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Should You Take A Low Paying Job?

Posted By Jim On 01/22/2009 @ 2:19 pm In Career | 37 Comments

Mrs. Micah recently tackled the topic of whether or not it’s a good idea to take a low paying job [3] (she phrased it differently, whether certain kinds of work are beneath you) and gave three arguments why it was a bad idea: it takes up valuable time while draining you of energy you should be using applying for jobs, they aren’t a true solution and could cause complacency, and the less-skilled job doesn’t look good on a resume.

No job is beneath me. On a recent trip to China, where there are a whole mess of people and not enough jobs, I discovered that it was one person’s job to ensure that the grassy median on the main street was properly watered and trimmed. The total area was about 4 feet by 250 feet and it was that one person’s job to water the lawn and flowers, trim the grass and bushes, sweep the street, and ensure the lawn was free of debris. The job paid, put food on the table, and even had a little bit of fulfillment of a job well done (a nicely manicured lawn does look nice) but it probably didn’t fulfill the worker’s higher aspirations. For many, that job is probably “beneath” you (pardon the pun) but that worker was earning a wage and supporting himself and his family (the alternative for many in China is subsistence farming).

At the end of the day, it comes down to whether or not you can support you and your family (if you have one) and for that reason there is never a job that is “beneath” you regardless of your background, education, or skillset.

As for the good reasons, cited above, why it’s bad to take a low paying job? They’re bogus, here’s why:

  • Taking that job takes up valuable time that could be spent job hunting. This statement is true, we cannot bend space and time yet, but the idea behind it is inaccurate. While it will take up your time to work a job, there is only so much you can do in a day with regards to apply for jobs. You send out resumes, you make some calls, and then you wait. Taking a job that will pay the bills so you aren’t panicking and worrying about them can lift that burden off your shoulders and take the edge of the job hunt.
  • Low-paying jobs aren’t a solution and you could become complacent. I find this one very difficult to believe. Let’s say you’re a college educated accountant with 5 years of accounting and just lost your job. After a few months, you turn to a job in retail just to help pay the bills. What’s the probability that you’ll stay in retail because of complacency? Seems somewhat unlikely, doesn’t it?
  • Less-skilled job doesn’t look good on a resume. Don’t put it on. Everything listed on my resume exists to further the aim outlined in the objective or summary of qualifications section. When asked about the period of unemployment, tell the truth (never lie) because the interviewer is a human being too. “I was RIF’d by my last employer, spent 6 months looking for a job and then turned to The Gap to help pay the bills.” If the interviewer sees that as a knock against you, you probably don’t want to work there anyway.

One reason why you shouldn’t take a low paying job? Unemployment benefits. If you’re fired, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits [4] (file for unemployment benefits! [5]). Use your benefits as your income source while you search for a job. If you can’t find a new job before your benefits run out, then you should take on a low paying job.

Finally, I find it dangerous to pass judgment on any job, above, beneath or beside you, because it’s someone’s job somewhere.

(Photo: jdeepaniii [6])


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[1] Tweet: http://twitter.com/share

[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/should-you-take-a-low-paying-job.html

[3] whether or not it’s a good idea to take a low paying job: http://www.financefreelancelife.com/2009/01/22/what-kind-of-work-is-beneath-you/

[4] eligible for unemployment benefits: http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/uifactsheet.asp

[5] file for unemployment benefits!: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/file-for-unemployment-benefits.html

[6] jdeepaniii: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdeepaniii/2673878192/sizes/l/

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