New Low Wage Earning Addiction a Slap in the Face to Struggling Americans?

Everything is an addiction today from the known hazards of drugs, alcohol, gambling to 21st century addictions to the internet, cellphones, blackberries and other gadgets; addiction has become the new buzzword for an intense like of something, enjoyment of an activity or fondness for an object. But the newest addiction being brought to the public consciousness is not only bizarre, carrying with it questions about its validity, but also seems inaccurate considering our current economic climate. According to both money smart magazine and the John Tesh radio show, there is now a 12 step program for people who seem stuck in minimum wage work; under earners anonymous, designed to get people out of bad habits and into high paying, high power, career minded positions. Such meetings are popping up all over the U.S., going as far as European cities like London; said program meets to share stories, keep time journals, newer members paired with older, successful ones to achieve career goals. The touted success story, a woman with a masters degree who went from working a minimum wage office supply job to making 10 times that a year into so called recovery.

While this may sound like a hoax to some and a good way of getting out of a rut to others, upon closer inspection it has several flaws; looking at the key symptoms of those deemed under-earners it could be describing multitudes of Americans making suitable wages for their field, experience and education level, ignoring larger employment system problems. For example supposed chronic low wage job holders are said to compulsively reject ideas that could expand life, career and profitability; however, participate in a social networking site, tell your friends you are looking for work, exploring changing jobs, seeking a new car, thinking of buying a pet and you’ll have no shortage of suggestions thrown at you that you have to weed through. Telling someone desperate for a driver’s license and vehicle about places that “give people cars,” two for government rebate programs, habitat for humanity, who works primarily with families, and another organization geared toward giving vehicles to church and community groups, doesn’t help them, because they are already in a catch 22. They need a vehicle to maximize job search efforts, interview with or go to and from a job that may be off the city bus line, may have hours incomparable to bus schedules, yet do not have anyone to teach them to drive, no money to afford professional driving instruction, no money for gas, insurance, upkeep, even if the programs listed to gave them a car. One instance proving rejecting ideas can be a good thing, and if these are the caliber, quality of the ideas you get, it puts a new perspective on compulsive in that context.

Another unsuitable suggestion involved someone looking for an income who was told to sell arts and crafts, since their online profile stated they liked to draw/paint and do several things with art. However this person did it as a hobby producing things nowhere near good enough to sell, their work was primarily painting and drawing not arts and crafts, i.e. wall decorations, knickknacks, jewelry, decorative candles, coffee cups and so forth. Furthermore the person had no idea where they would sell items, place them to see if anyone was interested in purchase; our would be helpful person then turned nasty saying: well find out, rather than divulging strategies, gallleries or business buildings willing to display work for sale or public view. Adding to the complications implementing their suggestion was the fact the person was disabled, making it difficult to just go somewhere and set up a display, forget the set up itself.

Regarding established positions themselves, people may say no to certain ideas because they know they aren’t good with children, or do poorly with numbers, dislike customer service, want to build a solid work history before experimenting too much in the job market. Similar thoughts apply to minimum earners apparent compulsive need to prove, independent of already having shown competence, value in the workplace. Proving you are an asset to your company, office or boss use to be called excellence, loyalty, commitment to that organization, attributes desired by employers more and more today. Continually demonstrating you are a vital contribution to your workplace’s function is how people endeavourer to keep their job, especially in an economy still shedding jobs by the thousands daily; ironically this has been presented not only as a way of staying employed, but a step toward asking for pay raises, promotions, information repeatedly doled out on the Jon Tesh Radio Show. Again compulsive becomes a relative term when employers are letting go of good, competent, experienced workers they can no longer afford. Speaking proving self, experts say the key to asking your boss for a raise, promotion and getting it lies in reminding them what positive things you have done for the company lately, taking on more tasks, responsibilities to show you are ready for a higher ranking job, things you can’t do without making your efforts, ambitions known.

Tenet number 7 of under earners anonymous states that people with this problem under value, under price services or talents fear asking for increases in compensation or what the market will bear. Really, when everyone currently “fears” asking for a raise, promotion or change, seeing their company struggle, viewing the news showing how bad the economy is, many grateful they have a job at all. Conversely no one responds to a bragger who seems full of themselves, constantly talking up their abilities, always wanting more, more, more, characteristics that often cause denial of advancement. From the business owner, self employed side of things tenet number 10 saying under-earners feel guilt and shame, feel uneasy asking for their needs or what is owned to them, hardly find it misplaced, when they are forced to raise prices on loyal customers, have to charge ridiculous prices for normally cheap items, because they are a small business trying to make ends meet, are facilitating crucial services to low income persons, poor neighborhoods, destitute individuals, then having to ask for money at all, forget prices their clientele can’t afford.

In that same vain, people who choose to work alone may not be low wage earners gripped by a syndrome or skewed mindset, rather those who know the potential drawbacks of having co-workers, associates, employees. Because corporations, company dynamics are not like high school where you can pull out a list of assigned tasked appointed to each team member, show them what’s not done, say that was person X’s responsibility and be graded on your efforts individually; neither is it like college where similar grading might be applied to small in class projects. Your boss doesn’t care who was assigned what or why it’s not finished; all they care about is the project is incomplete. Additionally it can make you look like your not a team player if you expose slackers, those who refused to work on the assignment, can make you look like an ineffective team leader if you can’t make others fall in line, so to correct the problem you end up completing much of the work yourself, translating into, you should have started there to begin with. Situations easily developed if other co-workers wanted the team leader position and didn’t get it, see you as a brown nose, an overachiever only seeking to climb the career ladder; working alone eliminates multitudes of office politics issues. Having associates can mean finding yourself knee deep in business ventures before said associate backs out leaving you in financial or career jeopardy, can lead to people stealing your ideas, taking them to a boss as their own or profiting from them before you can put them out there. Hiring employees will ultimately mean firing at least one, will mean managing them, will mean taking on more than you are perhaps ready for.

Giving away time, another classic sign of under earners, can be an alternative to traditional volunteering, a replacement for dwindling internships, perfect for recent graduates lacking experience. Providing IT work for your local community center uses skills learned in the classroom in a practical way, designing flyers for your local church could denote marketing skills, graphic design skills, writing ability to put on a rèsumè coupled with degrees in any of those areas towards an end goal of a paying job. Offering such work to people you know, community organizations, clubs you are already a part of eliminates run around those looking to volunteer or intern sometimes get. Doing things for free routinely translates into a less complicated way to turn a hobby into a career, an easy way to put non traditional skills on a rèsumè, add personality to a cover letter, create answers to common interview questions. Giving away free haircuts, meals at your restaurant, free samples of beauty products is an ideal way to alert citizens to your new, reinvaded business, a step toward building both customer base and brand loyalty, a strategy often employed by said entities.

Not following up may appear to be a tell tale sign of someone who is not serious about their job search, wish to change jobs, improve circumstances and is rattled off as a symptom of an addicted low wage worker, but seeing the current business climate, attitude it’s a case of not so fast. Employers nowadays barely respond to follow up attempts, if contacted by e-mail are likely to give an automated response or a quick message saying thanks for the follow up, are rarely available to come to the phone, are hard to track down at their offices. Since the program is for under earners, it is assumed you already have a job, probably working 8-5 and if the jobs your applying for operate on those hours too, it virtually eliminates any possibility of going there in person to put a face to application materials, nearly excludes apply in person job ads altogether. Persons who work nights or odd hours forcing them to sleep during average business hours produces an identical conundrum, when trying to change jobs, attempting to get a job with more standard hours.

As stated in the opening, this new addiction has seriously questionable validity; aside from the pillar traits exhibited by so called under-earners, 8 out of 12 of which are easily explained by any other circumstances it assumes several practical, social, even logical fallacies. First and foremost on that front, the math of the shining success story does not add up. The woman went from minimum wage office supply store worker to making 10 times as much in a high powered position; so this article is saying she went from making anywhere from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, varied by state, to 50 to 70 dollars an hour. Very few jobs carry salaries so high, and she wasn’t waitressing at a bar or upper class restaurant making 2-3 dollars plus tips, to drop that down to a more feasible 20-30 an hour. Key details missing are what her degree was in, where she works and an approximate hourly, weekly, monthly or yearly income. Further taking someone from minimum wage to executive, what people infer when you say high powered position, sets them up for failure because they do not have the leadership, management skills or job knowledge gained in intermediate posts, facts making it equally unlikely they could make that jump, owning to the implausibility of them being hired without said skills and knowledge.

Blowing a hole in a popular misnomer painting minimum wage workers, those just getting by in life, like the creator of the program known only by “Bill,” as afraid of success, skirting responsibility, is a long held dirty little secret that people are not afraid of success simply are never told specific steps beyond character traits to achieve it. Rather than being told what degrees are good for what positions, what computer software you need to be familiar with to get promoted, that business classes would be good if you plan on reaching your goal of X job title, a list of possible job titles from entry level to their dream position to consider, to look for in want ads, individuals are told about perseverance, commitment, integrity, positive work habits, showing up on time, dressing the part being prepared; great things unless you already have those things and still aren’t progressing. People aren’t avoiding responsibility, instead are unfortunately never taught responsibilities related to specific jobs; in its place is bandied comments of responsibility as a character trait, buzz words like leadership, management skills leaving out concrete examples tied to the persons current job or the position they someday wish to hold. Any fear of success or responsibility stems from uncertainty regarding will they be able to get or be given this information as they move up the ladder, will they be properly trained when promoted? Why so many people end up in minimum wage jobs is no mystery; it’s because those jobs come with responsibilities the average person understands, responsibilities that do not require training outside minimum amounts given to new workers on any job. Coupled with that is leadership and management skills aren’t something seen in low wage workplaces, fast food, retail; how are you supposed to know if you have them or learn them if your not around it?

Lack of following up, rejecting ideas and something under-earners anonymous calls time indifference described as putting off what must be done and not using your time to support future goals, come together in drastically different picture for anyone who has attempted to find a job lately, for those striking out into a new career, struggling just out of college, anyone trying to transition out of minimum wage work. Rejection of job ideas may mean rejecting job listings across the country, in adjacent cities based on insufficient funds to move, based on caring for aging parents, ailing family or having a solid support system where you live; why follow up on a job you know carries these negative aspects? Other rejections of ideas to make money, take steps toward certain career fields may be due to no money for further education, no money for tools, equipment, software to launch said idea. On the subject of family, friends and support systems, they may account for the so called time indifference, if you spend your free time taking care of sick parents, babysitting a terminally ill relatives kids when you can; no, your not spending it reaching a career goal, but it’s not spent watching TV, drinking beer, as the tone would imply. Apart from that working individuals usually spend significant portions of their off hours, weekends, days off cleaning their house/apartment, getting groceries, doing laundry, running basic errands; looking for Mr. or Mrs. right, spending time with a boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other takes up spare time as well, all signs of healthy well-rounded adult behavior. None of the above having to do with poor time management, slacker attitudes or indicative of unproductive mindsets. Not to mention keeping time journals, listing time indifference as a signal you have this problem gives the impression you always have to be on, always at work, always doing something toward a career goal in your spare time, that it’s never ok to relax or enjoy leisure activity to an already stressed out, overworked, over multi-tasked America.

Next this acclaimed cure for chronic low wage working ignores current conditions, former white collar workers working minimum wage for an income; never mentioned is the unadulterated fact employers are doing more with less meaning there are less jobs over all and someone has to work minimum wage positions. It ignores the poor job we do of telling people how to get where they want to go whereas here you have a program that pairs veteran members with new persons, a dynamic allowing under-earners wanting help exposure to how others have obtained their goals; often being shown for the first time how to craft a rèsumè worthy of higher level positions, being put in touch with information about how to do something other than minimum wage work, people who may have contacts in the field you want to get into, for the first time are talking to people who know how to network, how to make someone interested in what you have to offer. Also swept under the rug, the dynamic present today where executives, and others in high company jobs, freely admit to having no time to train, mentor, teach talented up and comings showing promise. Because employer are hiring so few people, even when you get your foot in the door as an entry level employee wanting to go further, one you don’t know how and two, you don’t have time to watch how Bill in accounting does his job or Susan in marketing, as you are so busy doing your job, nor do Bill and Susan have time to talk to you about how they got into their job, where they interned or went to school due to being equally busy doing their job. By the way employers may provide limited training to a new employee, not a promoted one, in that case, you are expected to learn needed skills by osmosis, a trend popping up more and more throughout all of society to its detriment.

According to officials, it’s not just a low wage earner’s inability to get by it’s underachieving, not living up to your full potential. Yet that assumes people’s only motivation for employment is how much money they can make, climbing the career ladder. Following that logic are we going to start calling teachers under-earners because they make so little money; what about social workers, youth counselors, police officers or because they stay in lower positions like teacher or street cop instead of becoming principal, superintendent, detective, police commissioner? It disregards people who happened onto a job or career, then fell in love with it, people who remain teaching, patrolling streets, interacting with individuals in social services, even doing office work, because they like what they do, it’s where their passion is. Utterly ignored is the fact that so called under-earners are working, are holding jobs, regardless of if the woman in the success story liked low responsibility and felt superior to her co-workers; incidentally it’s far better than people landing positions they can’t handle and contributing to the irresponsibility and incompetence already running rampant. Conveniently tucked away are the number of people working minimum wage who are predominately single, no children and can get by on minimum wage, are paying their bills, have adequate housing and are HAPPY, some who lead minimalist lifestyles that do not conform to the things, things, things concept of capitalism. Dismissed are persons who work better in low stress, relaxed environments who can’t handle the corporate rat race, high octane careers, know it and are employed accordingly; again better than being socially peer pressured into one, or don’t we notice all the individuals suddenly playing a deadly game of shoot ’em up, killing co-workers at the office?

Lastly calling this an addiction, finding yet another way of placing the blame on individuals for societies failings, for flaws in a broken employment system is not only inaccurate, but insensitive and insulting to Americans who can’t get by because they lost their high powered, high paying job and “under-earn” to earn anything at all. Making people the problem, making them responsible for all that’s going on is a slap in the face to people who have all the positive traits wanted in the workplace, are trying to get beyond low wage work but can’t and never does anything about the bigger picture. Under-earners Anonymous is an affront to people who are responsible, get by and are happy with who they are, what they do and how they live. It encourages people to set themselves up for failure, pushing for things they neither want nor are capable of attaining; it sends the message only money is important, not well being or relationships, job satisfaction, healthy work environments. We don’t need a 12 step program to get out of minimum wage work; we need employers willing to train, we need business entities willing to speak with people, willing to tell the public how to get into higher paying fields, we need programs that put practical information in the hands of those wanting to move up, not time journals bashing the fact that you went home after work and watched TV or bought that new pair of shoes instead of a career magazine.

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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