11 January 2007

Time for a Career Switch? Try Grocery Stock Clerk!

Working in college admissions provides me with a lot of job satisfaction (on most days!), but, as I have mentioned before, it does not provide me with a pocketful of $100 bills on a bi-weekly basis. I have grown to accept that (to some extent). I accept that I will be underpaid relative to society - police officers, teachers, doctors, fast food employees, etc.

OK, the fast food thing was a joke....I think.

This week, Money magazine released it's annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For 2007. Surprisingly, my employer was not listed among these fine 100 companies (I was shocked!). My favorite supermarket, however, was ranked #57. Publix is a fine company, and I spent one summer working there in between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I worked in the deli, and it was a decent job until I decided that I could make more money working my own business over the Thanksgiving weekend than I could working in the deli. Apparently, Thanksgiving is a busy time in the grocery business. Who knew?

Florida Today had an article about Publix' ranking today. In the hard copy of the paper, there was a chart that highlighted some of the figures mentioned in the article. The one that stood out for me was the average salary for the most common hourly wage job - grocery stock clerk. On average, these folks make $27,453 per year! More than $27k for stocking groceries! Why did this number, in paricular, leap out at me? The starting salary in my office for an entry level admission counselor is $27,500. An extra $57 per year over the average stock clerk, and yet our office generates nearly 80% of the university's operating budget of about $119 million.

Yes, I know that I am comparing starting salary with average salary. It doesn't matter - the comparison is staggering, and surely doesn't make me feel better about my job. I also don't think that my university is unique in underpaying their admission staff. Admission counselors are charged with recruiting new students, a process that includes many days and nights of business travel - time away from family and friends. Most typical business travelers earn more than the average stock clerk at the supermarket. In addition to recruiting, we are also charged with evaluating prospective students' applications - and holding their hands through the entire process - have you sent your SAT scores? did you send all of your recommendation letters? do you have questions about financial aid? etc. Yes...the people who decide whether or not your children get into college make marginally more than the guy who puts cans of soup on the shelves at the supermarket.

The long-standing perception is that the people who work in the admission office are the people who couldn't get "real jobs" after graduation, so they took this entry-level position until something better comes along. There are some people, though, who find that they truly enjoy representing their university to prospective students - they enjoy seeing families moving students into their residence halls on the first day of Orientation - they take pride in seeing "their" student recruits successfully traverse the stage on the morning of commencement, because they just "KNEW" they were going to make it.

Next time you are at the grocery store picking up a dozen eggs and a jar of pickles, think of the guy moving pallets around the docks and the people back at the university reading your daughter's college application.

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