The hard truth about wages…

If you feel it’s getting more difficult to find a decent paying job, you’re not alone.   Earlier this month, I described how wages are declining and why this trend is  unlikely to reverse soon for CBS Moneywatch, and thought it might be worth sharing.

Some of the reaons are obvious.  The continuing recession and high unemployment mean employers have more candidates to choose from and less pressure to pay a premium to get them.  Businesses are also cutting hours, resulting in a record number of individuals earning part-time wages. 

Meanwhile,  industry and structural shifts are eliminating some jobs forever. There’s a great piece here that outlines how this is happening.  What jobs are disappearing?  The loss of work in construction and manufacturing  may seem predictable, but others — like the permanent elimination of many secretarial positions — may surprise you.   Some of these declines, fewer spots in high-finance, for example, do affect the highly educated.  But most of the impact of eliminated jobs will be felt by low-skilled workers with less education. 

So what can you do?

1.  Be realistic.  A job for less than ideal salary is better than no job at all.  So resist turning down a decent position just because the salary isn’t what you envisioned.  The goal is to get in the door and get that experience on your resume.  Remember, even in this environment, once you show what you can do employers have ways of finding extra money for people who bring value.

2. Know what you’re worth.   Make sure you know the average wage for a position before heading into an interview.  That way you’ll have a better sense if what you’re being offered is the going rate. If it’s not in the job ad, one very useful site is the Career Guide to Industries, put together by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It  allows you to look up salaries by industry and specific job and also provides information on future career prospects. There are also firms like, which can provide wage information for your local job market.  Just be aware that commercial sites often rely heavily on education and training firms for advertising revenue.  When you’re looking up salaries, you’ll want to make sure you click on ” not interested” when a form comes up recommending an online program, so you don’t get side-tracked from your search.

3. Learn what it takes to earn more.  Everyone knows that jobs requiring more education typically pay better.  But how much better?  And what additional training or credentials do you need to qualify for a pay boost.   For this, you might want to check out ONET , another government-run site that provides information on the jobs, salaries and the skills and experience you need for different positions.  You can plug in your skills to see the positions for which you qualify.  You can also see what additional education or skills you might need to acquire.  And as I’ve noted before, don’t write off getting additional training for financial reasons or because of your record.  There are plenty of grants and financing options that are suitable for individuals of all ages, and most felonies will not disqualify you.  There may be no better time to invest in your skills and you could reap a payoff later.


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Filed under education ex-offenders, employment ex-offenders, wages

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