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'Am I being underpaid?'

Published:Wednesday | March 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith

Glenford Smith, Career Writer

Q: I am a regular reader of your column in The Sunday Gleaner. Let me take this opportunity to commend you on your interesting and informative articles.

I am a recent graduate of Holy Childhood High School, where I sat eight subjects at the Caribbean Examinations Council level and passed all eight. I later did my Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination and also passed those. A couple months out of high school, I tried to get a job by just sitting with my telephone directory and calling organisations to find out if there were any vacancies.

Most times the responses were no, but eventually, after trying very hard for a couple of months I managed to get a job as a receptionist at a small company in Kingston. Since I started working, my salary has moved from $6,000 to $7,500 weekly. I work Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. My purpose for writing is to ask whether you think I am being underpaid.

- Name withheld

A: Thank you for reading Careers. I wish to commend your determination in withstanding those numerous negative responses until you found a job. Your example is a great reminder about the power of persistence in the face of repeated failure.

The answer to your question of whether you are being underpaid can only be a relative one. In other words, there are persons with similar qualifications, in a comparable position who are earning more than you are. It's also true that there are others who are earning even less than you. I'm also aware of persons - some with children - who work longer hours than you do, who are earning just about what you are earning.

It all depends upon the nature of your company and its level of profitability, as well as how important your job is to the success of the business. To be frank, your employer can afford to pay you this amount because he or she knows that if you resign, there are hundreds of other candidates to take your place.

You also mentioned how unfair you believe it is, that mere labourers, without your qualifications and responsibilities, were being paid more than you. You should bear in mind, however, that they could very well be creating more value, in terms of earning the company more money than you are.


In the context of current market rates for people doing your job, with your qualification, my view is that $7,500, while not great, is about the average. It is understandable that you feel overworked and underpaid, especially having to also substitute for your boss at times.

My advice, however, is to continue to be diligent as you are doing. Learn as much as you can. Accept every opportunity to fulfill different roles. Also, save as much as you can; don't spend everything you make. Your objective should be to get at least a first degree in an area where you can be remunerated more equitably for your knowledge, experience and contribution. Always remember that there are people who would be happy to have your job, so be thankful, even for small blessings. I wish you all the best.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of a new book 'From Problems to Power: How to Win Over Worry and Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities'. Send feedback to