Support my wife with her new career, that hasn't paid yet.
March 4, 2015 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Marriage / Employment filter: My wife is finally incredibly happy in her job (a new career), but it hasn't paid a check for 6 months. I want to be supportive, but all I see is her working her ass off and not getting paid. What do we need to talk about / to weigh at the 1 year mark when we assess her getting a job with a salary? (see within for a very long story)

Spousal Happiness vs. Lifestyle / Financial Stability

Background: We are very financially stable. Solid middle class income.

My wife is smart, talented, loyal and has a wonderful heart. As an adult she went back to college to finish up her degree (general studies). She has always found that jobs she has worked (e.g. administrative assistant, business manager, personal assistant) weren’t fulfilling and felt like her talents weren’t being used to their full extent in her employment — she’s right.

Late 2013, we relocated to California -- I left a stable job of 13 years. My wife agreed that the money and opportunity and challenge for me were significant enough to tackle and quit her personal assistant work and we made the trek west.

An important consideration germane to this story is that a part of the relocation benefits my company offered me to take this role included a rental subsidy. This means that a large portion of our rent would be paid for, for 36 months.

A month or two after moving, my wife was offered an administrative assistant contractor role at the company where I work. Unfortunately, she continued to feel unfulfilled. They knew her worth, gave her important projects, but through the year she was there, she consistently saw people she had trained get offered full time positions in other departments. Additionally, she never felt like she was part of the team. Finally, I’m not only saying this because I think my wife is amazing (although I do): The people who got offered full time roles, were nowhere near as talented as my wife.

(Before you think that there were some other personality issues at play, there weren’t, and it isn’t what this question is about.)

In the middle of 2014, one of her friends from back home contacted her out of the blue and said that a colleague of hers was looking for someone on the west coast a recruiter for a very small private company. It was made very clear from the start that this role was a commission based role. How it works is essentially this: My wife would be assigned a group of roles, and she’d begin to cultivate a list of clients through linked in as well as cold calls in the industry. She would then pass on clients to one of her colleagues, and then the client would be interviewed by the hiring firm. If her client gets the job, she’d get a percentage of the client’s first year salary as commission from the hiring firm. We found out it takes between 3-6 months for the first paycheck to come in, because of the time it takes to cultivate a client pool and other factors. She did her research and due diligence about this role.

We decided that because of that rental subsidy I mentioned earlier, it would be okay for her to take this risk at this time and we’d give it 6 months. She quit her admin job and became a recruiter.

Current Situation:

It has been 6 months. And according to her superiors, she’s doing wonderfully in her role, so good in fact that she has been promoted, something unheard of so quickly in her role. She is happy, feels like she’s a part of the team, she works her ass off, and loves it. She feels fulfilled. Unfortunately, she hasn’t gotten paid. Not for a lack of trying. Clients aren’t getting offered positions even though they are getting through the interview process. So she’s had quite a few “almost” moments for getting paid. She continues to be enthusiastic about her work and those she works with. Something she hasn’t felt in years and years.

This afternoon we had an argument about it being 6 months and the lack of a paycheck, but it was very clear that I said things which made her feel like she had failed. I feel awful. We talked it out and agreed that we’d give it another 6 months.

So my questions are as follows:

How do I support her, when all I seem to see through her journey as a recruiter is her not getting a paycheck?

When it does come to be 1 year at her role (another 6 months), what questions should we be asking ourselves to assess whether her job is worth keeping versus trying to look for a job with a steady paycheck?

I value two paychecks (and she knows this and agrees with it — heck she WANTS to earn money), and is aware that the rental subsidy we’re receiving isn’t permanent. Is this petty of me? Am I just ignoring my wife’s happiness by focusing on the paycheck?

Is there anything I need to be considering as her husband who wants to balance supporting her with being my pragmatic self who has always been seeking financial stability, and growing our nest egg.
posted by lonemantis to Work & Money (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a bit confused because this "We are very financially stable. Solid middle class income." does not coincide with the fear you seem to have over your wife not earning money at this time. If you're afraid that you're not going to be able to hold up your situation for long then you are not "very financially stable". So it's not entirely clear to me if your fears are rooted in practical reality or if they are just ...fears.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to meet briefly with a financial advisor and see what he/she has to say if you need a more objective viewpoint for yourself- and to bring home to your wife if she needs it.

There are recruiting companies that hire with little experience and that do give a small salary along with commission. I don't know how the HR market is where you live, but depending on that she could start looking for some work as a recruiter. My first job was as a recruiting assistant and 3 months later I was promoted to full recruiter. Not very good pay- but some pay plus commission. This is not rare in the recruiting industry (depending on the market where you live.) It's better than getting payed nothing.
posted by rancher at 7:33 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The job she has isn't a job, it's exploitation. It's unlikely to grow into anything worthwhile, as the tone of your post suggests you understand, but she does not. It's not unreasonable for you to want her to earn money in exchange for her time, energy and effort. She should want this, too.

Your wife should get a new job now, not in six months.
posted by killdevil at 7:34 PM on March 4, 2015 [63 favorites]


You're a team. Your joint financial situation at the end of the rental subsidy will change. It therefore makes sense that both members of the team need to take that change into account.

You and she should jointly talk about your financial goals and how each of you will contribute to them in six months. It's awesome that she's getting such great reviews, and maybe it makes sense for her to leverage that into applying for new jobs. Maybe it makes sense for her to stay. It definitely makes sense for both of you to have input into joint financial goals and how you're each individually going to work to achieve them.
posted by jaguar at 7:35 PM on March 4, 2015


Your wife's job sounds like total bullshit, and she should look for a new job.

A job that pays nothing for the first 3-6 months is not a real job. It's exploitation. Working for commission does not work like this.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 7:35 PM on March 4, 2015 [59 favorites]


Her job is to recruit candidates that the company will hire. She is 0 for 6 months, yet they promoted her? This entire thing smells like some kind of scam to me. I suspect they are "hiring" these candidates, but maybe through a shell company that contracts them back so they don't have to pay your wife. I don't see any other explanation for getting a promotion without succeeding at your job even once. She is working for free, of course they love her.

I think she is succeeding, at being taken advantage of. I don't have any advice at how you convince her of that though.
posted by COD at 7:36 PM on March 4, 2015 [47 favorites]


I think as long as you're financially stable I'd give it a while longer. Are there numbers she can find out for how much the more successful recruiters she works with make, and how long it took them to start earning a paycheck?

It's also good for you to get your feelings and frustrations out in a healthy way. It sounds like your financial goals are pretty much aligned, and even if it takes a year or 18 month before she's pulling in some money, it's hard to place a price on spousal happiness so long as there aren't any other financial issues, like one spouse overspending, or the spouse who earns more being controlling about money.

But - this sort of thing can be a minefield. I supported my ex-spouse for 4 years while she worked on her business, and while there were lots of other issues at play, a big part of us growing apart and eventually separating was my increasing resentment about supporting her, and not feeling like my own financial goals were being respected in the process.

I think if you work together on this, and come up with a plan that includes working on your nest-egg even with her, hopefully temporarily, reduced salary, you should be fine. 6 months or even a couple of years isn't all that long, and learning a new career on the job is still a hell of a lot cheaper than going back to school. Just keep talking about it, and make sure you're both on board as a team about where you want to be in 6 months, a year's time, and agree on boundaries for how long you're both willing to pursue this. A fulfilling career is an incredibly important thing, and I'd much rather have a happy spouse who's getting validation and self-esteem from their work than 6 months of savings.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:40 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


You are financially stable. She is happy. If, at the end of the next six months, she hasn't gotten paid, she should find another job. Fortunately for her, she'll have recruiting experience.

This is my experience. My husband graduated from an Ivy League and found a career path easily. I got my undergrad right before I turned thirty, from the state uni, after a long employment gap from being a stay at home mom. Husband was angry because I couldn't find a job as easily as he did. The situations aren't the same.

Now, I do think her job is crap. I agree that her company is exploiting her. BUT. She's gaining confidence in a field that personally fulfills her. If you can afford the next six months, let her take the time to build her skills so she can turn it into a better job.
posted by Ruki at 7:40 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


She might be resisting the obvious conclusion that her "job" is not a real job because she doesn't want to go back to admin work and also doesn't know what else to do. She needs to see a third path.
posted by jon1270 at 7:40 PM on March 4, 2015 [54 favorites]


A job is a thing you get paid for. A hobby, internship or volunteering is what you do where you don't get paid. So she clearly doesn't have a job. It cant' be legal to not provide any salary to someone... that is why minimum wage exists and even restaurant servers make a salary. That is not how commission works.

I agree 100% with what jon says right above though. You need to provide her a third path because the way she's being treated is not okay. Denial is a hell of a drug though. Help her through it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:50 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is not how a headhunting agency normally works. They're often on the sketchy side, but this is ridiculous. Help your wife find the nearest Robert Half or Adecco office - those are enormous nationwide chains - and apply. They always have vacancies, will be delighted to hire someone with experience, and pay a base (modest) plus decent commissions.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 PM on March 4, 2015 [35 favorites]


Her employer is not a real employer and is almost definitely breaking the law if they are not paying her minimum wage in the weeks (/pay periods) that her commission income does not reach minimum wage. If she wants to be a recruiter then she needs to find a real job as a recruiter instead of a fake job as a patsy.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:20 PM on March 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


There are two very different suggestions that I have.

One suggestion is to google the name of the "company" that your partner is working for and also add the words "scam", "bad business", etc. I did have a friend fall for a job that was going to require him to pay for several months of training, no salary, etc. He didn't listen to my recommendations, but when I found the reviews listing "no job, never paid, filed with the better business bureau", he stopped. There might be a reason that she wants this right now and doesn't see this, so hearing it from many perspectives and coming from someone else might help her.

....what questions should we be asking ourselves to assess whether her job is worth keeping versus trying to look for a job with a steady paycheck?

I don't know how this conversation needs to occur (ie, with therapy, or how you normally resolve things), but I would suggest that you both make a list of characteristics the desired job has. For example, I can see that for your partner having a job that includes and makes her feel like part of the team is very important - that's okay, and it should go on the list for her desired job. Your criteria will be must receive pay check within given time period.

I think it would be easier for her to find her desired job now - with the support of the supplemental rent money BEFORE it expires and she has to scramble. So this time could be used to obtain trying, find the best work place, etc.
posted by Wolfster at 8:21 PM on March 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Headhunting agencies can be really shady and these practices totally don't surprise me - I'd ask around if that place has a good reputation and agree w others she should ask others in the same business how long it took to get paid.
posted by pravit at 8:25 PM on March 4, 2015


Your wife is almost certainly "employed" by an MLM / "network marketing" outfit. No legitimate business simply does not pay people. Even commission based employers provide a base salary. I'd bet, if she reads her fine print, she is not even described as an employee. Do yourself a favor and Google the name and/or phone number of her "employer". Or, better yet, supply the name in this thread so mefites can give you the real scoop about your wife's "job".

Upon preview, I would suggest that adding the word "scam" when you search won't necessarily work. Unfortunately, these types of shady companies have become so good at gaming Google results that you will likely get a bunch of results along the lines of, "Is xxxxxx a scam? No way!" That's why I suggest posting the name of the company and letting the collective wisdom of MetaFilter go to work.
posted by lesli212 at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I did a poor job of explaining her role. She's an independent contractor for a legitimate organization. Her employer not a front for a scam or a network marketing outfit.
posted by lonemantis at 8:43 PM on March 4, 2015


You're being had.
posted by pompomtom at 9:12 PM on March 4, 2015 [16 favorites]


Yep, there's little chance she meets the definition of independent contractor. Plus a good chance there's something shady going on to keep money away from your wife.

Any chance it's ending up in the pockets of another recruiter? What's turnover like in the past 6 months? Any newer hires actually getting paid?
posted by paulcole at 9:20 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are two things to deal with here.

1. Money in your relationship. You two need to be on the same page about money. She knows you value two paychecks but do you know why you do? Does she value two paychecks? What is important to her? What is important to you? It doesn't matter what your arrangement is or what strangers on the internet think about it, it just needs to be agreed between the two of you. Money is so personal and tied up with so much emotional stuff that I don't think there's any real consensus on how things "should' be. Hearing what other people do can give you ideas about what you find acceptable or repulsive.

2. Your wife's new career, is it really? I don't know how your wife is running her desk but it sounds like she's either not good at it or she is being taken for a long ride. Here in Australia, we would call her role 'the resourcer'. The resourcer finds & screens suitable candidates but the person who manages the account and deals directly with the hiring people (the client) is the recruiter. Resourcers generally get a salary plus tiny commission or bonus at the end of a period. eg every quarter. And because they get paid, it's usually only big agencies that have them. It's really an admin job. It's understood that a HUGE part of sealing the deal is the relationship between the recruiter and the client so they get most of the money. If she wants to be where the money is, she has to move into that recruitment role where she would have far more control of whether someone gets the job. It requires a thick skin, lots of schmoozing and cold calling. Is that her? If her jobseekers are good and they're not being placed, it's likely that the recruiter has little rapport with the clients. Maybe her bosses don't know what they're doing...

I ran my own little agency for nearly 10 years. I'm guessing what she is actually doing now is giving someone (unscrupulous or clueless) free labour because they are small and looking for ways to keep costs down. There may be a dozen of her working for them. Sounds like she is not being reimbursed for her expenses, if she were, they would have got rid of her by now if she is genuinely not having any success. Recruitment is all about money. I knew exactly how much money each person had to bring in to break even on the cost of having them. They did not get one cent until that cost was covered. That's just sensible business. Lots of small agencies do 100% commission, but again, that is predicated on her bringing in some money, at least enough to cover her costs. They won't be doing this long term indefinitely if it's costing them.

Someone above suggested they might be placing her jobseekers without telling her. It is good practice and standard routine to follow up with unsuccessful candidates because you use them as the opener for calling another possible client etc. If she is doing all the standard good practices, she'd know if they got hired.

If she really wants to move into recruitment, she should go do her time at a big agency. What she's done so far won't count a lot as recruitment experience so she'll need to talk her way into it. If she'd make a good recruiter she'll be able to do that. At a big agency, she'll get a base and low commission to start with but she'll learn how things are done. They're paying these people so they want them to be successful. She'll get training. She'll learn how to make money. If she's any good, she'll see money that is 100% definitely coming within 6 months.

Good luck. We've had similar career upheaval in our house the last 12 months but unlike your situation, my husband and I are fine with me not earning for a while. I am doing something that is almost guaranteed not to make good money (painting portraits) but I love painting and we're okay with money coming and going. Swings and roundabouts. Life is short.
posted by stellathon at 9:23 PM on March 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't know why everyone is saying this is a scam or that the poster's wife is being "had." It's not unheard of for recruiters to work on 100% commission. It's not the most typical scenario, but that doesn't mean it's a scam.

However--this is a really terrible job for your wife to have, imo. It sounds like she has 0 experience in sales, and 0 experience in recruiting. 100% commission jobs are for the top performers- those with years/decades of experience, vast connections, and tons of industry experience.
posted by aviatrix at 9:23 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


How does she get promoted but still seeing nothing? What's that promotion mean when the outcome is the same?
posted by Carillon at 9:23 PM on March 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


>> So she’s had quite a few “almost” moments for getting paid. She continues to be enthusiastic about her work and those she works with. Something she hasn’t felt in years and years.

I think we should accept lonemantis's statement that this organization is legitimate. In that case, I'd definitely vote for giving it another six months. His wife is enjoying the work and she's gotten this close to a commission several times. Give it time. Even if it doesn't pan out, it's great experience for finding another headhunter job in the future.
posted by mono blanco at 9:24 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If your wife is a really excellent recruiter, she should get a full time recruiting job with a better company. My wife is an in-house recruiter at a company and she makes well into six figures, SALARY, no commission. Excellent benefits, etc. What your wife is experiencing isn't how it has to be.
posted by primethyme at 9:29 PM on March 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's not good experience for headhunting jobs. She has no contact with the people who pay the money.

If they want to give this another 6 months, they should give it 6 months is an environment stacked in her favour.

OP, what does independant contractor mean if she isn't getting paid anything? Aviatrix is right. 100% commission is often something the super dooper recruiters negotiate for.
posted by stellathon at 9:30 PM on March 4, 2015


It's not wrong of you to be concerned about the lack of pay checks in this situation. If it was a legit internship, medical residency, training program, apprenticeship, etc. I would tell you to suck it up and support your wife because it will lead to better days for both of you. But this is just bizarre. You should be concerned about the lack of pay and also that your wife is being exploited and has possibly lost her mind. Even if it was an actual volunteering gig she was enjoying I would tell you to let it be. Or a business she started that wasn't turning a profit yet. But this doesn't sound like any of those things.
posted by bleep at 9:56 PM on March 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The not being paid thing sounds fishy, but wiser birds than I have chimed in there.

My concern is... how do you get promoted when you have produced nothing in six months? If she's not being paid, promotion just means she gets more work. 10% more of 0 is still 0. Great way to keep costs down, though.

After that, my next question (if we're assuming the company is on the up-and-up) is: has she received/asked for concrete, detailed feedback as to why these candidates are not being hired? Seems to me that if she's not been able to get anyone placed, there's a mismatch between her filter and the filter the interviewers use. So, if she hasn't asked for it, time to. If she doesn't receive it or has already been denied, it's time to give notice then and there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:50 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


lonemantis: "How do I support her, when all I seem to see through her journey as a recruiter is her not getting a paycheck?"

Judging by the quality of interactions my student employees have with recruiters, and the stories I've heard from others in the field, I think the right way to support your wife is by gently suggesting recruiting positions at a few companies that aren't 100% commission. For novice recruiters, there's far too much incentive to cheat high performers and string poor ones along. You need to be hyper vigiliant, and have a good enough relationship with placements to follow up on failed ones and see where they're at now.

If you go down the path of suggesting a change of company, you also need to frame it differently. Not that she is failing the company, but that the company is failing her. This should be easy, because they are.
posted by pwnguin at 11:54 PM on March 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think the part that's baffling is that the supervisors are saying she's doing well and promoting her, yet by the numbers, zero people have gotten hired and there has been no commission. It just doesn't add up. If she doesn't make money, they don't make money. If no money is being made, how can the job be going well? The fundamental disconnect here is what makes it sound like there is something sketchy or scammy going on.

In terms of the relationship stuff, it sounds like your current approach is making it sound like you have a personal problem with her, and so she's getting defensive. Also, she's probably thinking of her job in terms of a sunk cost fallacy, i.e. "I've invested so much, I've got to keep going now!" I also find it difficult not to approach conversations about financial or career issues in a very problem-solving kind of way. After doing a little couples counseling, I'll share one thing I learned - people don't always want to hear problem solving. So when your wife comes home and says "I'm so frustrated with my job right now - I love it, but I'm not making any money." It might seem very logical to respond "Why don't you work on finding a new job? [Insert expounding about why you think current job is bad and new job ideas/hunting strategies]" But I suspect that she really just wants to hear "I know. You've been working so hard. Let me make dinner for you tonight/give you a hug."

I also found that therapists and psychiatrists have to learn a different way of talking to people about their problems that doesn't insert their feelings into the conversation. So instead of saying to someone "hey, I've noticed that you're working really hard yet not getting paid. That's ridiculous. You should really find a new job where you get paid for your hard work!" [Implications that might be heard: you're stupid for staying in this job. You can't seem to make this job work for you. If you were really good at your job, you'd be making money. I've got the solution to your problem!] I find that the therapy/psych approach is to ask questions designed to make the other person consider the problem and hopefully lead them through a thought process so that they find solutions/see things a different way themselves. When you're upset, it's hard not just to make direct statements about what you think of what another person is doing, but it doesn't always seem to be an effective approach. Also, when you stress that you value a paycheck, it might come off as saying that you value the paycheck more than your wife's happiness and fulfillment.

So, in summary, I would say that when you talk with her about her job, just ask really open ended questions: "how do you feel about your job? What are your thoughts about your future career? What kind of goals do you have for next year, careerwise? What do you think you should do next, work-wise?" I just have a feeling that paradoxically, if you stop putting the financial pressure on and start being more emotionally supportive about what she's going through, she may start feeling more like making a change in her job on her own.

Also, regardless, it sounds like this is a temporary situation and that something's gotta give within the next year, so it's REALLY not worth having fights and arguments over in terms of your long term financial outlook as a couple. Try to take the long view.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:38 AM on March 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


With respect, and coming from a position where I'm probably more like your wife than like you, a lot of the advice upthread feels rather patronizing to me. I can see where this advice is coming from - I don't understand (and would be suspicious of) the idea of a job that doesn't pay for half a year, either - but you've said that your wife did her due diligence on this company and that it takes 3-6 months before pay starts coming in. Doesn't the fact that she hasn't yet received a paycheck fall under what you guys knew could happen? She probably is also stressed that things haven't panned out yet; asking her to manage your anxiety over as well it when you both agreed that she'd give it 6 months and knew she might not be seeing pay that whole time seems a little unfair.

Now if she doesn't START seeing a paycheck very soon, that's a different question, but surely she agrees about that, yes? Rather than taking it on yourself to get her to do/think what you want here, what if you stated your concerns and your honest desires, and asked her what she was planning on doing if this job doesn't start paying soon? If she has no idea, I think that then would be a good time to start suggesting other recruiting firms and what-not, but I would start by learning what she intends first. On preview, treehorn+bunny has a lot of great advice on how to hold these conversations, and the idea of taking the long view is a great one. To that, I'd add that if you are a money-anxious person in general, look for strategies for managing that yourself so you can separate your general frets from things that truly do need a joint approach from you and her both. Good luck to both of you!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:34 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


When it does come to be 1 year at her role (another 6 months), what questions should we be asking ourselves to assess whether her job is worth keeping versus trying to look for a job with a steady paycheck?
Has this job paid enough in the last six months to make the previous six months at $0 income worth it? I think that is the only question that matters, but the two of you may have different answers.
posted by soelo at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


So. You and your wife are having discord. That means it's time for compromise.
She feels successful, because her organization is telling her that she is. You see her as unsuccessful, because your back account is telling you she isn't. This thread is telling you that many people perceive the organization that she works for as being unsuccessful; it's important to differentiate between that, and implying that she should have known better than to work for them. When you discuss your options, be sure to use words that tell her that you think she is a personal success.
Now you can address what you want to long-term to look like. It's not petty of you to be concerned about the future. It's very reasonable to hope that by the time your rental subsidy runs out, she'll be earning enough to make up for it.

It's less reasonable to assume that she doesn't care about this just as much as you do; she's probably also very stressed out by her lack of paycheck. She probably does arguments and counter arguments on a weekly if not daily basis about whether she likes the work and feels the appreciation enough to make the job and the lack of money worth it. In your phrasing of the question, you've pitted your wife's happiness and the paycheck as opposing choices. Take a step back, and be sympathetic - your wife is somewhat happy right now, but think how much happier she'd be if she also had the paycheck.

You don't have control over the job market, however; if she decided to look for a better job, there's no guarantee that it would pay as much as you're expecting, or make her as unhappy as she's expecting. It sounds like your point of compromise would be to take some time to look into other job options, to help both of you evaluate what the real choice is in keeping that job versus leaving (to what?).

Another thing you can do for her is to show your love through explicit appreciation and accolades. It sounds like that's what's inspiring her work performance (it's certainly not money!) To go on a pop-psych tangent (see 5 Love Languages), it sounds like some of her loyalty to that job could be because of the praise and advancement; and the more you provide that elsewhere, the less essential those intangible benefits of the job will be.
posted by aimedwander at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I value two paychecks (and she knows this and agrees with it — heck she WANTS to earn money),

I think this is actually a key thing to tease out. Do you want two paychecks for the financial stability? Or do you want paychecks because you feel like it's "not fair" if your wife isn't earning a paycheck too? Because with 36 months of rental subsidy, it sounds like this is the perfect time for your wife to be experimenting or taking non-paying gigs to transition into a new career field.

This might also explain why there's this emotional stress going on - sometimes married couple's fights seem to be about money but are actually not about money. This may be one of them.
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have some confusion about what will happen when she starts getting paid. Bear with me, because this will be relevant to the questions I think you need to be asking.

First, it sounds as though she expects to get paid once she collects enough clients (people seeking jobs) by networking on LinkedIn and elsewhere for them to actually get hired by companies. She hasn't placed anybody yet, six months in. So it seems pretty clear that when she does start getting paid it will be a trickle of money, then a slightly larger trickle, until maybe a few years down the road she will be making a sum of money that we generally associate with a professional white collar job. Correct? Having placed nobody yet, she can't expect to suddenly be making a fair amount of money under the system as you describe it, anytime soon, certainly not in a year.

Second, I'm not following how one gets "promoted" from one uncompensated position to another. Generally promotions involve greater responsibility and commensurate greater pay. So what are the greater responsibilities, and how are they justified without pay? That simply doesn't make sense.

So these are questions I think need to be asked:
-- how much is "enough" to keep working in this job?
-- how are the increased responsibilities of the promotion reflected in her compensation?
-- if she leaves, you need to look for a wage and hour attorney with an eye toward getting her back pay for all this uncompensated time. (Start keeping records of her time now, if she hasn't, and reconstruct time records while the memory is still fresh).

I think you need to help her analyze how exactly this job makes sense--there is often a reluctance for people to admit they've been "had," that they are "suckers," so they continue to throw the equivalent of good money after bad, and you can help her by nonjudgmentally and lovingly probing these painful questions.

I know you say you've done your due diligence and you think the company is legit. But there's a strong chance this arrangement is illegal, they may have aggressively managed their online profile, and the fact that a company is legit doesn't mean they don't exploit workers and do shitty things.

When you are offered a "job" and the answer to "when do I get my first paycheck" is "wellllll, here's the thing ...." it's usually best to keep looking. Six months in, it's time to leave and never look back. A year in, there better be a windfall in your bank account. Most commission jobs pay some modest wage or salary until the employee gets up to speed. It's exploitative and a broken business model to expect anyone to work for 3-6 months (and now, even longer) without pay.

I'm sorry this is happening to you two.
posted by jayder at 10:46 AM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm going to go against the grain here and say that there are legit recruiting jobs which are straight commission without a base salary. Generally, recruiters don't go for those jobs until they've been in the game for a while, though. I have known recruiters to go through dry spells of up to a year, so your wife's situation is not unheard of. They all had given themselves deadlines of when they needed to make their first match or otherwise bail, though. It's not unreasonable to work on figuring out when she should set her sights on a new position if she doesn't close a deal. If you two do come to an agreement, then it will probably be a lot easier to be unconditionally supportive. The uncertainty of her situation is likely a stressor for both of you.

I had a lot of fun as a recruiter, and I can see why your wife likes the job. It's very social and you have interesting conversations with people with whom you would not otherwise cross paths. However, I left because I hated the instability of never knowing when I would make money versus just scrape by...that's the lens that my response if filtered through.
posted by batbat at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not a job. It's building a business. Like any business, it has a long startup period with no revenue and some risk of failure. But once she can reliably be placing a couple candidates a year, she'll have a steady income stream that's more than her old admin assistant job.

The nice thing about recruiting is that once she has that network in place, she can go independent or get a job as a corporate recruiter, again drawing from her network for candidates. And if she gets a day job, she may be able to keep doing recruiting on the side for extra income.

The upside potential is very high. I know a recruiter -- a nice guy who attends all the local conferences and has a really great blog that many people follow -- who placed 20 candidates last year. That's easily $300k. But it took over a decade of super hard work to make it to that point.

As long as she's doing her best to build this business, and it has a reasonable possibility of success, and failure won't bankrupt you ... I say go for it!
posted by miyabo at 5:59 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It has been 6 months. And according to her superiors, she’s doing wonderfully in her role, so good in fact that she has been promoted, something unheard of so quickly in her role.

what I don't understand is this: if she is working as an independent contractor, she can't be promoted by the company she contracts with; she is not an employee, she is self-employed. and if she is really and truly an independent contractor, she can have multiple contracting jobs at once. It seems like that might be a good solution to the lack of pay until she starts making commission for this particular company.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:16 PM on March 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


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