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How to Survive Working a Minimum Wage Job

Updated on February 4, 2019
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Krzysztof is a tech junkie investigating the latest stories from companies like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon.


United States Federal Minimum Wage

A minimum wage job is the lowest possible wage one can attain on a federal or state based level as enacted by law.

  • As of February 2019, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour but that number varies when factoring in each state's own minimum wage.

Recently the city of Los Angeles proposed and will enact a wage hike to $15 per hour over the next few years, which in some states may seem like a normal rate for any job.

Yet to most people's eyes, a low wage job indicates lesser quality or experience of job related functions than a higher paying job would entail.

That's not always the case but companies can save a lot of money hiring people to work for less, and a few corporations take advantage of that by making people do more than they should for very little.

However if you're in this position, it's not the end of the world. You can learn to actually love your minimum wage job if you follow these guidelines. Trust me it'll make the process a lot simpler, and I've worked several of these low paying jobs so I know what it feels like.

Fleeting speed of a race car.
Fleeting speed of a race car. | Source

How a Minimum Wage Job Could Damage Your Mental Health

This is important to keep in mind because it'll get you through the mental struggle you might have to endure during the process, but just remember this key advice:

  • It won't last forever
  • There will be better opportunities
  • You'll always have the chance to do more

This kind of job won't last forever because it shouldn't last forever. Eventually you'll either get a different position within the company, you'll move onto another job, or you'll encounter multiple raise opportunities.

If your mindset is that you'll be working for minimum wage forever or that you'll never get a better paying job, then you will be working a minimum wage job forever. How you think affects what you're going to do next, so you'll need to address goals and your future.

Failing to think about a better future will only result in a mental breakdown and a settlement for mediocrity.

How to Ask for a Raise

The federal minimum wage is likely to go up in the coming years as it's been addressed by President Obama & Trump, and many states are already well above the federal wage with more hikes to come.

But if that isn't good enough for you, then there are three more options:

  • Ask for a raise
  • Produce quality to gain attention for a raise
  • Build a rapport with management/owners

You can straight up try asking for more money (many employees are too afraid to do so) or you can do the best at your job to warrant attention that'll lead towards pay hikes.

If you do the best you can and produce superior quality over other employees, then chances are your managers and supervisors will notice.

There's no guarantee that they will (especially in some companies), but if you prove to be invaluable to them, then they'll do anything it takes to make sure you stay such as increasing your hourly rate.

Finally you should try to get chummy with management and the owners because the friendlier you are with them, the more likely they'll give you that raise you've been begging for. They might also place you in a higher position, which alone would satisfy better wages.

Don't just accept low wages, find ways to increase them.

More Money, Less Problems

How Long Before You Would Ask for a Raise?

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All customer service jobs require enthusiasm
All customer service jobs require enthusiasm | Source

Potential Skills to Acquire

Job Category
Primary Skills Learned
Secondary Skills
Customer Service, Business Savvy
Responsibility, Working in Team Settings
New Technology, Research Trends
Ambitious, Self-starter
Child Care
Communication with Adults/children
Develop new ideas, Creativity
Fast Food/Restaurant
Patience, Customer Relations
Leadership, Respect

Learn New Skills

The table above is just an example of some of the skills you could gain while working in certain departments.

Let's say you're an associate at Walmart; what thing can you gain by being an associate? If you say nothing, then that's where you'll falter. Plenty of successful people had to start at the bottom, but they still managed to learn new skills that would aid them in future endeavors.

Probably the greatest skills you can learn are communication and interpersonal interactions with other employers, managers, and customers. You'll also gain/incorporate a ton of other abilities including:

  • Time management
  • Taking initiative
  • Working with others
  • Dealing with stress and pressure

The list doesn't stop there because there are many other things to obtain if you allow yourself to learn from every experience no matter how mediocre it may seem.

No matter what job or career you have, a lot of them seek similar qualities in employees so you can't neglect learning them. Think of a minimum wage job as your growth in the education system: you start off at lower levels but eventually you learn more and more until graduation.

The job ladder works in that same fashion, and each job is another step to what will one day be your dream job/career.

Three co-workers and friends working together
Three co-workers and friends working together | Source

Make Connections

Don't ignore or isolate yourself when working especially if it's a difficult and tedious minimum wage job. Instead try to establish and grow relationships with your employees, managers, supervisors, owners, and everyone else connected to your workplace.

With management, there are obvious reasons why you should want to be buddy-buddy with them, but let's not forget about your co-workers. Those are the people you'll be working with most of the time you're there, so why would you isolate yourself from them.

  • Build relationships and friendships because they'll benefit you in more ways than one.

One day one of those co-workers might become a manager or better, and you could be the first person they call to promote or give raises to.

It's tough waking up in the morning knowing you have to work long hours for minimum wage, but it does make it easier working with people you have a good relationship with. It makes the day go by faster, and it make the job less stressful.

Don't neglect the people you work with—get to know them and be friendly with them (it will be worth it).

Take Every Opportunity & Work Hard

The worst thing you could do is be lazy, come into work late, not follow instructions, do the absolute minimum, and play the victim card. Just because it's a minimum wage job doesn't mean you should give minimum effort.

In case you didn't already know, here are some consequences when producing low quality work:

  • Get fired or released
  • Negative reputation for future employers
  • Diminishes abilities
  • Appears incompetent
  • No raises, no promotions, no growth

If you don't care at all, then your managers won't either and you'll either be let go or fired (permanent mark on job record). If the job is so miserable and you absolutely hate it, then look for another job or just quit. Don't punish yourself and the company you work for by being lazy and dismissive.

What you should be doing is taking advantage of every opportunity presented. If you're offered quality tasks then take advantage of them. Do the most you can and produce the best results because it'll only help you in the future.

It may be difficult to give it your all, but focus on the goals at hand. Your goals are important because they'll get you through anything as long as you only focus on a positive outlook.

Maximize the potential you have and don't produce low quality work. You want to be seen as an exceptional, irreplaceable worker and not a dispensable rag doll.

Job Fair

Are Minimum Wage Jobs Worth It?

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