Friday, August 14, 2009

Love What You Do AND Get Paid!

I don’t like when “but if you love what you’re doing, isn’t it all worth it?” is used as a defense of (or at least a dismissal of) low wages. You’re not saying it in so many words, but what you’re implying is “You don’t love museums enough. You don’t love them as much as I do.” As far as I’m concerned no one’s enthusiasm for their chosen career is in question here. You can be an extremely passionate, talented artist, but that doesn’t mean your art is going to pay the bills. Fortunately for these “starving artist” types art can be done at any hour of the day, and they can still get 9-5 jobs to pay the bills. Museos do not have this option. Museum work has to be done during the normal 9-5 work day. Sometimes (often) it goes longer than that, but that doesn’t make the hours flexible. It doesn’t mean you can do museum work fueled entirely by passion and talent. That 9-5 job (museums) has to pay the bills. It has to. There isn’t another option.

Museum workers are people, not just cogs in the museum machine. Passion is important. No one has claimed it isn’t, but passion doesn’t put food on the table or pay the rent. Arguing for more passion amongst museum workers is, from what I’ve seen, like saying we need more love of food amongst chefs, or that librarians should be a bit more enthusiastic about books. People are passionate. That isn’t what the problem is. Stop dismissing the problem on those terms.

One solution (or at least stop-gap) for the salary problem is that organizations that post job listings can take a stand and refuse to list jobs below a certain salary threshold. I believe the University of Leicester Jobs Desk did this several years ago when the national museums in the UK were offering very low starting wages. If jobs clearinghouses worked this into their stated policies perhaps there would be less of an inclination to stiff employees. Or perhaps more employers would try to get around it by not listing a salary. What do you think?

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