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Do I Really Have to Take an Entry-Level Job?

Dear Stanley,
I am a recent college grad with a BA in Marketing and a minor in Business Administration. I spent the last four and a half years going to college, and now it seems as though I will be spending the same amount of time looking for a career. Everyone wants experience, but no one is willing to give it to me. Not to be arrogant, but I genuinely believe that I am worth more than $28k per year. Have any suggestions?
Young Turk


Dear Turk,

You're worth what they want to pay you. A few years ago, I "invested" in an old copy of Iron Man comics, one from the '60s. It was in Very Good condition, and had a story line I liked. It was listed in the Comic Bible for about $40, but I got it for $25. I showed it to my then-wife, who looked at it with great dubiosity. "How much did you pay for that?" she asked me. "About 20 bucks!" I said proudly. "And it's worth $40!"

"It's only worth $40 if there's somebody who wants to pay $40 for it," she said. "Right now, I'd say it's worth about $20, if that."

At the time, I thought this was a nugatory and, frankly, aggravating point. But now I think she was right. Stuff is worth exactly what somebody is prepared to pay for it. Say that right now I'm worth $100,000 at my job. That means my company thinks that sum is appropriate. Some other place, desperate for me, may come along and offer me $200,000. Then I'm worth that. Likewise, Stan O'Neal, who used to run Merrill Lynch, walked away from that steaming pile with $160 million. Today I'd be surprised if anybody would pay him to walk their dogs. Same goes for the rest of the bozos who have been running the economy for the last decade. They were worth gazillions. Now they couldn't get arrested. What is their real value? Whatever they can get for themselves, that's what.

So your $28k looks exactly like what a wet-behind-the-ears, sharp-elbowed, self-regarding, semi-entitled kid with a degree in Marketing and a minor in Business Administration is worth right now. Take it. You're lucky. You're probably worth more than John Thain at this particular moment. You may also console yourself with the knowledge that that number was precisely my starting salary way back when. I'm doing better now. And my BA was in Theater. Come to think of it, I might have been better prepared than you for this particular life.