Let’s face it- in this stumbling economy many of us are working minimum wage and feeling lucky for it. While most of us have likely made more money than we are now in the past (I know that road), we grin and bear it and simply feel grateful that we have a job at all, even though we are working like a dog for far less than we believe we are actually worth. You may be making minimum wage, but there are ways to get the most out of it. Here’s how!
In minimum wage employment, employees are expendable. Why? Because someone else can be easily trained for your entry-level or low-ranked position, so you’d best protect yourself by always doing your job the very best you can. Be early, stay later than you need to if your place of employment still needs your help when your shift ends, and do your best to get along with your boss and coworkers. There are likely many job applications for YOUR position coming in weekly, so you want to cover yourself by making yourself a valued employee. You may be expendable, but your place of employment will be less likely to replace you if you are more knowledgeable, friendly, or quick-working than others around you.
There’s a benefit to showing up early and staying later beyond just impressing your boss. At the hotel I worked at, I would get at least 3 hours of overtime every week simply by arriving 15 minutes early and getting straight to work, and not leaving my shift until the lobby was empty. So my boss could cover her own butt, the second I hit the desk she would clock me in, and even when I showed up a half hour early she would allow me to clock in so that I could send my other coworkers home earlier. See how this works? Being an early bird gives you priority in a way- you clock in, relief your coworker, and stick around when your relief shows up so you can get in those crucial moments of overtime. Every minute counts- because every minute pays. Minimum wage jobs can become a great attribute when you show up early and leave late.
Volunteer to work on your days off when other coworkers become ill or call in randomly. If you tell your boss that you can be counted on to show up when others fail, you not only become favorable to your employer, but also get in a whole day’s worth of extra hours. Make sure you tell your boss personally that you can be called if other people don’t show up for work so you are the first one they ring when your coworkers call in. Sure, you may end up losing a few days off, but imagine the overtime! This tactic earned me an average of 10 hours of overtime a week during the summer months, which is awesome because time-and-a-half on minimum wage is $11.18 an hour. Not too shabby for a minimum wage job.
note: if you don’t want to be living at work, tell your boss that you can be counted on to come into work when others call in most of the time, and say that you’re busy if you really don’t want to. It’s far too easy to feel like you are obligated to care for other people’s slack, so learn to say no at least a few times. Your boss won’t be upset- it’s YOUR day off, after all…
Many minimum wage jobs have additional tasks that you can pick up to earn a few extra cents an hour once you’ve gotten a good reputation at your job. I worked at the desk of a fitness center once where my manager was constantly opening mail and trying to organize statements to send out to members of the club. To ease her load and try to get more hours for myself, I volunteered to stay an hour after my shift to handle her mail for her, and she readily gave me the opportunity, with a $.15 raise per hour. With minimum wage at the time being $5.15, that gave my paycheck a decent boost, and gave me 5 extra hours a week sitting in her office licking stamps. If you see an opportunity to do more work, you can get more hours and possibly a raise in volunteering for it.
Be good enough at your job so you can train new employees. This is a must, because it gives you the upper hand when it comes to raises and notability in your workplace. Why would your employer want to let go of an employee who can train new employees successfully so your boss doesn’t have to? Once you’ve trained (successfully) one or 2 new hires, talk to your boss about a raise, or that you feel you’d be ready for a supervisor position. It’s an accomplishment on your part that your boss won’t ignore most of the time, since they won’t want to lose their competent employees due to lack of decent pay.
Part-time work at minimum wage can easily become full-time within a month or so, since your boss would rather have one person working 2 shifts than having to hire and train someone new to fill in hours and positions. When your part-time work is starting to get to you and your company is still hiring, tell your boss that you can work another shift or would love to be full-time, and they’ll probably want to kiss you for volunteering. You save your company time and money since they don’t have to train someone new, and you become more valuable in your workplace. Plus, at full-time your paycheck grows and those overtime incentives become a reality.
experience as a minimum-wager