Question: “Is there a way to climb out of the low-wage cellar?”
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The whole low-wage issue is such a politically charged one, and there are so many ways to answer this question, but I will attempt to stick to the practical and avoid the political. Many blame the McDonald’s and Wal-Marts of the world, but they are just part of a larger problem. How can it be that 30 million workers — about a quarter of the U.S. workforce — must toil low-wage, low-future, low-respect jobs?
Low-wage workers labor in many industries — retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, security, agriculture, and manufacturing. The working poor toil as retail clerks and cashiers, child-care workers, nurses aides, call-center operators, housekeepers and janitors, food-preparation workers, security guards, farm laborers, and sewing-machine operators.
Low-wage workers tend to be white, female, and with limited formal education. They often work in temporary or part-time positions and many have family responsibilities. More than half have at most a high-school education, with almost a quarter having only some high-school education. It’s worth noting, however, that minorities are much more highly represented in the low-wage workforce than the total workforce, and immigrants are especially likely to land in low-paying jobs.
Are there ways to for low-wage workers to climb out of the job cellar? Yes, and here are just a few of them:
Seek Career Counseling. Many communities around the U.S. have career resources available at no or a very low cost. Job-seekers can find career counseling at Career One-Stop Centers. These centers offer all sorts of help for job-seekers. Job-seekers might also check with local high schools, community college, and vocational schools.
Identify Transferable Skills. These are skills you have acquired during any activity in your life — jobs, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports, virtually anything — that are transferable and applicable to what you want to do in your next job. You may not think being a waitress or a store clerk provides you with many skills, but you would be wrong. Learn more here: Transferable Job Skills for Job-Seekers.
Find the Right Employers. While many employers do not see the likelihood of dramatically increasing wages for many of these occupations, job-seekers who love what they do should look for employers who have a corporate culture of respecting all employees. Research employers who offer career ladders and training or education benefits for advancement, healthcare and childcare benefits, job flexibility, and emergency loans or grants to employees in sudden crisis.
Pursue Educational Opportunities. Because continuing education is still out of reach for so many, this solution — while being an important one — is discussed last. Furthering your education will bring you more job opportunities. The hurdle, of course, is how to find the time and money to be able to do so.
Read more and learn more in this article: Surviving and Moving Beyond Low-Wage Jobs: Solutions for an Invisible Workforce in America.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
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Dr. Randall S. Hansen is a nationally recognized career and job-search expert. He is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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