What are you worth?

Talked with my husband today about compensation for work done, and we ended up discussing, in a round about way, how your monetary earnings can reflect what your worth to a business.

Funny how that goes. Employment is essentially selling yourself for an hourly rate to a company. Some people’s hours are worth $7, while others are making thousands upon thousands for those same measly minutes, ticking by mercilessly every day. At the end, they are both simply humans, doing their best to make it in world that can feel so harsh and cold.

Do those hourly earnings show what you’re worth?

I suppose it shows your worth to your employer, although even that is hardly fair. Many employers would pay more in a heartbeat, if only they could. Sometimes your hourly rate is a reflection of a company digging deep to keep you, and even if it isn’t that impressive of a figure, its kind of like the widow’s mite in the Bible – so small, but all she had. Other times, your pay is a mere pittance, and you may very well seemingly be a cog in the machine – replaceable and unnecessary, easily removed if you ever threaten to need more money for your compliance.

There is just no way of saying a certain dollar amount means something specific about your worth and personal situation. Ultimately, I think you have to flip the equation and think in terms of what YOU believe you are worth, and how your position benefits you. Devoting 40+ hours a week to anything, no matter the pay, should feel like a two-way street in terms of rewards and gains.

When I did AmeriCorps, I made hardly anything an hour. What I gained, however, was invaluable experience in social services and a glowing addition to my resume. I was receiving something far behind mere dollars, and to me that made it worth it. Any job that is worth it – worth holding your time and energy and attention day in and day out – should impart something more than just dollar signs, at least in my opinion. The gain, however, was achieved in the course of a year, and then I moved on. Sometimes a low financial return is acceptable for a time, but most of us find that eventually, we will move on, taking less tangible gains with us as we transition to a position of more worth and value.

As a teacher, I’m certainly not making it “big” financially, yet I know so much beyond simple money is being given to me. Those secondary benefits are irreplaceable, and no dollar amount can be placed on them. Not that I would mind a bit of an increase in my salary…but the point remains – some things aren’t about the money.

My husband has had a similar experience. As a Youth Pastor, he isn’t exactly raking in the cash. However, there are certain, less direct rewards, that have made the position worth his time. As I watch, however, I can sense a growing sense of unbalance. That feeling you start to get when you wonder if you are imparting more of your own worth and self into something than you are receiving back. Perhaps, I think, his time is coming to transition on, seeking after a position in which he will receive a more equal compensation for the value he imparts.

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