at, and do very well in.
Young people, take heed: it really isn’t all about the money. I understand that money is strong motivator for many, I really do. But whilst considering the other important factors in career choice (enjoyment, matching personal values, intellectual challenge, using your skills etc), have a good long think about how much money you really NEED to earn in order to live a comfortable lifestyle. It may just open up a whole set of suitable opportunities that you haven’t yet considered.