By Frank Kenna
You may be asking, what exactly is a “22-22-22?” A recent New York Times article noted a comment by a new-media manager who was looking for one, meaning a 22-year-old willing to work 22-hour days for $22,000 a year. And the ‘22 hours’ part is only part exaggeration; companies often require these employees to be available 24/7 to answer email or create tweets.
Are these good entry-level opportunities for young people looking for a break? Are the employers taking advantage of their situation? My answer to both is yes. And I think the young employee is actually getting the better part of the deal.
My own first post-college job was in a management program with a national retailer, working for a low salary and about 55 hours a week, more around holidays. At times it was exhausting. But I – and everyone else in the program – learned management, responsibility and the trade at warp speed. I made great friends and contacts and that job became a very solid platform for my later opportunities.
Was I taken advantage of? Not from my point of view. I voluntarily signed up for it and was thrilled to get the opportunity. I was working cheap, but then the company wasn’t exactly getting a mature, experienced manager either.
Companies that hire a 22-22-22 are getting a young, inexperienced, exhausted and underpaid employee. The employee is getting opportunity. The ones willing to put in the time are well rewarded. It’s a microcosm of capitalism; the employer gets cheap labor and the employee gets opportunity in return.
It not only worked out well for me, but also for former interns Steve Jobs, Michael Eisner, Stephen Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Oprah among others.