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lunapixie's avatar

I'm very unhappy at my low-paying job and don't know what to do next. Can you advise, please?

Asked by lunapixie (13points) October 11th, 2010

Hello all, I’m a newbie here, so I’m still learning how everything works on this site. Sor here goes my very long question, if you’ll bear with me, please.

I’ve worked for a medium-sized bank for the past two-and-a-half years. Before then, I worked for another, larger bank for just over eight months, right after my husband and I separated. That job was the first job I had in seven years because I was a stay-at-home mom after my son was born. I quit the first job (at the larger bank) because it didn’t pay me enough to support myself and my child. This current job doesn’t, either. There is a lot of pressure to sell, sell, sell. This is to be expected as it is part of my job description, to be an excellent sales person—which I am and excel at. But the pay is awful and the job load is incredible, for I work in the largest branch in the company.

However, I have just been transferred three weeks ago to this branch from another, smaller branch just down the street because headquarters decided to close down that branch (laying off 7 of 12 employees). I’m considered one of the “lucky five” who aren’t being laid off. The reasons they gave me for “keeping” me were several, and most people in my shoes would be ecstatic by those reasons. I have been great in all areas of my work, exceeding their expectation at every opportunity, going above and beyond, so much so I got recognized for one of my projects before the entire company the year after I was hired. I speak three languages and, at almost forty years of age, have lots of life experience which helps me in dealing with customers of all backgrounds and ages. I don’t, however, have a completed college degree. This is partly the reason I’m a bank teller, I believe. The other reason being my lack of courage to venture out of the banking industry, especially out of teller positions.

At my new job at this new branch, there are lots more rules and regulations and things we need to do every day. For the same amount of money. Yes, I appreciate having more to do, but this isn’t creative work, you know. And I know my strenght is in creating things, creating new ways of approaching older concepts and ideas. This I have been unable to do at work lately because management is like Big Brother, constantly looking over my shoulders. They don’t seem to understand that employees are human beings, with different perspectives. It’s sort of like a military institution where you need to be brought to the “default” kind of behavior expected of you. How can there be growth under such circumstances?

I understand that this is how the vast majority of American companies are run today. And I also understand how I accepted my responsabilities in this company by signing on the dotted line and agreeing with all its policies.

What I can’t seem to be able to understand and/or emulate is the courage some people seem to possess to just up and walk away from low-paying jobs, jobs that don’t satisfy them in any way, shape or form, and end up “following their life’s passion.”

How can I do that? Have any of you done that in your personal life? I would love to hear from anyone who knows how to do this and not destroy your entire life in the process, losing everything you worked so hard for.

Thank you!

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15 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Hi, and welcome to Fluther.

I think you have two basic choices, and they don’t have to be exclusive:

1. You could take courses to complete your college degree. I understand that this would probably entail a lot more work load than you want to handle right now, and might cause more loss of time with your family. But if you’re committed to banking, then you really need to fit the mold, I think. Banking (like the military, as you pointed out) is pretty well regimented and “by the numbers”. So if you want to advance in management there, then the paper is important.

2. You could—and probably should—test the waters outside of banking. Some small business owner somewhere (doing who knows what—with your skill set it hardly matters what they do or produce—is dying for a person with your kinds of abilities and talents, and is willing to pay for that, and will give you all of the responsibility you can handle—and pretty much whatever pay you demand. Their policy is, “We need results; what can you do for me?” When you show them, then the door is opened wide, degree or not.

And you could do both of those things: get the degree and get out of banking.

marinelife's avatar

You can transfer your skills to other industries. Looking for a job while you are working is the best way.

You could consider applying for civil service jobs with the government.

You could take you sales skill and generalize it on your resume, and go to work for a more wide-open industry. You might like firms in the high technology field where management is more collegial and employee innovation is encouraged.

john65pennington's avatar

Welcome aboard the Fluther boat.

Just remember this one sentence. “you were looking for a job, when you found this one”.

There are many more out there that pay much better.

Shop around.

janbb's avatar

You have great writing skills and you made your situation very clear. It doesn’t seem like you are in a financial situation where you can quit this job to find another – as most aren’t – so you will have to do your exploring while still working. I would suggest you look for a career counseling service – perhaps there is a free one at your local community college – and start to build your resume and explore other careers.

I was lucky enough to have the ability and finally courage to leave a soul and marriage destroying job at a family business (where I worked with my parents and under my husband (sic)) and managed to walk into a plum job in my old career a few days later. You might not have that luck, but the process of starting to investigate will empower you.

trailsillustrated's avatar

wow, what a talented and accomplished individual you sound like. Take some night classes to finish college. I wish you well sounds like you will be very successful.

wgallios's avatar

My old director of my department always told me, “if you wanna double your salary, find a new job; you’ll never double it by getting raises” (in most cases).

I would say, regardless how the job market is, if you are not making enough money something has to change. That has always been my point of view. I was about to leave the company I work for due to what HR referred to as a “life changing event”. I sat down with my CEO and we worked out something so I would be able to stay with the company because I wasn’t about to keep working in a position if I didn’t have enough to pay my bills. I think it doesn’t matter the salary, if you don’t have the money it doesn’t matter if your making $20k/year or $100k/year.

skfinkel's avatar

I have quit jobs that were wrong in various ways, but I had the luxury of having a working husband who supported those moves. However, they always did lead to better things, sometimes more interesting jobs, and I kept getting more education so that now I have a Ph.D.—also a luxury to take the time to get that education. What I would recommend is first finishing your college education, even if it’s only a course at a time. I realize as a single parent, you also want and need to spend as much time as possible with your child.

Sometimes employers will help you figure out how to get that education, especially if you have been such an outstanding employee, and a person who has potential to go on. Can you speak with your boss about aspirations without jeopardizing your current job? Perhaps they will support you getting a masters in management of some kind.

And, looking for another job while you have a job is always the best. What have your skills developed at the bank prepared you for? Try and spell out what you can do, take a look and see if anything pops out at you.

You didn’t mention what your dream job might be—if you have something you really want to do, begin finding out the requirements for that job, talk to people who do it, and see if you can make a transfer.

perg's avatar

For a start, it sounds as though you would like to quit banking or are at least open to doing so, but aren’t sure what you’d really like to do. I went through this in my prior career (journalism, nearly 25 years’ worth). To start with, if you are able, try volunteering for organizations that interest you – one at a time, and by doing things you can do at home during off-hours (phone calls, writing, accounting) if your time is very limited. That will help you explore the field and see what jobs are available while you build skills and contacts. You will see how your existing skills would be of use for one of those organizations; for example, it’s way too late for me to get the scientific education to work in environmental protection, but I can write for an organization that does that work – and in fact, that’s what I do now.

wundayatta's avatar

The advice you received above is excellent, particularly what @CyanoticWasp said. I wanted to point out a couple of things: 1) it’s really hard to find another job while you are working, and 2) the best time to find a new job is while you are still working.

What you have in front of you is a difficult time if you really want to change your situation. You’ll have to work double time; maybe triple time. Finding a job is a full time job in itself.

If you have the energy for this (and even if you don’t), I think you should change your job, and go to college if you can possibly fit it in. I’m sure with caring for your child, none of this seems very possible. People do it, though You can do it, too. If you want to make enough money to support your family, you’ll have to find a new job.

gorillapaws's avatar

I would look to find work at young, small companies. Technology is a good suggestion, but there are other industries to consider as well. In general, large corporations create policies with rigid HR requirements for advancement and pay. They reward ass-kissing more than merit and generally make the whole company much less efficient than it could be. Succeeding in this environment is like trying to claw your way uphill.

Smaller companies may not be able to offer you a lot of cash, but might be more willing to compensate you well for producing results. For example, you could approach a company and say you are confident you could increase their sales by x dollars, and that you want to be paid with a generous commission plan that has a very low base salary. If you produce well, then you and the company both will enjoy large incomes, and if you fail to do as you claim, it costs them very little. They really don’t have much to loose and the potential to gain much if you’re willing to take these types of risks.

If you’re as talented as you claim to be, I suspect such a strategy would be less risky for you than taking out loans, getting your degree over many years and then expecting to find an employer who will compensate you enough to justify that expense, and time.

jerv's avatar

It sounds to my like you are in the wrong field, or at least the wrong type of job within that field. Personally, I am a machinist with many skills applicable to other forms of manufacturing, but more importantly, it’s the type of stuff I actually like to do. I also have a variety of other skills, some of which pay far better, but I take a lesson I learned from a 7th grade vocational teacher to heart; “The best job in the world isn’t the one with the biggest paycheck; it’s the one you don’t hate doing twenty years later.” That is why I stayed out of IT even though I could earn at least triple what I do; I prefer gears and grease over bits and bytes.

However, I am with @gorillapaws in that I prefer smaller companies with a more diverse workload and a looser, more relaxed work environment over a better paying position in a soulless “just another cog in the machine” jobs. There are some forms of compensation that can’t be measured in dollars. Little touches like not being disciplined for having to leave early to tend to a family emergency, or the General Manager handing out the paychecks personally, shaking your hand, and giving a heartfelt “Thank you” every payday.

I still miss that company, but it was time for me to move on (and cross-country), and I did so because I don’t measure my success with dollars. Sure, I was out of work for over a year shortly after moving, and it was hard not to wish I had stayed in my comfortable, low-paying job (that I actually liked) with a cool company in an area where I knew people as opposed to pulling up my stakes and starting over in a foreign land surrounded by strangers.

But I don’t regret it. And now, almost two years later, I am back in a machine shop at another small, cool, laid-back company, doing what I love, making new friends, and feeling like a better person for scaring the hell out of myself and enduring a little hardship.

Just remember that courage isn’t the absence of fear; it is merely the ability to function when you are scared shitless. If you are faced with the situation where you have to perform in order to keep yourself and your family off the streets, you will be amazed at how brave you can really be. And with the sort of talents you have, I have no doubt that you can perform.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Have you thought about posting for a different position within the bank? I worked at banks all through college, and eventually transitioned from a teller position to commercial note teller, to loan review. It took a little time and networking to make each change. I eventually left banking to work in the accounting department of an ad agency. I also worked as a cashier at a racetrack, during the racing season, because of my money handling abilities.

Think about what your strengths are, and what you like to do. Don’t focus on tasks, but what you really makes you a strong candidate for a different role. Being multilingual, working with financial, in a compliance regulated industry, with strong people skills is transferrable to other industries outside of banking. International shipping would be one consideration, working at a hotel or airlines, working for a credit union, a remote deposit capture system vendor… there are all sorts of things.

Jobs usually don’t fall out of the sky for people, you have to spend a little time making the right connections and talk to people about why you would be a great fit for a certain role.

Bretbocook's avatar

You are a brilliant and talented person, I have always been amazed at how Bank Tellers keep up with all the details, and work under such pressure. I am a lawyer, and I find your work to be more complex, so don’t get down on yourself or think you are not truly talented.
1. I would advise starting a company of some type, and get it going prior to quitting while working weekends, nights: get some cash flow/confidence going first.
2. then follow my Mother’s advice, you have to give up the good, before you can have the “best’! That has alwsys worked for me.
3. Be courageous, and follow your dreams. The hell with the consequences, at least you are living an exciting life by doing so. Shoot for the moon, and and you will probably grab a star at least…
4. Be prepared to make sacrifices, and realize that working for yourself, doing anything is better than working for the “man” or the “woman”!!!
Good luck and be proud and confident with your skills that you already possess.

mattbrowne's avatar

Pick a subject you like and that is also in demand potentially going back to college for a while.

redheaded1's avatar

First, I echo what my friends above have said – I love your skills and accomplishments. You’ve got so much to offer.

This is the only life you live on this earth. We Americans are especially guilty of defining our life by what we do for work. When work is hellish for us, we feel awful. When we’re not working, we feel worse.

I think go back to school, and get that degree. Also, network the heck out of your classmates, teachers, and career counselors at the school. I would encourage you also to not just stick with the business and finance classes that will ‘apply’ to your job. A bigger job requires a well-rounded person in it. Take a class in literature, art, music, language. Just for fun. Work out the other side of your brain.

With that diploma, move up in the bank or out into the world doing something different. The diploma is your ticket. When you have it, you’ll have doors open to you, and you’ll walk through a good one.

Best of luck. You’ll rock it, girl!

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