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  • Writer's pictureSFI Blog Team

Why I deserve to be paid.

A reflection by Emily Herrmann.

I deserve to be compensated for my time, experience, and skills because I have invested my time and resources into upskilling myself to work in this industry and I have valuable experience, knowledge and a skill set that will aid industry. Companies in general should pay all of their employees because they provide useful skills that contribute to the success of the business. Additionally, when employees are paid, it shows that they are valued and empowers them to perform better. Furthermore, employers take their employees more seriously when they are paid and trained properly. This symbiotic relationship leads the employee to working at this company for even longer, leading to someone who knows the job and knows how to do it well. Paid employees are more confident & self-reliant, which means having someone who devotes themself to their job and encourages their team to do the same.

I should be paid for my time because I have spent 5 years learning necessary skills and laboring within the workforce. I started my college career as a marketing major, learning how businesses operate, completing projects for companies like Ikea, conducting research and performing a SWAT analysis to help these companies understand their market so that they could improve sales. By completing these projects, I started to build my resume. While I did this, I was a manager at Pacific Sunwear, acquiring tangible experience managing a team and operating a retail space that brought in over $1 million in revenue per year. I began working at Pacsun when I was sixteen years old. This was my first job so I did not arrive on the job fully trained. Still, I was hired. My supervisors spent a few weeks training me not only for that specific job, but they also invested their time into teaching me about the expectations of a professional setting in general. Despite the fact that I required several weeks of training before I could operate as a member of the team, I was paid throughout this work. If I can be trained while learning on the job, then I should be compensated for my work in the fashion industry because I have invested my time, energy, and money into training and upskilling myself to be a valuable member of this industry.

While I was grateful for my education within the marketing department, I wanted to explore something more creative and hands-on. This is what led me to switch to fashion design. In this major, I have learned hard skills like pattern making, sewing, and drawing, while also getting experience with software like the Adobe Suite, specifically Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Through my rigorous coursework I have also learned soft skills like self discipline, time management, and problem solving. Through DAAP’s co-op program, I have had the opportunity to work in the industry at Albright Fashion Library, a well known high-end styling company, and through this learned how to style a celebrity for an event, mended and upcycled designer clothes, and learned valuable interpersonal professional skills like communication, teamwork, and self-directed task management. I am also currently doing a research project with the OR Foundation learning about the social and environmental impacts of the fashion industry, their causes, and their potential solutions. Through this I have learned strategic planning, a methodology for mapping causality, how to stay organized and meet deadlines while working remotely, and how to practice critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Through reevaluating my education and redirecting my interests, I have acquired a broad array of skills and attained valuable, specific knowledge across multiple industries. My unique and diverse education has provided me with interdisciplinary skills that others don’t have. Since I have devoted my time into receiving education and experience within these different industries, I have varied knowledge to aid me in solving any problem that may come my way in the workplace, whether it’s an issue with the business side of the company or a problem that requires more creative problem-solving.

I deserve to be paid for my time because I am skilled and my labor contributes to tangible results for the companies I work for. Whether hiring someone for an internship, part time, or a full time position, companies should hire employees because they need the labor that this person provides. While I recognize the social pressure and sense of responsibility that a company might feel to hire interns to support them in their education, if a company does not need the help, they should not hire someone. There should be an equal exchange of value in order for the employee and the employer to get the most out of the work provided.

Paying your employee makes them take the job more seriously. In the groundbreaking report by Cincinnati’s Sustainable Fashion Initiative titled “The Dream Will Never Pay Off”, a personal testimony from someone with unpaid internship experience recalls that they had to perform basic unskilled tasks such as “going to the post office, delivering packages to customers’ homes, and picking up or dropping off very heavy amounts of fabric and garments”, causing this person to feel “more like a courier than a designer.” By not being assigned meaningful work, the employee felt undervalued, therefore not feeling empowered to complete their tasks to the best of their ability. Being given meaningful work of tangible consequence motivates the employee, and being paid for their work reflects the value that the employer feels the employee provides.

Employers take their employees more seriously when that employee is getting paid, leading to a symbiotic relationship in which the employee performs better and the employer actually appreciates it, rather than having an unpaid employee carry out menial tasks. In “The Dream Will Never Pay Off”, another testimony recalls that after learning this person had not been properly trained, “my bosses . . . got angry and gave me busy work like laundry or ironing . . . my boss didn’t want to ‘babysit’ me”. Not providing responsibility and payment creates resentment in both parties. The employer benefits just as much from valuing their employee by receiving the exceptional work a valued employee provides.

Additionally, paying an employee will make both parties more likely to commit to more years, providing the employer someone who knows the job and does it well. Not paying an employee also may mean that the employee has to get a second or even third job, making it less likely that the employee will be able to focus or do their best work. In order for an employee to want to invest more years into a company, it is imperative that they are compensated. Only 23.6% of people that participated in unpaid internships returned for full-time employment (“The Dream Will Never Pay Off”), showing that most unpaid workers do not continue working at that company.

I deserve to be paid for my time because I value myself. I am productive, intelligent, patient, and adaptable. I trust my judgement and I have the confidence to be a leader in the workplace. I consistently work on projects that I care about and that I am competent and qualified to perform. I also deserve to be paid for my time because I understand my weaknesses, which means that I can actively work to improve them on a day-to-day basis. I have the humility to ask for feedback and implement the advice given.

By hiring employees who value themselves, companies are more likely to take on employees that consistently engage in their work and support other team members. A confident employee is one that can be self-directed and confident in their autonomy. 82.5% of unpaid interns felt devalued at work (“The Dream Will Never Pay Off”), proving that unpaid work chips away at confidence, leading to poor job performance.

How can one be expected to value their work if their work doesn’t value them?

They can’t.

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