I can’t afford to quit but I can’t afford to stay

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We’ve all pondered quitting our jobs. But unfortunately, for many people the choice is not that easy. After all, having a job means earning a paycheck. But what if that paycheck barely pays enough to cover your bills and expenses?

It’s common for workers to think they aren’t paid enough and for various reasons, says Erica Moore-Burton, author of “The Little Professional P.I.N.K. Book of Success.”

“Sometimes it’s because of the number of hours they work, or it may relate to their job duties,” she says. “It could be that associated job duties are complex in nature, or it could be just simply that the duties that they are charged with would typically be assigned to someone in a more senior role at another company.”

Whether you’re truly underpaid or not, if you’re barely earning enough money to pay the bills, your choices of what to do are limited. But continuing to work in a job where you’re barely making ends meet can cause burnout and other issues.

“If you’re just scraping by [it] can have a negative effect on your work product, attitude and general level of competency. Your level of concentration and focus can be affected, because you’re thinking about other personal issues,” Moore-Burton says. “A negative home-life environment because of financial pressures and work environment together can be a recipe for disaster and can cause problems on both fronts.”

Fortunately, there are ways to cope. Here are five tips:

1.  Start with your current employer.

It’s not enough to think you are unpaid — you have to know if you are, says Mitchell York, a professional certified coach at the Five O’Clock Club, an outplacement and executive coaching organization. “Research your wage compared with the industry and find out where you stand,” he says. “Think of ways you can be immediately more valuable to your employer.”

2. Ask for a raise

But make sure it’s justified, Moore-Burton says.

“It can’t just be that you can’t afford to pay your bills; that is not [the employer’s] problem,” she says. “However, if your job duties have increased or you have been given more responsibility, then you may be justified in asking for a raise.”

If this is feasible, prepare your case thoroughly, she says. Have facts and figures available so that you can negotiate intelligently and have the information to back up your request.

3. Make time to look for a new job. 
Carve out some time during the week to look for another opportunity that would pay you more, Moore-Burton says.

“Look for opportunities within the company first, where you have a proven track record and good references. Look at competitor companies, too. The key is to take the time to do so,” she says.

Wake up a few hours earlier every day to scour the job boards and submit your résumé to different companies, or attend a networking event once a week after work. Be proactive rather than reactive to your financial woes, Moore-Burton says. “Doing something about your situation will help you also feel more positive.”

4. Take on a side job.

“Use this time to exercise your creative juices rather than wallow in the negative aspects of the situation,” Moore-Burton says.

If your profession, hobby or skills can make extra money on the side, without presenting a conflict to your current employer, go for it. If that’s not an option, try having a yard sale to bring in some extra cash, she adds.

5.  Adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Rather than surrounding yourself with negative and unproductive energy, try being grateful for your current situation, rather than surrounding it with negative and unproductive energy, Moore-Burton says.

“There are still hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. that are out of work and would love to switch places with you. More than that, there are millions of people across the world living in poverty or war zones that would wish they were in your shoes right now,” she says.

“Change your perspective on the situation. One thing that we can all be assured of is that no situation remains the same. Your situation will eventually change if you take the steps to do something about it. In the meantime, stay positive and be successful in your current role. Opportunities will eventually present themselves.”

Rachel Zupek Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.



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