If you use the internet on a semi-regular basis, you may have run across this Medium post, or one of the several rebuttal posts to a Yelp employee named Talia writing an open letter to her CEO. the letter offered complaints about wages being too low and how she was struggling to get by. Talia even quoted that "bread" was a luxury item for her.
To give her credit, San Francisco is expensive. The cost of living in San Francisco is remarkably high. Downright ludicrous. So making $12.75 an hour would be a stretch. Literally a beans and rice lifestyle. Very little room for margin. In that regard, I could understand some frustration. There's no way to maintain a proper hipster, fair trade lifestyle on that kind of budget.
However, shortly after this post went live on Medium and shared around the world, the author went from making a very low wage to zero wage since she was fired from her job.
Now that she's officially back on the job market, would I consider hiring her?
The quick answer is...no.
If that's all you cared to know, you can click through and move on. If you want to know why, keep reading.
Reason 1: Life Management Issues
Talia doesn't have a career problem as much as she has a lifestyle management problem.
She went into significant credit card debt to move into one of the most expensive places in the US to live. Some may call that risk taking and admire her bravery. I think it's dumb and poorly thought out. When I moved to Chicago after graduation, I made sure I saved just enough money prior to moving to at least cover me my first 4-6 weeks there. It was a shoestring budget but helped me totally avoid credit card debt.
She didn't look for roommates and got her own apartment (which would cut costs dramatically).
While she says that "bread is a luxury item," this (honestly moderately petty) site shows that her social media posts tell a different story. If you can't afford to buy bread, you could at least buy a cheaper brand of alcohol than Bulleit. Heck, I don't think I moved on from Two Buck Chuck until about a year ago and I've been doing better than $12.75 an hour for far longer than that.
My first couple of years out of school, I lived on a very small salary in Chicago. I rarely complained about it though...at least not in a public forum. I rented a one bedroom apartment with a friend of mine, buying the cheapest bunk bed set we could find to save money on rent.
I went to a small hot dog stand on the corner as my weekly reward to myself for lunch. That reward cost $5.25. The other days I ate PB&J and chips or leftovers from the night before to save cash. For about two years. I don't think I've eaten PB&J since because I got so burned out on it.
I was also in a long distance relationship with my fiance, now wife. So I worked at a Bubba Gump Shrimp company on weekends so I could afford a plane ticket to visit her, save up for a ring and pay cash for our honeymoon. Which I did.
Was I satisfied where I was at? No - but I was extremely grateful for a marketing job opportunity during the recession. I got one raise while I was there of $600 (for the year), so I didn't have a lot of financial incentive to stay. However, I spent my free time networking, reading and learning as much as I could to improve my quality of life. I also spent my time learning as much as I could on the job and making the most of the opportunity I had right in front of me. It took me two years to improve things but things eventually worked out.
While Chicago isn't quite as expensive as San Fran, I learned to live on as minimal of a budget as possible. I figured out that adult life wasn't glamorous or even what you see in millenial-focused sitcoms. Being an adult is hard. Being an adult takes a lot of work. I think moving out on her own will hopefully be a huge reality check for her on how the world works.
If Talia has a hard time managing her own personal life, why would I want to trust her with managing a piece of my business?
Reason #2: Entitlement and lack of accountability
Yeah, I said entitlement, the staple description of most of the people in my generation.
Talia complained about having to work in a department for a whole year before transferring out. A WHOLE YEAR! Oh the humanity...
She gets free healthcare from her job. She doesn't have to buy her own coverage. There are millions of people who don't have any coverage. Hers is free. But that's not enough - she has to deal with co-pays. Heaven forbid she has to pay $20 for a doctor's appointment that would cost considerably more out-of-pocket.
Apparently there is also free food on site. Sure, you can only have it at work but it's FREE FOOD. If you only have to cover one meal a day during the week on your own, that's an opportunity to create a little more margin. She said this isn't enough, that she's only been to the grocery once to buy a bag of rice. But, as mentioned before, her social media profiles may shed light on this exaggeration.
She made a few poor financial decisions in her move to San Francisco. Heck, a lot of us make poor life decisions - it's called being a human. However, the difference is who we hold accountable. I know people who made similar potentially devastating life decisions but found a way to dig themselves out of it - and learned a lot in the process!
However, Talia holds her CEO accountable for her lifestyle. He should help her dig her out of the hole she dug herself. That accountability factor is one sign of irresponsibility for herself. If that's the case, how could I expect her to be responsible for the work I'd give her if I hired her? I can't.
Reason #3: Lack of an entrepreneurial spirit
Talia doesn't have an ideal job situation. I get that. Making minimum wage would really suck in a high-priced market like San Francisco. It would be incredibly difficult.
There are ways to navigate it. If she really wants to be in the media department at Yelp, she could find ways to land side gigs. In Chicago, a simple Craigslist search helped me land a few side job positions to help add a little income. Even though I've had a full-time, higher-than-minimum-wage job ever since I've been in Atlanta, I've continued to find side gigs.
Side gigs help you learn to sell yourself. How to take calculated risks and learn how to do something better in a way that your day job may not allow.
Talia, in addition to at least not acknowledging that she tries to work on the side, expects her CEO to fix her pay and/or the promotion process. She doesn't mention trying to go network. She doesn't mention even networking within her own company to learn from people in the department she actually wants to work in. There doesn't appear to be any entreprenurial spirit outside of slamming her CEO and asking people for digital handouts.
Most employers look for people with that entrepreneur mindset. Someone that is looking to self-manage and be responsible for their personal growth in addition to helping grow the company. From her open letter to the CEO of Yelp, I don't gather that she has any qualities....making her a less-than-desirable job candidate in my eyes.
Dear Talia, this is only a season...
I know making very little money sucks. I've been there. I've had mice as roommates, mold on my walls, and drug dealers as neighbors to have a place affordable to live.
And seeing all these 20something millionaires selling tech companies in SF probably makes your journey feel slow. I get that and have had that feeling before.
Improving this life stage takes time and nobody's journey looks the same. Success, security and stability takes longer than one year. It takes a lot of sacrifice, living extremely modestly and doing a lot of work outside of the office beyond writing a hate note to your boss on Medium. No matter how therapeutic that feels or how much attention you get.
I don't want you to be stuck barely making it by forever. I really don't. I hope you're able to climb and grow into something that you're looking for. I just don't believe publicly throwing your middle finger in the air to your employer (who also provides free health premiums) is a wise decision - personally or professionally.
There are more constructive ways to improve your situation that have better long term results. There are more honest ways of asking for help. This is a hard season but you'll look back and appreciate the journey.
You'll be thankful it's over but appreciate it nonetheless.
I hope this ends up being a great learning experience for you, one way or another. We'll see.