I recently coached a young woman (let’s call her Norma) developing her resume. Norma is working as a Nanny/Assistant for a family. She thought of her job as a series of tasks. I suggested that she describe it in terms of the level of responsibility that she had, which was considerable. We also started to describe the work outcomes that showed positive traits that would be assets in any job: Initiative, an ability to learn, etc. Norma then shared this: “I was surprised to find that the hardest part of the job was working with the mother. She had a rough way of giving me things to do. I thought of changing jobs, but then I thought ‘What is this trying to teach me? What can I learn from this? So I stayed and learned how to communicate better with her'” I was floored by her natural instinct to use adversity for growth. I quickly assured her that any employer would be delighted to have someone with her attitude toward challenges since, too often, people who encounter issues either back off, blame someone else, or quit! To move up in economic security, Norma and all those like her need to recognize their considerable personal strengths relative to employer needs, increase key skills and master the job search and land process. That can seem like to0 big and broad a challenge so let’s get specific.
This post is for anyone trying to move from a low-wage to a mid-wage job, and for people able to help others make that step up. So, pretty much for everyone. 🙂
The first section is a great list of skills that low-wage earners need in order to get and perform middle-wage jobs. The second part is a tool that I developed with colleagues and evolved over years in management to train managers on how to evaluate employees, and to tell employees what they need to demonstrate to get good evaluations.
(The details on this are worth reading on pages 18-20 of that report; here is a summary.)
They note that people in low-wage jobs rarely have the chance to develop the needed level of these skills that are needed in mid-wage jobs :
- Basic skills
- English language
- Soft skills (e.g. service, communication) and Job readiness ( e.g. attitude, promptness)
- Technology and digital literacy
- “Higher order skills”
This last category is interesting and they elaborate on it. While the first four areas are fairly easy to describe and teach someone, the “Higher order skills” are harder to train people on and include:
- Learning strategies
- Management of people
- Systems analysis
Some critical skills that many people can use and refine while in many low-wage jobs include:
- Reading comprehension
- Judgment and decision-making
- Complex problem solving
- Active learning
Very hopeful fact: “[In the SF Bay Area] Half of the 155 occupations with median wages between $18 and $30 per hour do not require a four-year degree”.
Beyond Skills: Values and Potential
Once you have a job, it is useful to think about how your bosses will evaluate you and how they will make decisions about whether to give you raises or promotions.