“Don’t ever settle for less than you deserve, because once you start to settle you always will.”
You spend the majority of your adult life at work; in fact, you probably spend more of your week in the office or at your job than you do at home (if you’re not working from home that is!). So it’s still completely astounding to hear that so many people absolutely hate their jobs and yet choose to stay where they are than doing something about it.
I get the whole first world privilege of being able to choose your job and having a relatively easy option of finding good paying jobs, but I can tell you as a career woman in a first world country, this privilege still comes with its own sets of problems and challenges.
In comparison to a lot of countries out there, I had a relatively good paying job. I was 23 years old earning a good salary enough for me to pay my bills and live a little more luxuriously than I could before. I didn’t have to worry too much about how much clothes cost, I could eat out as much as I wanted and my social life was great. Yes, you could say I was pretty lucky, from the outside I was blessed with so many great things, but inside I was completely miserable. I was in a job for almost 2 years and it completely bled me dry, emotionally, mentally and physically, there was not much more I could give towards the end. I spent the majority of my week at work; I spent more hours in the office or working than I had time to do much else for myself. I had some pretty bad colleagues, and even worse managers, I had no room for growth or self-exploring, I couldn’t progress much as an individual let alone as a professional because I just had so much to do and my team didn’t have enough people to do it. I worked in a place where people refused to own a job or work off of their own initiative so often I found myself having to pick up the slack and balance my work-load with all the other bits no one wanted to do. It was mind numbingly dull, I wanted to be expressive, I wanted to be good, I wanted a pat on the back that as an adult you shouldn’t seek but often crave. It was quite sad really. This affected my personal life too, I was stressed, unhappy and so on my days off instead of being able to do the things I enjoyed, I began spending the little free time I had in bed trying to recuperate from my exhausting week. But still, I reminded myself I was lucky. I had a good paying job, I needed to pay the bills, my title was a great one to have at 23 years old, and even if my managers didn’t give two looks at me, those I met at events or my equals outside of work marvelled at how much I did and the difference I was making. Outside of the office at work events, I somehow felt validated, even for a few hours, it seemed worth it to me. I thought that was enough to continue, but I knew deep down that my time at this workplace was not built to last and I would probably have a nervous breakdown before I knew what was coming.
But still I persevered, every day I wrote out 10 things I wanted to accomplish, luxury things I would buy with my hard earned pay. It worked for a little while, every day I felt motivated, I had something to strive for, I thought even if the job was rubbish and the way they treated their staff was awful, my pay made a difference.
Then they opened another branch, I did a little digging and found out that the pay they were giving to the new employee, my equivalent at the new branch was £11,000 per year more than what I was getting, not even that but it included benefits that I had previously asked for and was laughed at for requesting.
Well, you can see why this directed me down a spiral path of anger and resentment. I spent so long preparing things for this new worker, I was creating things and putting together information packs for them to simply pick up and train with. I was making their job 100% easier all for £11,000 less pay. This new person wasn’t going to have to start from scratch like I had to, they had a nicer office, nicer managers, they had more freedom than I was allowed, it made my blood boil.
You could say the bubble of my happy work self burst and I decided, though I was very scared, that I would ask for a much-deserved pay rise.
So I did, during my annual review, that I had to request to have, even if it was 2 months late, and I asked. I didn’t ask for an £11,000 increase, in fact, what I requested was small in comparison, but I felt I deserved it and that I was more likely to be approved if I asked for a fair but small amount. I also asked for a few benefits that I knew the other employee was going to be offered. I prepared my initial job description and included the things I did on top of my work, I mentioned how I added value to my role but also to the organisation, I talked about how I had increased our client base, how I extended many of my personal clients and that I had good long term clients I dealt with. I showed how as an employee I had improved over the 2 years and everything I offered to the organisation, the money I saved them and overall my strong work ethic, willing to work on weekends and over my hours without pay. You know what they’re response was?
When I planned this whole meeting and conversation in my head, I thought my worst case scenario was that they would say no. That they’d come up with some bullshit like there was not enough money in the budget even if I overheard the managing director tell my manager that they had so much money to play with that the new manager (my equal would be able to do a lot of new projects to earn the business more money). I really thought that was how they would respond if they were going to say no, instead they got angry at me.
Angry that I had the nerve to ask for a pay rise when the financial year hadn’t been up yet, that they didn’t do pay reviews at annual reviews, that I didn’t understand how the process worked. They agreed I added value to the organisation but felt my pay was the most that would be acceptable of my role. My manager even went so far as to tell me that they didn’t feel like I had earned a pay rise and that I should never have asked for a pay rise because it made me look like I was money hungry. There’s a Tagalog saying, ‘mukang pera’, which in translation, with a little bit of explanation is, that you’re greedy for money. I was so embarrassed because for years I had tried to establish myself as a good, loyal and honest employee. I was never about money, yes the amount I was earning, to me felt good, why? Because prior to me working, I was a poor student who had to have 3 jobs in order to pay my bills whilst I was studying. I didn’t know what it felt to have extra cash, to not live pay cheque to pay cheque, of course, I would have jumped at the chance to earn what I thought was a good salary for honest work. I didn’t anticipate that my workload would increase, that more would be expected and I’d be training more people. Have more people to manage than I did. I loved the extra responsibilities, I liked having people who worked under my authority, I liked being challenged as an employee, what I felt frustrated and insulted by was that I would have another manager come along and be offered much more for doing the same amount of work and simply because I had already accepted my salary and showed I was willing to do the same work but for substantially less. I couldn’t help feel sick at how embarrassed I was, that I was going to be leaving that meeting looking like I was money grabbing and only motivated by the pounds on my pay cheque.
Why do work-places make you feel embarrassed and ashamed to ask for the pay that you deserve? They make it out like you’re money hungry every time you ask because most places want cheap labour. I wish someone had told me it’s okay to ask, it’s okay to want, you do deserve the pay that equates to your level of work and if they tell you that they don’t agree then they’re not worth staying with. If you feel bad, if they say there isn’t any money in the budget to give you that pay, or even raise your pay a little then it’s clear they are prepared to lose you, and if they’re prepared to lose you then why should you commit to them? It’s a two-way street, two-way relationship, it’s not all give or all take, you compromise, you work hard, they pay you what you’re worth/what you earn, what you work for. You deserve a stable and committed working life. Companies need to start concentrating on how they treat their staff, my best friend told me, good employees don’t leave organisations, they leave bad managers, and I couldn’t agree more. The staff turnover at my old job is above average, especially for an organisation that isn’t sales based, it’s not a coincidence that good employees are jumping ship from that place. Good employers should know who their star employees are and be willing to fight to keep them, that’s how to run a successful business, clients and consumers are important sure, but it’s probably more important to keep your staff, loyal, motivated and passionate about your business, because it’s them who the clients trust.
Sadly a lot of organisations waste the talent of their employees because they aren’t willing to fork out a little bit to keep them happy, the people at the top aren’t affected, they’ll continue to earn their millions and with added bonuses whilst the middle-men and lower men continue to get trampled on.
So there’s a tonne of miserable office zombies watching the world go by as they go grey from the stress of living a mediocre and unfulfilled life. But that’s not how we should be living, we should be doing things that excite us, make us nervous and challenges us. We should be living a happy and content life that yes pays well but also fulfils us in the way we’re encouraged to work.
Yes I understand that there are bills to pay, homes to buy (to validate your need to feel like an adult) yes you’re planning for kids and saving for a life, but really, are you going to spend your precious youth being miserable so that in your retirement when you may be a little less able than you are now, you can half enjoy the stuff that you could only dream about in your youth? It seems so backwards to me. It’s frustrating to watch so many people, myself included, be so afraid to take that leap, to go and find something they are truly passionate about. I wish more people made careers out of their hobbies, maybe you’d earn less, but wouldn’t the satisfaction of knowing you were doing something that made you happy be worth it? I know so many people who aren’t willing to do that. I know my partner wouldn’t be happy exiting the rat race to live his authentic self, why? Because his path, the life he wants/needs to live is all to do with climbing up the career ladder. I get that there are those who’s dreams and passions begin and end with where they are professionally in 10 years time, but me? Well I’d like to think my job will be more than just a career but something that excites me, that makes me happy and that in 5 years time will make me glad I followed in that direction.
You shouldn’t just settle for a job because society tells you that’s what you need to do/have in order to be a fully functioning adult. You need to strive for better, something that you’re truly passionate about, a job that you’re excited to go to, a job that makes you feel happy like you’re making a difference no matter what that may be. It should strike a nerve in you, it should motivate you, a job shouldn’t just be a career, it should be a dream, something that is attainable if you are willing to take that leap of faith, why not, it’s all for you anyway right? There’s a career for everyone, you just have to know what you want and where to look. Settling for a mediocre job doing something you hate is a really good way to end up in a dead-end job, and a dead end job, well it gives you nothing in return, it’s a whole lot of work for little pay-out, little value not just monetarily but emotionally and mentally. A dead end job can only leave you feeling down and you may find that after a few years of repeating the same things day in and day out, you’ll feel demotivated, stressed and like your years have passed you by but you’ve not got anything to show for it. You’ll miss those opportunities where you could have found the real thing, true happiness, a job that could have led to somewhere great, a dead end job, sucks your youth and energy and will leave you feeling empty.
Which is exactly the same as being in a romantic relationship, If so many people were angered by the first part of this blog, being in a job where they don’t pay you equally or even close to what you work for and deserve, if it seems ridiculous to be wasting your time in a dead-end job with no future prospects then why would a dead end relationship be worth settling for?
Think about it. Don’t settle; strive for greatness in life, at work and in love.
Choose you, choose love, choose greatness, you never know where it may take you.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud every day!
Peace and Love