The Low-Paying Crappy Job
We are a nation of employees. Almost all of us get a paycheck once or twice a month in exchange for the tasks we perform for our employers. These tasks may not be horrible, but they are not usually things that we would do for fun. Most of us put up with the meaninglessness of our workday in exchange for the paycheck and the lifestyle it buys for us.
Some employees love their jobs, and work is an important and positive part of their lives. Obviously Bill Gates enjoys his job or he would surely retire. I love this job, because writing is great fun for me. There is certainly nothing demeaning or degrading about being a waitress, a carpenter’s assistant, a seamstress, a janitor, or a ranch hand. If you like the work you’re doing and you are content with the living if provides you, then you should simply enjoy your life. Getting and spending a large amount of money does not bring happiness to everyone. No one can prove to me that being a brain surgeon or a vice-president of marketing is innately more satisfying than being a teacher’s assistant in an elementary school or being a shepherd. How you feel about your work and your life depends entirely on what kind of person you are. Live in a way that makes you happy.
At the bottom end of the employment totem pole are workers who earn the least and perform the most tedious and robotic tasks, like fast food, janitorial, telemarketing, restaurant, warehouse, hotel, agricultural, and clerical jobs. Or, they perform jobs that may not be robotic, but don’t get paid much: child caregivers, retail store “associates”, yard workers, hospital orderlies, etc. Workers in these groups usually have the fewest years of formal education, a work history of entry level jobs, and few social contacts that they can call upon for a favor, for a leg up on the employment ladder.
If you are frustrated by the limitations of living within your small income and find your workday to be unpleasant, then you must do something to change your life. Waiting for things to change is probably not going to work, because they probably won’t change. This problem is a difficult one, and it is one that is shared by many millions of your fellow citizens. Most of them will not discover a way out of their predicament. However, I hope that you will. You are different than those others. Think about it.
You have purchased, stolen, found, or borrowed a copy of The Modern Prince. You have read 22 chapters of a book on modern Machiavellianism. This is not something that most of your coworkers would ever do. We are not looking down on your coworkers at all. They are who they are and they do what they do. But the fact that you are reading this - and most of your coworkers never will - should tell you that you are very different from them. If you compare yourself to the people you work with and for, you will surely be able to list a number of other ways in which you differ from them.
No one voluntarily stays in a crappy, low-paying job, so presumably you are stuck where you are. The only way to leave your crappy job and not starve to death is to find a better way of getting more money. This is not going to be easy (accept that right now) but it will be worth the time and energy you put into it. How does one climb up the income ladder? There are several easy answers to that question. They are all more easily said than done.
- Education - The more education you have, the better your employment prospects. Presumably you have an education deficit or you wouldn’t be stuck in a crappy job. Explore the possibility of finishing high school, getting a GED, enrolling in an employment-related program of study at the local community college, or start attending a four year college. People with college degrees make a lot more money than people who don’t have them. Education costs money, and money is a problem for you. Nevertheless, you can visit the local public educational institutions. They all have counseling and advising offices. Avoid private institutions, which are usually pricey and may not be accredited. On the other hand, you may not be much of a student and education may not be a way out for you.
- Personal Relationships - Who do you know? Who do they know? Discuss your problem with friends and ask for help. Someone may be able to pull you on board with a better employer or into a better paying position. If someone helps you, don’t forget them. Pay your social debts.
- Move - Relocate to an area where employment prospects are better. Where I live, near the Mexican border, there are lots of unskilled immigrant workers who will do any thing for very little money. This depresses wages in my area, increases the rate of unemployment, and increases competition for even the crappiest of jobs. If you are in such a place, move. A little time in the public library will help you find a place where wages are higher.
- Skills - Even if you don’t have a lot of formal education, you might have skills that someone would pay for. If you know the wilderness, you could be a hunting guide maybe. If you can cook, maybe you can sell homemade bread or fudge to the local tourist traps. If you are an artsy-craftsy type, you can make something that can be sold.
- Find a Niche - I have an acquaintance who once supported himself by cleaning up housing construction sites. Builders may pay you to clean up the lot around houses they have completed. I have another friend who organizes parties for wealthy people. She decorates the house, arranges for catering, makes homemade decorations, works the party, and then supervises the cleanup of the house after the guests have left.
- Be Frugal - If you have a low income with few financial resources, you must be frugal. You are on a cash basis. You cannot afford to purchase anything on a credit card except emergency medical care and legal expenses. Spend less every day than you make every day. Start saving so you will build up a little bundle of cash for unexpected expenses. You should not borrow money for anything but an inexpensive used car. There is no other realistic way to handle your money until you are out of this situation. If you purchase things with credit cards you are just digging a deeper hole for yourself.
- Lotto - Put a buck on the lotto every week. The odds are against you, but you won’t miss a dollar, and somebody has to win. It could be you. (Remember who gave you the idea. Also, give a few bucks to the convenience store clerk who sold it to you. She has a crappy job too.)
- Plan - You must have a plan to get out of your situation and into a better one. You must be working daily, implementing your plan. You will have to figure out the details of your plan, but don’t be reluctant to ask advice from people whose judgment you trust.
- Postpone - Postpone marriage and children if you can. You will enjoy your family much more if you are not strapped for cash and you can provide a more abundant life for them. Having a spouse and children will only increase your money problems and will decrease your ability to solve your employment problem. However, many of us cannot postpone marriage and children because our need for them is too great to withstand. Sometimes pregnancies are a surprise. Abortion, if you do not have a moral problem with it, is much cheaper than a child. You can have children later. The desire to connect with someone of the alternate gender and establish a life together is the most powerful human desire, but a marriage that is badly started has less chance of success.
- Resume Problems - If you have blots on your record (convictions, lawsuits, chronic health problems, a history of being fired often), remember that employers will not enjoy seeing those items on your resume or hearing about them in an interview. If your employer will find out about them anyway, be sure to be up front about them.
Think “Where can I go and what can I do for more money.” The answer may not be immediately apparent. Keep thinking and keep asking the advice of different people. Most importantly, do something every day related to finding a better situation for yourself.
Market Obstacles - Our culture places many obstacles in the path of those who would better themselves. We love stories about people who raise themselves from rags to riches, about the Cinderella who married the royal heir, and about the bright young fellow who invents a new ratchet latch lubricant and becomes a billionaire. Unfortunately, the real stories in our culture are usually rags to rags and riches to riches. Making more money is becoming harder and harder for those who do not start out with a lot of advantages. Education is becoming too expensive, the monied classes are keeping an ever growing percentage of profits for themselves, and employers have learned to treat employees as a cost - not a fellow human. Employers also know that the more they pay you, the less they can pay themselves.
It shocked me, years ago, when a millionaire restaurateur - a close friend - said, “Every dollar I pay my employees is taking bread from the mouths of my children.” I knew her tanned and gorgeous offspring. I occasionally saw my friend’s daughter in her Porsche and her son in his BMW driving to tennis lessons or to the mountains for a ski weekend. It had not previously occurred to me that they suffered from malnutrition.
You will be swimming against the current when you try to increase your income. When your employer pays you more, it is called “inflation.” When your employer pays himself more, it is called “success.”
Personal Obstacles - You must deal with yourself. Life has taught you to expect failure to follow hard work in the future as it has in the past. Feelings of discouragement, a general lack of confidence in yourself, and a feeling that you are destined to live a not-so-great life can keep you from doing the things that can get you out of your current situation and into a better one. Elsewhere in these web pages and in The Modern Prince (buy gift copies for all your friends), I have listed ways to deal with negative feelings. Be sure to read ahead to Chapter 25 on Luck. The last four pages of the chapter list ways to keep your mind (brain) in good condition. No one is too poor to lose weight, give up smoking, and get in good physical condition. All you need is a pair of WalMart walking shoes and a library card so you can check out a book on nutrition. Eat what your stomach likes, not only what your tongue likes. No one is too poor to visit the public library to learn what she doesn’t know. No one is too poor to develop rich and satisfying friendships. Focus on what you can do, not so much on what others have that you don’t. Build yourself into a person who is strong enough to do the difficult things you will have to do to extricate yourself from your predicament.
Good luck. Remember, read the chapter on Luck carefully. Hang in there. Let me know how things go for you.