Salary Survey Extra: Let us never speak of 2020 again

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

There was a lot to take in during 2020, as well as plenty to forget about.It would be nice to think that, in the histories that will — fingers crossed — someday be written about the early 2000s, some thoughtful historian will describe 2020 as the year after which humanity entered into a golden age of widespread cooperation, globally fruitful climate change mitigation, peace, prosperity, and breathtaking scientific advances. You know, everything we used to think would happen once we finally got to the Star Trek chapters of the “planet Earth” storybook.

Most of you are probably looking around and thinking, “Fat chance.” And, yeah, 2021 has already revisited a lot of the key moments from 2020 that we probably hoped to never see again, as well as even topping its immediate calendrical predecessor in one or two infamous respects. (Jan. 6, anyone?) But let’s not shortchange 2020 just because 2021 has also driven us into a few cul-de-sucks.

Here’s how we framed it in the “from the editor” introduction to the January 2021 issue of Certification Magazine:

“Depending on who you ask — we asked Wikipedia first, but Merriam-Webster concurs — the Latinism “annus horribilis” first appeared in 1891 when an Anglican commentator wanted to express a more-trenchant-than-usual level of disgust with the Roman Catholic Church. The term was used in reference to 1870, the year in which Catholic officials had formalized the doctrine of papal infallibility.

“More recently, no less a figure than Queen Elizabeth II of England, in essence the pope of the Church of England and thereby direct heir to the legacy of late-19th century shade thrown at those other popes, popularized the expression by using it to describe 1992. That year marked the 40th anniversary of her ascension to the throne, but also saw the marriages of her three eldest children disrupted by either divorce or separation.

“With due respect to the tragedy of shattered marital vows and the frustration of pious dogmatic one-uppery, however, we can probably all agree that the world has just turned the page on a true blue no-holds-barred annus horribilis. It’s been especially bad here in the United States, where everyone decided to double down on the awfulness of the raging pandemic affecting the rest of the world and then added civil unrest, economic disaster, and a contentious presidential election to the mix for good measure.”

Yup, 2020 was that bad. So bad, in fact, that, before it was even over, we asked last year’s Salary Survey respondents to rate the awfulness of it all. Even before the year had ended, everyone agreed that they COULD NOT WAIT for it to be over. Here’s what we learned:

Q: The worst thing about 2020 so far has been:

Everything — 15.7 percent
All of it — 12.4 percent
The parts between 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1 and 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. — 10.7 percent
Are we there yet? — 18.7 percent
I’m just barely hanging on. — 9.2 percent
We’re going to need a bigger time machine. — 33.4 percent

Ha-ha, do you see what we did there? We’re guessing that “COVID-19″ would probably have been the runaway winner in any actual conversation about what was the worst thing to hit the planet in 2020. This was the final question to appear in the 10-question “Not So Serious” chaser that we stick at the end of the Salary Survey each year. (And that participants can choose to skip if they’re just not in the mood.)

That final answer option — the one that got the most votes — was a cheeky callback to the immediately preceding question, when we asked respondents to tell us what one thing they would fix about 2019 if they had a time machine that could only go back one year. We let you in on what they had to say about that a couple of weeks back.

At any rate, let’s hope that we (eventually, if not immediately) learn something productive from the upheavals and chaos of 2020. Michael Jackson wanted everyone to “Heal the World” all the way back in 1991. Maybe 30 years later later we’re finally ready to fully embrace that sentiment.

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CertMag Staff


Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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