Thursday, May 26, 2011

Money Matters

Let's talk money for a moment. What we all spend most of our days trying to earn. After all, regardless of what our ultimate goal in life is - love, acceptance, power, popularity or expensive yachts and Brazilian models - money plays an important part in every achievement.

I was always the kind of person who believed that if I worked hard enough, money (a reasonable amount) would come my way and I don't have to worry about making more or less than the person sitting next to me. Basically, that I would be rewarded for the labor that I put into my work. From the age of 16 to approximately the age of 26, I was kind of following the mantra of waiting until I get rewarded for a job well done, instead of going into my boss's office and stating it directly to him or her. Like, hey, I think I need a raise.

But a couple of months ago, when I was in the process of looking for jobs, my former co-worker sent me an article from, I believe, The New York Times or some other legit and important source. The article didn't come as a surprise but it alarmed me. Above all, it resonated with me because I recognized that I was probably one of those people that the article was talking about.

You see, the article stated that women entering the workforce even with a higher education expect to receive less pay than men.
"Whoa", I thought, "And here I am just expecting my future bosses to give me a just salary, on par with everyone else's pay. Here I am, too scared to say that my salary might be too low for my level of expertise and dedication and what is expected of me..."

I read on. After five years at the same job the difference in pay gets larger with women expecting that they will make eighteen percent less than men even with increased experience. Women also expect to see promotions at a slower rate than men. The fact that women expect to earn less than men could be causing them to take jobs that pay less. The fact that men expect more could have an effect on them getting more in the way of salaries and promotions.

Mind-boggling. But, like I said, not surprising. I always got slightly uncomfortable when asked about an expected salary at a job interview. I was always afraid that if I aimed high, I would be denied a job position. I was scared to ask for a higher starting pay because I thought that I needed to prove myself first.

"I'll prove myself," I thought, "And then they'll see how good I am and reward me."

But the article contradicted my predictions. I actually had to ASK for more money. I had to believe in my self-worth the minute I stepped my foot into that door for salary negotiations.

And that's what I did for my job in Singapore.

You see, prior to flying out there for a two week trial period, I was offered a salary range in the email from an HR manager at the office there. I eyeballed the salary and decided for myself that the lowest range was pretty unacceptable. Regardless of the amazingless level of the job opportunity, I simply would have had to refuse the job offer because I crossed out the possibility of living under a cardboard box half-way around the world.

After almost two weeks of me being there and seeing what my job position would be all about, the HR manager called me into her office to see if wanted to sign my contract to move to Singapore and to also talk salary figures.

Now in architecture, we don't have any fancy sign-on bonuses or additional monetary incentives, like many of my counterparts with similar education levels might be getting. No, what I was given was a flat all-inclusive salary and a housing allowance. It was slightly higher than the lowest number in my salary range. I could have settled for it. I could have said yes.

But I remember the article. What's the worst that can happen if I say no to this offer? They can withdraw the job offer? So what? I have skills and capabilities that can probably lend me a fine job in the US, even in this struggling economy.

"What do you think," the HR manager asked carefully.

"Um..." I paused, "Well I have to be honest... I was hoping that the offer would be slightly higher. I have to consider all of these expenses that I will have each month. I have to think about my student loans that i have to pay, in US dollars."

I froze in my seat waiting for an answer.

"Well, you have to keep in mind that the standard of living in Singapore is slightly less expensive than in the US. You also have to remember that as a US citizen, you will already be getting more than an average Singaporean would. You have to consider all these things..."
"I know.. but I just don't feel comfortable accepting something that I am not sure would be enough to cover all of my expenses. Can I think it over tonight, and talk about it with my family, and get back to you tomorrow?" I said.

The HR manager agreed. She didn't seem too pleased but she also, contrary to my expectations, didn't leap across the table in rage and tried to choke me out after hearing such a bold refusal.

Three hours later I came home, ready to sit down and figure out my budget, expense by expense. I checked my email. There was a new message from the HR manager.

Without even mentioning a word about her previous offer, she restated the new offer, term by term. She was raising my housing allowance by $6,000/year. The money that would be left over from my housing allowance I would be free to spend in whatever way I wanted. The new offer was only a grand lower than the highest maximum of the salary range I was promised.

I sat there speechless, excited beyond belief. I did it! I kicked some corporate ASS!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Excuse Me?

I am chatting with my kind-of co-worker (and a long, long time friend) from the Washington, D.C. branch of the office about my recent acceptance of a position in Singapore and he inquires me about the current size of the office, the number of people that currently work here.

"Oh about fifteen people but they are hiring about five more people, including me. I hear there is a Spanish girl and an Italian designer joining the company at the end of June as well so we will have people from almost every continent haha"

To that he just says:

"Oh I hear the Spanish girl is beautiful."

Now what's that supposed to mean? Call me overly sensitive but I sort of felt slighted in a way. Not that I am trying to compete for the guy's attention or trying to assert that I am just as pretty as the next girl. But still... my pride's been hurt.

Thanks, dude. Though I know you didn't mean it... I just kind of don't want to hear the rumors about how beautiful someone might or might not be. At least not when I am trying to make casual talk about job matters.

Am I right or am I right?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dating in Singapore..

So it's my second day here, in Singapore, trying out this wonderful country (er, city-state?) and I've got some red flags going off in my head.

No, the red flags aren't about the scorching heat - I actually find this hot weather to be quite manageable due to plenty of air-conditioned spaces. The red flags also aren't about my fear of the locals not speaking any English - most people, thus far, are friendly enough and are willing to switch from whatever language they are speaking to accommodate my English. All of the signage and quite a few TV channels are in English as well.

My fear isn't about the lack of shopping. I've been to one mall thus far and the amount of STUFF that I saw that I need to buy immediately (dresses, shoes, sushi shaped like cute animals...) is unprecedented. Seriously, no wonder that one of the favorite national pass times here is shopping. It could easily become my one and only pass time as well!

My fear is about dating in Singapore... or the seeming lack thereof. So, I consider myself to be pretty, educated, smart and so on and so forth but I just don't know if there are any out-of-towners or "expats" that can share common interests with me.. or will be able to talk about football, or arts, or architecture with me.

Another thing is, from what I've read of various forums thus far, is that a lot of "Western" men prefer local girls because they have a reputation of being highly impressionable by wealth or charm and tend to be easy. They also, or so I've read, don't mind dating guys who are already in relationships. One dirtbag wrote on a forum board, "I usually tell girls that I have a girlfriend, even when I am single. That way I can keep things casual."

I don't want to generalize here, because I have next to no knowledge of the local women, or the locals in general, but this is kind of alarming to me. Am I giving up on dating all together here? Can I do this, at the age of 27... can I dedicate the next several years of my life to all-work and no-play?

Mr J and I are still keeping it casual, but will be staying in touch. I could use this as a motivation to "wait for him", until I end up moving back to the States, some day. But no dating at all? Are the men here really vapid and are the women really floozies?

Of course, I don't mean any disrespect to the local population and I pray that all I've heard so far is just simply not true. But man, those message boards are either brutally honest or super mean.

The more tragic part, though, is that alcohol seems to be freaking expensive here! While discussing my potential benefits package, I should propose an alcohol fund! I mean $13 for a bottle of wine ON SALE?! Where are those $4 Parisian bottles of wine when I need them...


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bin Laden is Dead

I am usually not the one to cheer about a death of another human being. But this douche had it coming and he lived about 10 years longer than he should have, anyway.