One of the biggest obstacles young people like me face is getting a job. We have to face entry jobs that require years of experience. Bosses that don’t take us seriously because we haven’t been in the industry for long. And mainly, not much room to advance ourselves.
The biggest thing out there though, that truly infuriates me, is when a workplace exploits young employees. We don’t have much experience and we don’t know better and they are completely aware of this.
How are you being exploited?
There are several ways an employer could trick you into doing more while giving you less. The problem is that they will make you believe that you are getting everything you deserve.
Less pay for being “inexperienced”
Let me tell you, if you can do your job just right, don’t need correction or someone to clean up after you then there is no such thing as inexperienced. Up until you do everything in your job description and fulfill your quota you deserve just as much as everyone else.
If you really are inexperienced and need help, then it’s a whole other matter. But it’s still likely that you are being used, because bosses tend to blow this out of proportion. Look up the average salary for your position and make sure that you know what you should be getting.
More work because you are young
I have experienced this, even though I haven’t had many jobs. One time I was hired for an “ice cream girl” position, where my job description stated that I only needed to pump ice cream and give it to the customers all while having a smile on my face. Seems easy enough, right? Well, the store owner thought the same when she saw me standing around the ice cream machine with no customers.
Her reaction was simple. She told me to help the older staff stock the shelves, clean up the changing room and wash some parts of the ice cream machine. Because they were too old and I had enough energy and time to help.
Meanwhile, my pay didn’t change. I did ten times as much as I was supposed to, but I didn’t even get as much as a thanks. So yeah, that was a short lived job, I lasted exactly one day there. Although shifts did last 14 hours, which was a bit too much for 15 year old me.
Do NOT do more than you are required to without compensation. I don’t care if you want to suck up to your bosses or if you want to be kind. The fact is, if your employers see that you are willing to do more for the same pay they will get used to it. Oh, and staying after hours counts too.
No discussion of salaries
I think this is more common in America, because in Europe we like to talk about our salaries all the time. It’s not rude, it’s not invasive. Just casual conversation between friends and family.
But I have had a workplace that said I’m not allowed to talk about how much I earn with my coworkers. Which is quite some BS, as you can’t legally bind someone to it. So instead of sticking to this rule I brought up the topic.
And guess what? The woman who was supervising us got the same as everyone else in the group and I got way less. By way less I mean barely above the minimum for a student job. Everyone got mad, went to the manager and talked it through. People got the compensation they should have got months or years before.
No way to advance
I might just be too ambitious, but I hate it when jobs don’t give younger people the option to climb the ranks. Each time I apply for a job one of my first questions is “Will I have the ability to advance my skills and get to a higher position?” and these guys just shut down. Because they are not prepared for such a question, because they don’t think we should have the ability to do these.
To a certain extent, I get it. Young people don’t stay at the same place for all that long and usually only hold a job until they get something better. But what if you aren’t dealing with a person like that?
My best motivation is progress. And I think many of us think like that nowadays. If I can see the result of my work then I am content and happy. If I just get a paycheck at the end of each month… Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine, but isn’t as satisfying.
If you do your work well and plan on staying at that certain workplace talk to your supervisor. They may think that you will give in your 2 weeks notice any day now, but a discussion like this could certainly help.
How can you avoid being exploited?
My best advice is that you should talk with your coworkers. How much everyone does and how much they get compensated for it. Don’t be afraid to bring up the topic if you are at a friendly level with other people. Yeah, it’s going to be awkward at first, but trust me when I say that this is going to be the best choice of your life.
The second best thing you can do is stand your ground. Stick to your obligations and call out others if they ask more of you without any thanks. You don’t have to do anything more than you signed up for. And I understand that you might want to suck up, but this is not the way to do it. If you want to impress your boss then have a backbone and a strong mindset.
But generally you should just speak your mind. Communicate. With your coworkers, bosses, family and friends. If you exchange information then mistreatment won’t be overlooked and somebody will tell you if you are being exploited.