You really are undervalued. That’s the good news.

For us work a day folks in the media and marketing professions we’re in a wage depression. (Yeah, we really should be using the d word and not the r word.) If your name isn’t a household brand or you at least have meetings in the c-suite, likely your wages have either taken a hit at some point over the last five years or you’ve had to lower expectations about future wages.

Sure, there are some exceptions out there. If you are a programmer, app builder, work in metrics or you’re selling the sauce of the day. But who I’m talking to are the folks in the trenches cranking out a higher and higher volume of stuff everyday. If you’re a veteran, you’re probably looking around and thinking what happened to my industry? If you’re a youngster you’re probably thinking this isn’t what I signed up for.

It’s not your fault and you’re not imagining things. As an employee, from the 90s till the late 2010 when I opened my own business I felt a gradual and then increasing pressure to do more with less. And frankly it got pretty nutty in the end.

Now that I’m a small business owner, I’m finding it necessary to create the same pressure for my crews to do more with less that I experienced from my bosses. It’s easy to point fingers but in the end useless. What’s really at work here is market forces. The banks failed, corporations shrank their budgets, people got fired and all of a sudden a sellers market became a buyers all the way down the food chain.

With products or even natural resources, the supply can be shrunk to meet demand. Not labor. Labor has to work or we don’t eat. People will work for anything that beats an unemployment check. The unemployment rate may be 7% but current labor participation rate is at historic lows, that means there are pretty large number of folks willing to step into your job who will probably work even cheaper than you. Sure, corporate profits are doing really well for the companies that make up the Dow but that doesn’t mean they’re going to pay us poor slobs any more than they have to. Capital is doing well because they’re paying less in labor. The last time I was laid off in 2010, I was pretty certain I’d be starting Fluid Films, but I took a few interviews anyway. I was literally offered half of what I was making before. For more on how to look at “jobs numbers”, there’s a pretty decent article here.

As an entrepreneur, I’m in control of how my budgets are spent but the pressure to be cheap is still tremendous. My budgets just aren’t what they used to be. And I often work with what five years ago would be considered a skeleton crew but today is normal. Truth be told, we are more efficient than we used to be.

Now the good news. QE may be nearing an end. That means the Federal Reserve no longer is feeling like they must artificially influence the market. A sign that there’s a consensus that the economy may now have taken all of it’s losses and is starting on it’s way up. (Yes, the Dow has been up awhile but the Dow is not main street.) This means over time, just as in the 1930s, the labor participation will rise again and your skills will be in more demand.

Posted on: December 9, 2013, by :