| Works for Me |

“I Like My Job But Am Very Underpaid” 

Tap in to your inborn strengths and life experience to take control of your career

I’ve been employed for the last ten years, at a total of five jobs, not all in the same industry. I actually like the work I’m doing now, but I’m not making ends meet and have been told by friends that I’m severely underpaid. My boss isn’t willing to pay more, despite the fact that my work has brought in new business and I’ve taken on extra responsibilities. I don’t have many people to ask career advice from — I’m an oldest, my father-in-law is in chinuch, and I lost my father when I was 11. I’m wondering if you can advise me — do I keep my job, look for another similar one, or something else altogether?


I’m glad you mentioned two points I often ask clients about: birth order and parents’ profession.

Strange as that may seem for a career consultant, they often provide valuable insight into dynamics we see playing out on the job. I’m going to make some generalized assumptions based on statistics, which may or may not be true for you. They do reflect prevalent dynamics, and I find recognizing these factors can be helpful.

Oldest children, even in adulthood, are more likely than others to naturally take on extra responsibilities, whether or not they are required to. They’re also likely to be people pleasers and perfectionists, and have strong leadership skills. Compared to their siblings, they often are higher earners.

In your case though, losing a father at such a pivotal age seems to have hijacked the typical eldest path. As you likely have thought about many times, losing your father affected so many parts of your life, including your career trajectory. Men often model their careers after their fathers, sometimes even going into the same profession.There is also the social loss, namely the ability to tap in to the parent’s professional network, which gives young people an easy entry into the workforce.

Then there are the practical considerations. You may have gone to work at a younger age than your peers due to necessity, which usually means there was less time to consider a career path because of the focus on short-term salary needs.

Taking these possible factors into consideration, I wonder if your background has influenced your career path in a more significant way than you give it credit for. In that case, identifying the factors at play can allow you to work toward career success. It’s easy to develop a victim mentality when you actually have been a victim of difficult circumstances, but it’s your job to develop a success mindset if you’d like to create success in your life and career.

It’s natural that you are given extra responsibilities and just take them on — you’re probably used to doing that in life. The thing is, though, it’s not life, it’s just a job, and you get to say no. Of course, there’s a way to say that in a way that won’t put you at risk of losing your job (until you decide to). For example: “I’m excited at the opportunity of taking on X project. Right now, though, my time is full with Y. Would you prefer I hand Y off to someone else? Alternatively, I’m willing to put in some paid overtime hours to get it done — let me know if that’s approved.”

In terms of salary, people are usually taken advantage of as much as they allow it. Please find out exactly what you should be earning and have a conversation with your boss. “I’ve become aware that people with my job title and experience level are being paid X. I’d like to get my salary up to where it should be. Please let me know if there’s anything more you expect from me.” If the boss does not come up with a reasonable plan, it’s time to discreetly apply to similar positions and consider moving on.

You’re hardworking, curious, and driven to support your family. Tap in to your inborn strengths and life experience to take control of your career, and I think you’ll find you have what it takes to succeed.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 990)

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