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Question: I have a bachelor's degree, legal assistant certification, real estate license but still just make $12.50 an hour. I was unemployed for 15 months and finally took the only job offered to me after applying for approximately 350 jobs. I took this job and took a $12,000 a year pay cut. I can't even make ends meet. I lost my car. I really feel worthless. What am I doing wrong?

Answer Paywizard:

You have certainly been experiencing difficult times; however, I think you’ll be pleased to know that while you may be feeling worthless, your situation is far from hopeless.  With a bachelor’s degree and very practical training and certification, you are in a far better position to identify and secure meaningful, well-paying employment than (unfortunately) a sizeable portion of the American workforce.  Exercising some good judgment and committing yourself to some preparation, planning, and hard work, you will be on your way to improving your situation.  If you are truly committed to making this step forward, I encourage you to be open to being patient and engaging in some critical self-examination in order to help you in the long run.

First, what kind of feedback have you heard in either past job evaluations or while applying to jobs?  No one ever likes being turned down, of course, but if you can identify specific areas where you know you can do better, consider these opportunities for you to be better, smarter, and stronger than your competition next time. When I look for qualities in people I want to hire, I am always impressed to see signs of resilience and perseverance in a job candidate.  Let’s make sure that’s you this next time around.

Second, for you to have applied to approximately 350 different jobs but have experienced little success and eventually accepting a job in which you are underpaid, it seems we should consider how you are presenting yourself via your resume, your cover letter, in interviews, etc.  No matter how many times we each apply for a job, we can always improve.  For you to improve, it will be important for you to be open to hearing candid guidance.  For example, have you given your resume or cover letters to trusted friends or colleagues to edit?  Have you ever had practice interviews to help you improve?  Are you simply sending resumes into the ether, or are you following up with potential employers promptly and politely?

Please take a look at the Paywizard’s own career advisers and partners.  On sites such as ours, you can find advice for making the best first impression possible, negotiating effectively, and preparing yourself well for being an asset in your new organization.  Consider making an appointment with a career counselor at your alma mater, who will likely be able to help you identify opportunities through your school’s alumni network, as well as to prepare yourself to be the strongest possible candidate.

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